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March 9 update: Four cat 3s, one cat 2 and two cat 1s... qualifies stage 5 as the first mountain stage for this year's Paris-Nice. The temperature and the action always heats up with each stage of this race, as is the tradition.

Stage 5 starts in Saint-Symphorien-sur-Cois, a first time Paris-Nice host, but annual host of Grand Prix de Saint Symphorien sur Cois, a highly recognized amateur race in France. Does Thomas de Gendt know Saint-Symphorien-sur-Cois is the sausage capital of the world producing 700 tons a week! FYI, current race leader de Gendt attributes his improved results in 2011 to eliminating his love of sausages from his diet. He has lost 4 kg as a result.

This is a tough stage. Besides the seven categorized climbs, it's a twisty route and the hardest climb, Col de la Mûre (765m el) is saved for the end. Making its Paris-Nice debut, this 8 km climb with sections over 12% will split the break before the descent and uphill finish in Vernoux-en-Vivarais, a small village in the Ardeche and the Rhone Alpes. I've been to this region, the roads are really, really twisty. The riders will do one circuit around Vernoux-en-Vivarais just west of Valence. — Steve