"Pog" and Jonas Vingegaard, first and second last year in the "Course des deux mers" as a preamble to their Homeric battle during the Tour (won by the Dane), continue their mano a mano on Paris-Nice this year.
The poster for the Italian race - 58th edition - linking the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Adriatic is no less enticing.
The most scrutinized will be in particular Wout Van Aert, for his return to the road a month after the Cyclo-cross Worlds, and Primoz Roglic, for his first pedal strokes in 2023.
The 28-year-old Belgian, second in 2021 behind Pogacar, gave up Strade Bianche on Saturday to refine his preparation and "arrive in perfect condition" at Tirreno-Adriatico.
The leader of the Jumbo-Visma formation will come to pick up the pace with a view to his major objectives, the Tour of Flanders (April 2) and Paris-Roubaix (April 9).
But Van Aert will not miss the opportunity to take his revenge on the Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel, who deprived him of the title of world cyclo-cross champion at the beginning of February.
"I've just returned from a three-week training camp at altitude. Rather than the opening time trial (Monday), I'm aiming to perform well at the end of the week," said the Belgian. Sunday to the press.
- With Alaphilippe and Pinot -
His teammate Roglic, winner of the "Course des deux mers" in 2019, arrives "without pressure and without aiming for a particular result", according to his sports director Merijn Zeeman.
The triple winner of the Tour of Spain (from 2019 to 2021) has not raced since his heavy fall on the Vuelta in September.
The 33-year-old Slovenian had surgery on his right shoulder in October to stabilize it.
The other animators expected are the Australian winner of the Giro Jai Hindley (Bohra-Hansgrohe), the Spaniard Mikel Landa (Bahrain) or the Briton Tom Pidcock (Ineos), impressive winner of the Strade Bianche on Saturday.
The large French contingent (23 registered) will be led by Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quick Step), still looking for sensations after his difficult year 2022 and a "bad day" at Strade bianche: "I hope to feel better this week , it's an important week of racing," he said.
Also to follow at Groupama-FDJ Thibaut Pinot and Valentin Madouas, who won a nice second place on the Tuscan dirt roads.
The punchers are mainly expected at the end of the week, after a flat time trial on the Ligurian coast then two stages promised to the sprinters, with a finish at the top on Friday and a stage for the strong on Saturday, on the eve of the arrival.
© 2023 AFP