Wiggins seeks momentum

2012-03-03 09:48

Paris - British Tour de France hopeful Bradley Wiggins is aiming to maintain his solid start to this year's cycling season when the Paris-Nice event begins Sunday.

The Team Sky rider finished third in February's Tour of the Algarve after winning the concluding time trial in Portugal and plans to carry that form into the first European-based World Tour race of 2012.

"It's the first big WorldTour race of the season in Europe and we'll just look to continue the momentum - that's the goal," said the 31-year-old.

The ironically-named "Race to the Sun" features numerous hills and is renowned for its often unfavourable weather conditions.

Wiggins, who finished third in Paris-Nice a year ago, will form part of an eight-man Team Sky squad that also features fellow Briton Geraint Thomas and Australia's Richie Porte, winner of the recent Algarve event.

Last year's winner Tony Martin, in his first year with the Omega Pharma team following the disbandment of HTC-Highroad, is looking to become the 12th multiple winner of the race, while 2011 runner-up Andreas Kloeden is also set to take part.

Spain's Alejandro Valverde, who made his return to the sport in January after serving a retrospective two-year ban for his implication in Operacion

Puerta, will make his first appearance in the race since a second-place finish in 2010, a result that was later expunged from the record books.

The Movistar cyclist finished runner-up in January's Tour Down Under and then went one better by winning last month's February's Ruta del Sol in his homeland.

The world class field also includes the Schleck brothers, Levi Leipheimer and local favourite Thomas Voeckler and will provide an opportunity for the Grand Tour contenders to assess their form relative to that of their rivals.

Others such as Tom Boonen and Thor Hushovd will use the race to sharpen up their skills in preparation for the classics that kick off with the Milan-San Remo race on March 17.

The 70th edition of the race starts Sunday with a 9.4-metre time trial in the village of Dampierre-en-Yvelines just outside Paris and spans 1 155 kms, with each stage including at least one categorised climb.

It then culminates on March 11 with another short (9.6km) time trial as the Col d'Eze returns to the route after an absence of more than a decade.