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This season's ProTour begins on Sunday with the 64th edition of Paris-Nice, which kicks off with a 4km time trial in Issy les Moulineaux, home of race organisers ASO. The 20 ProTour teams plus wild card pick Agritubel will be hoping 'the race to the sun' quickly lives up to its name and that they're soon away from the snow and cold conditions in the outskirts of the French capital.
Among the favourites for Sunday's time trial is Britain's Olympic pursuit champion Bradley Wiggins, who has been focusing on this stage since last October and admits it could be a make-or-break day for his pro career. If he can win or get close to it, it would boost his morale with the Tour de France's prologue in mind, but if he fails to get among the leading contenders he has confessed that he will seriously consider his future in the pro peloton.
The race title is defended by CSC's Bobby Julich, who became the event's first American winner last year. Julich is supported by a very strong line-up that includes Jens Voigt, Carlos Sastre and David Zabriskie.
One rider with special motivation for Paris-Nice is Liberty Seguros' Luis Leon Sanchez, who wants to do well in what was one of his recently deceased brother Leon's favourite races. Sanchez admits that he almost pulled out of his defence of January's Tour Down Under because of the depression that affected him after his brother's death, but decided to go and finished second. However, he has not raced since.
Sanchez admits it will be difficult to win but hopes he can deliver something for the team he will be leading. "I like this course and I believe that it is one of the hardest of last few years," he said after training on Saturday. "There are three very important stages, on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, to decide the race, because they have a final climb close to the the finish line."
Paris-Nice kicks off 2006 ProTourClose
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