Overnight leader Simon Yates had to hand over the Giro pink jersey to Chris Froome after stage 19 on Friday. Photo: Daniel Dal Zennaro/EPA

PARIS – Britain’s Vuelta a Espana champion Simon Yates said on Thursday he loved racing in the eight-day Paris-Nice event, and would be targeting stage wins in a highly competitive field.

The ‘Race to the Sun’ begins on Sunday, and after three flat stages, kicks into action with a 25.5km time trial and three climb stages before a hilly last day run around Nice next Sunday.

The 26-year-old Yates won the toughest of the climb stages on last year’s edition of Paris-Nice, and came second overall by just four seconds to Spain’s Marc Soler.

Soler will be defending his title in a challenging peloton, featuring Colombia’s Nairo Quintana, Frenchman Romain Bardet and the 2017 winner Sergio Henao.

“I enjoy Paris-Nice, it’s a good race, and I’ve done it every year since I’ve been a professional,” said Yates, whose twin brother Adam is not in the race.

“It’s a very important part of the season, but I’m not going there to target it (the overall victory), as everyone knows, I’m going 100 percent for the Giro d’Italia (in May).

“We have a strong team here, so we should be in the mix for most stages,” he promised, after having Colombian climber Esteban Chaves named alongside him.

Mitchelton-Scott sport director Matt Wilson was also upbeat about his line up for the race.

“It is a really good team and we are coming here to get results,” he confirmed.

“Simon has shown good form and his eyes are firmly set on the Giro, that is the main target, and this race is a stepping stone along that way.”