This year's Paris-Nice cycling race, the first big stage event of the season, will go ahead in March after Tour de France organisers agreed to buy the competition, sources close to the deal said. The Amaury Sports Organisation group agreed late last night to fund and organise the 2002 race, which was under threat when race director and former Tour de France champion Laurent Figne could not finance it himself.

"I said that, without outside help, I would not be able to stage the race this year," Figne told sports daily l'Equipe last week. Financial details of the Tour de France deal were not immediately available today. The week-long race will take place from March 10-17.

Filed by Sinéad Kissane