News: Paris-Nice – Stage 1

Wind plays havoc on stage 1 of Paris-Nice, blowing the race to pieces with victory going to Arnaud Démare who countered the attack by Julian Alaphilippe in the closing stages

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News: Paris-Nice – Stage 1

Wind plays havoc on stage 1 of Paris-Nice, blowing the race to pieces and creating some big gaps in the overall classification.

A brutally tough day of racing unfolded at Paris-Nice, with the crosswinds ripping the peloton apart more than 90 kilometers away from the finish and forcing a big selection which saw many of the pre-race favourites lose ground.

A team well versed in riding in cross winds, Quickstep, was well represented, with six riders in the 29-man front group; Julian Alaphilippe, Jack Bauer, Philippe Gilbert, Marcel Kittel, Yves Lampaert and Daniel Martin.

This sextet were the motor of that group, driving it on the 74km-long loop around Bois-d’Arcy and making sure the chasers, which included Romain Bardet (AG2R), Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Richie Porte (BMC), didn’t see them again until the end of the stage.

In what will go down as one of the best stages in Paris-Nice history, Quick-Step Floors – three-time World Team Time Trial Champions – put in a very impressive display of collective strength, pushing the pedal to the metal and taking the gap north of one minute inside the final 30 kilometers, while at the same time keeping its captains sheltered.

As the front group continued to shrink, also the advantage of the leaders began to come down, and FDJ moved to the front inside the last three kilometres, dropping both Marcel Kittel and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) just before the unclassified climb in the final kilometre, which had a 5% average gradient.

Julian Alaphilippe, who came to Paris-Nice after showing a good form in last week’s Abu Dhabi Tour, where he won the white jersey, was brought to the front by Belgian Champion Philippe Gilbert just before the climb and unleashed a powerful acceleration under the flamme rouge, as the road began to rise.

The 24-year-old Frenchman took 20 meters on the chasers, but was countered by countryman Arnaud Démare (FDJ), who made the catch with 700 meters to go and won the sprint, despite Julian giving it his all on the run-in to the line in Bois-d’Arcy.

Arnaud Démare: taking about his 4th pro win, he says “It was a great race ” he says with a big smile”I had a lot of fun in a mad race. When the break was gone, my team started chasing after the four breakaways (Chavanel, Hardy, Smukulis and Koren). I did not think it was going to get away so early but it quickly went after a series of turns. We were in front, we were six. ”

“Julian Alaphilippe’s attack was not the predicted scenario,” Démare added “and it was very hard to get back on terms with Julian but then I knew I was the fastest. The hardest thing was done when I managed to get him back on the climb!”
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Julian Alaphilippe: “I am satisfied after this hard day which we rode full gas from the start. We had many guys at the front, they all did a great job and I am proud of them. I did my best on the climb, but Arnaud was the strongest in the sprint. I have no regrets, because the upcoming week will bring other opportunities”.

Two other of the squad’s riders – Philippe Gilbert (4th), who won the day’s last intermediate sprint, and Daniel Martin (6th) – finished in the top 10.

Alexander Kristoff: “I was not feeling super today but Marco did a good job to bring me to the front. It was such a hard start. I had on too many clothes and didn’t expect the race to blow up so quickly and I wasn’t quite ready to race. I used time to get the extra clothes off and then I felt better when I didn’t look like a balloon anymore!

Marco put me in a good position for the climb but then Alaphilippe attacked and I didn’t have the legs to follow – only Démare could follow and he took the stage. He’s in very good shape and shows he’s ready for Sanremo and the races to come. I also felt like my condition is coming along, especially compared to last weekend.

“This was a hard race and we were there fighting for the win. Marco is strong now too. I think he could have been third today if I was not. It’s good to have a teammate like him helping me out. I’m happy with third place and I hope we can make it better in the days to come. I wanted to win, of course, especially when you race so hard all day and end up with third place, but that’s the best I could do today. Two guys were stronger than me on the climb but I beat many strong guys today so I will be happy with this third place,” concluded Kristoff.

Alberto Contador: “This is Paris-Nice, and it’s always a very hard race. Today was exciting; it had wind, danger, everything! The first days in Paris-Nice sometimes the difference can be larger than the mountain stages and time trial. The team was good; in some moments, it was a crazy situation, and we were not all together. The only problem in the last part is that John and Jarlinson were caught up in the last crash and this was hard for me because I was fighting in the group all the time for a riding a good position. I spent a lot of energy and when Porte attacked I really felt my legs, and I could not follow him.”

“Okay, I lost some time to some of the other favorites, but if you look at it the other way, I was also close to crashing three times and managed to save myself – this is also an important point,” added Contador.

Richie Porte: “It was a disaster but not too much of a disaster. We lost time but in the end we took more time back on some of the other favorites. The race is not over. Today wasn’t ideal but my team were fantastic and they really controlled that, but tomorrow’s another day. The split just happened on the cobbles. Once it splits like that and there is such a big group, then it’s hard. It’s not over. There are some strong guys in front but still a lot of racing to go.”

Result
1. Arnaud Démare, FDJ3:22:43
2. Julian Alaphilippe, Quick-Step Floors
3. Alexander Kristoff, Team Katusha – Alpecin 0:09
4. Philippe Gilbert, Quick-Step Floors
5. Romain Hardy, Fortuneo – Vital Concept
6. Daniel Martin, Quick-Step Floors
7. Tony Gallopin, Lotto Soudal
8. Marco Haller, Team Katusha – Alpecin
9. Sergio Luis Henao, Team Sky
10. Rudy Molard, FDJ

13. André Greipel, Lotto Soudal0:37
16. Richie Porte, BMC Racing Team0:47
20. Alberto Contador, Trek – Segafredo1:04
23. Simon Yates, ORICA-Scott,,
25. Jack Bauer, Quick-Step Floors1:14
26. Marcel Kittel, Quick-Step Floors1:17
35. Luke Rowe, Team Sky2:05
107. Ben Swift, UAE Team Emirates 12.20
150. Daniel McLay, Fortuneo – Vital Concept17:25

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