News: Paris Nice: Stage 1

Already winner and first leader of Paris-Nice a year ago, French champion Arnaud Demare repeated the feat in Meudon but in a rather different finale.

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News: Paris Nice: Stage 1

Demare claims Paris-Nice stage and lead again

Already winner and first leader of Paris-Nice a year ago, French champion Arnaud Demare repeated the feat in Meudon but in a rather different finale.

The Groupama-FDJ team leader, who held the Race to the sun’s Yellow Jersey for several days in 2017, was not among the real favorites before the start in Chatou, 135 km up the road, as the finale was steep and cobbled, but he finally upstaged Spain’s Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) and compatriot Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) in nail-biting final sprint. Belgium’s Tim Wellens was a close fourth.

Picture: ASO 

Arnard Demare: “This is the first photo-finish in my career, it had never happened before so it was a real explosion of joy when I was told. I was convinced I was second. When I threw my bike towards the line, it was more out of despair. I was certain I had lost it.”

“In the end you are not totally lucid. It’s also my first win on top of a bump like this. It hurt a lot but I kept solid in my head in front of my fan club and my family. I had checked it yesterday by car and it looked harder than it was on the bike. With a kilometre to go, Alexis Vullermoz was still in the front and I was dead but I decided to go early, not thinking I could go all the way. I’m so happy because it’s my first victory of the year, the first for our new sponsor, there was a lot of pressure.”
… continued after advert


The Race

The start was given to 154 riders at 13h42 in the pouring rain. As the gun went off, Jurgen Roelandts (BMC), Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fortuneo) and Pierre Rolland (Education First-Drapac) moved ahead and their lead quickly grew (1:40 at kilometer 10). At the first intermediate sprint of the day in Les Mesnuls (km 33), the gap reached its maximum of 3:35.

Roelandts snatched three points and three seconds ahead of Rolland and Perichon. After the sprint, as the pack gathered momentum under the guidance of Julian Alaphilippe’s Quick Step and Groupama-FDJ’s Arnaud Demare team-mates, the gap kept decreasing. As they tackled the first climb of the day, the 3rd category Cote des 17 Tournants (Km 79), their lead had gone down to 1:05 as Perichon led the way, followed by Rolland and Roelandts.

The result on Cote de Meridon (km 85) was exactly the same, handing Perichon the first KOM jersey in this edition of the Race to the sun. The gap went up a bit as the three reached the plaque dedicated to Jacques Anquetil at Chateaufort (km 96) for a sprint again won by Roelandts ahead of Rolland and Perichon.



Van Garderen out

As the pace raised, a crash at kilometer 100 involved four riders, including American pre-race favorite Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), who was forced to call it quits. With 20 km to go, the three seemed to give up the fight but the peloton took its time to close the gap and only caught the escapees at km 121. Mitchelton-Scott, Astana and Lotto-Soudal took turns in the final 10 km leading to the Meudon observatory. A crash, involving Ilnur Zakarin and Jakob Fuglsang, took place shortly before the last climb when France’s Alexis Vuillermoz surged.

The AG2R rider, winner of a similar stage in Mur de Bretagne on the Tour de France two years ago, seemed to have the upper hand but he faltered in the long cobbled last stretch and was overtaken by the front of the bunch, led by Gorka Izagirre, who battled it out with Demare, Laporte and Wellens. Demare threw his bike to the line in despair and the outcome was so close that the four top finishers had to wait for the photo-finish to discover who had actually won. The laurels went to an elated Demare.


Tim Wellens: “Yesterday, we did a recon of the last 25 kilometres of this stage. I liked the finish when I saw it. We had seen there was a lot of street furniture in the last kilometres, so the team kept me safe at the front of the peloton. As expected, it was very hectic in the finale. The team did an excellent job for me today!”

“I was riding at the front of the peloton when we started the climb. It was a high pace, but once Vuillermoz had attacked the pace dropped. For a moment it looked like Vuillermoz would make it, but the last 800 metres were very hard. We did catch Vuillermoz before the finish, despite the nice gap he had created. I chose the wheel of Démare, but was pushed away. When we passed by Vuillermoz, I had to hold back for a moment. Maybe I could have set an even better result if I had started my sprint earlier, but it’s always easy to analyse a sprint afterwards. We were all dead beat at the finish. Our team started Paris-Nice very well, we were the only complete team at the front in the finale. Tomorrow we aim for a sprint with André Greipel!”

Matteo Trentin – 9th “I was feeling good the whole day, the guys rode perfectly, we were always there in the front riding good position with Mat Hayman and Chris Juul-Jensen doing a big part of the job. We knew in the final it was going to be punchy and not super easy, I was there in good position into the last corner but then just got boxed, nearly crashed and had to stop and then restart from almost standing still.”

“Starting again from this I could gain some speed, but it was over already with the cobbles and sprint, but I am happy, it is the first day and the legs feel like they are turning as they should be.”

“We had the plan to stay up the front with Simon and myself and we knew we needed to be up the front for the final corner, that was the plan and I think we did that perfectly.”

Stage 1
1. Arnard Demare
2. Gorka Izagirre
3. Christophe Laporte
4. Tim Wellens

14. Simon Yates
105. Ben Swift
106. Ian Stannard
123. Dan Mclay

1. Arnard Demare
2. Gorka Izagirre
3. Christophe Laporte





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