Arnaud Demare (FDJ) won the opening stage of Paris-Nice in impressive fashion after beating Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) at the end of a hectic day.
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.
Quick-Step Floors was the motor of that front group with six riders, 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), won’t see them again until the end of the stage.
As the group continued to shrink, also the advantage of the leaders began to come down, and FDJ moved to the front inside the last three kilometers, dropping both Marcel Kittel and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) just before that unclassified climb in the final kilometer, which had a 5% average gradient.
Julian Alaphilippe was brought to the front by 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.
“The way the race played out changed everything for the finale,” Démare said. “Everybody was tired, so I didn’t expect a sprint at the end. Still, it was hard to follow Alaphilippe at the end, but I managed it.
“It an attacking race today, and we took the initiative. I enjoyed the whole stage. There were fewer riders than we expected in the finale but it was a crazy race. We were chasing to bring down the break and so when we hit the crosswinds, we were already at the front before the split happened. I think that caught a lot of people out.”
Paris-Nice 2017 – stage 1 results (Bois-d’Arcy – Bois-d’Arcy):
|1||Arnaud Demare (FDJ)|
|2||Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors)|
|3||Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin)|
|4||Philippe Gilbert (BMC)|
|5||Romain Hardy (Fortuneo-Vital Concept)|
|6||Daniel Martin (Quick-Step Floors)|
|7||Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal)|
|8||Marco Haller (Katusha-Alpecin)|
|9||Sergio Henao (Team Sky)|
|10||Rudy Molard (FDJ)|
|11||Kristijan Koren (Cannondale-Drapac)|
|12||Gorka Izagirre (Movistar)|
|13||André Greipel (Lotto Soudal)|
|14||Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors)|
|15||Jacopo Guarnieri (FDJ)|
|16||Richie Porte (BMC)|
|17||Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin)|
|18||Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal)|
|19||Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb)|
|20||Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo)|