Vacansoleil’s Thomas De Gendt won the first stage of the Paris-Nice on Sunday, a 154.5km ride round Houdan for his first major stage victory.
The 24-year-old – who also dons the overall leader’s jersey – edged out Frenchman Jeremy Roy (FdJ) in a sprint finish while Australian Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) was third.
One of the overall race favourites Peter Sagan (Liquigas) was fourth and New Zealander Greg Henderson fifth. One of the overall race favourites Peter Sagan of Slovakia was fourth and New Zealander Greg Henderson fifth.
De Gendt said that this was a first win, which he had thought he would have been celebrating in the Tour Down Under in January.
“I am an attacking cyclist,” he said. “Already in the Tour Down Under I should have won a stage but I made the fatal error of launching the sprint from too far out.
“Its my problem, I’m a mad dog but I love it, I cannot understand why one would want to hold back in such circumstances.”
De Gendt admitted that overall victory would probably elude him, though, he hoped to remain in the overall lead for a while yet of the week long race.
“Tomorrow (Monday) it is possible that I can retain the lead because its a flat course,” he said. “But, in the first real climbs on Thursday, I will surely lose the overall lead. After Paris-Nice, I will ride in the Milan-San Remo.”
De Gendt said rather than resting on his laurels he hoped this success would breed further ones.
“Have I already made this a successful season? There are still around 80 days of racing, I hope I will win something else!”
The Belgian’s victory was welcome news for his embattled Vacansoleil team, which may be called to account by the UCI relating to recent doping allegations involving two of its riders Italian Riccardo Ricco and Spaniard Ezequiel Mosquera.
Haussler had led the peloton in an ultimately vain attempt to reel in De Gendt and Roy, who along with veteran Jens Voigt (Leopard-Trek) had broken away with 39km of the stage to go.
The early part of the stage had been enlivened by a 98km break for glory by Frenchman Damien Gaudin and Gorka Izagirre of Spain.
The big loser of the day was climbing specialist David Moncoutie, as the Frenchman and winner of the Tour of the Mediterranean lost more than eight minutes because of a sore knee.
Monday’s second stage is a 199km ride from Montfort-l’Amaury to Amilly.
- 1. Thomas De Gendt, Vacansoleil-Dcm, 154.5km in 4:05:06t
- 2. Jérémy Roy, Fdj, same time
- 3. Heinrich Haussler, Garmin-Cervelo, s.t.
- 4. Peter Sagan, Liquigas-Cannondale, s.t.
- 5. Gregory Henderson, Sky, s.t.
- 6. Jens Voigt, Leopard-Trek, s.t.
- 7. Wouter Weylandt, Leopard-Trek, s.t.
- 8. Danilo Wyss, Bmc, s.t.
- 9. Romain Feillu, Vacansoleil-Dcm, s.t.
- 10. Gert Steegmans, Quick Step, s.t.
- 1. Thomas De Gendt, Vacansoleil-Dcm, at 4h 04′ 53″
- 2. Jérémy Roy, Fdj, at 0:06
- 3. Heinrich Haussler, Garmin-Cervelo, at 0:09
- 4. Damien Gaudin, Europcar, at 0:10
- 5. Jens Voigt, Leopard-Trek, at 0:11
- 6. Romain Feillu, Vacansoleil-Dcm, at 0:12
- 7. Peter Sagan, Liquigas-Cannondale, at 0:13
- 8. Gregory Henderson, Sky, at 0:13
- 9. Wouter Weylandt, Leopard-Trek, at 0:13
- 10. Danilo Wyss, Bmc, at 0:13