French national road champion Arnaud Demare (FDJ) won a rain-soaked opening stage of the 76th edition of Paris-Nice in a photo finish over Bahrain-Merida’s Gorka Izagirre in Meudon on Sunday. Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) rounded out the stage podium.
“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,” Demare said of his first victory of the season. “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 hill 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 … 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.”
Race organizer’s ASO through a wrench into the opening proceedings of the race by including a tough two-kilometer climb to the finish on stage one. The final few hundred meters were also on cobblestones. The peloton was together at the bottom of the climb with Lotto Soudal leading the way in support of recent Ruta del Sol overall winner Tim Wellens.
Ag2r-La Mondiale’s Alexis Vuillemoz attacked from the bottom and powered over the steep paved gradients of the climb and entered the final few hundred meters alone. While he had built himself a noticeable gap over the peloton, the cobbles wiped all his moment away and the peloton honed in as the meters counted down.
Demare opened the sprint from a long way out, as Vuillemoz was caught, but Izagirre soon passed him. The Spaniard looked headed to the stage win, as Demare tucked in behind him. However, Demare had a second kick in him and came along Izagirre’s left side as the line approached. Both riders lunged to the line, as Laporte and Tim Wellens came into the picture as well. The finish was close enough that any one of the four riders appeared to have a chance at being named the victor.
After a few moments, the French were able to celebrate with their national champion taking home the victory on the opening stage.
A crash at 2.6 kilometers to go took out general classification contenders Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana). Both riders would lose time on the day, as the three-kilometer rule was not valid for stage one due to the uphill finish.
The opening stage of Paris-Nice traveled 135 kilometers from Chatou to Meudon. Jurgen Roelandts (BMC), Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fortuneo) and Pierre Rolland (Education First-Drapac) formed the day’s breakaway and the trio was caught with 20 kilometers to the finish. General classification contender Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) abandoned the race with 35 kilometers to go after being involved in a crash.
Paris-Nice continues on Monday with a 187.5-kilometer ride from Orsonville to Vierzon. The stage is flat and should end in a bunch sprint.
Stage 1 Top 10
- 1. Arnaud Demare, GROUPAMA – FDJ, in 03:07:39
- 2. Gorka Izagirre, BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 0:00
- 3. Christophe Laporte, COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CRéDITS, at 0:00
- 4. Tim Wellens, LOTTO SOUDAL, at 0:00
- 5. Mike Teunissen, TEAM SUNWEB, at 0:00
- 6. Julian Alaphilippe, QUICK-STEP FLOORS, at 0:00
- 7. Patrick Konrad, BORA – HANSGROHE, at 0:02
- 8. Dylan Teuns, BMC RACING TEAM, at 0:02
- 9. Matteo Trentin, MITCHELTON-SCOTT, at 0:02
- 10. Ion Izagirre, BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 0:02
- 1. Arnaud Demare, GROUPAMA – FDJ, in 03:07:29
- 2. Gorka Izagirre, BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 0:04
- 3. Christophe Laporte, COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CRéDITS, at 0:06
- 4. Tim Wellens, LOTTO SOUDAL, at 0:10
- 5. Mike Teunissen, TEAM SUNWEB, at 0:10
- 6. Julian Alaphilippe, QUICK-STEP FLOORS, at 0:10
- 7. Patrick Konrad, BORA – HANSGROHE, at 0:12
- 8. Dylan Teuns, BMC RACING TEAM, at 0:12
- 9. Matteo Trentin, MITCHELTON-SCOTT, at 0:12
- 10. Ion Izagirre, BAHRAIN MERIDA PRO CYCLING TEAM, at 0:12