André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) took his first sprint win at Paris-Nice on Tuesday, at the end of a 172-kilometer stage from Zooparc de Beauval Saint-Aignan to Saint-Amand-Montrond.
Despite a dangerous breakaway move in the final 10 kilometers of racing, Lotto-Soudal kept the race under control and delivered the German national champion to victory.
“I am really proud of my teammates,” Greipel said. “We had a good plan today, and it worked out pretty good. It was a bit of headwind sprint. Arnaud [Demare] came, and I think it was a really nice drag race.
“Yesterday we really didn’t … We nearly didn’t take part in the sprint. Today we wanted to do it better.”
Frenchman Arnaud Gérard (Bretagne-Séché Environnement) was off the front early and at one point had a seven-minute advantage. However, he was brought back by the field with 35 kilometers left.
Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick-Step) attacked with 9.2km to go on the flat run-in to the finish. He was soon joined by Lars Boom (Astana) and Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas.
Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) also bridged up to the late move.
With seven kilometers remaining, Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) made a bid to reach the front group. He was followed by a handful of other opportunists.
Then, Breschel dropped from the front group after suffering a mechanical, and soon, the Costa chase group was reabsorbed by the peloton.
Lotto-Soudal drove the pace in the bunch, trying to chase back the lead trio. The catch was made with 1.5km remaining.
Orica-GreenEdge led the charge into the final kilometer of racing. Then, IAM Cycling took to the front.
Greg Henderson (Lotto-Soudal) took over lead-out duties on behalf of Greipel, and the big German took it to the line, despite a late challenge from French champion Arnaud Démare (FDJ). John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) was third.
Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick-Step) kept his overall lead at Paris-Nice, and Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) also maintained his second-place position. Degenkolb moved up to third place overall with the day’s time bonus.
The “Race to the Sun” continues on Wednesday with a 179-kilometer stage from Saint-Amand-Montrond to Saint-Pourain-sur-Sioule.