Frenchman Arnaud Démare (FDJ) outsprinted compatriot Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) to win opening stage of Paris-Nice on Sunday.

BOIS-D’ARCY, France (AFP) – Frenchman Arnaud Démare (FDJ) outsprinted compatriot Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) to win the opening stage of the week-long Paris-Nice race on Sunday.

But it was a poor day for some of the overall contenders including Australia’s Richie Porte (BMC Racing). Porte and Spain’s Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) of France were all caught out by a split in the peloton caused by strong winds just 40km into the race. They were forced to chase for more than 100km and eventually came in around a minute behind the winner.

Stage 1, top 10

General classification, top 10

Norway’s Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alepcin) took third on the 148.5km stage around the west Parisian suburbs.

“That was a crazy race! I really enjoyed the splits in the peloton,” enthused Demare. “I didn’t think a breakaway would form so soon… but there was the element of surprise. At the finish, everyone was spent.”

Ireland’s Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors), Frenchman Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) and Team Sky’s Colombian climber Sergio Henao, all possible overall contenders, lost only nine seconds to Démare and gained significant time on the other title hopefuls.

Porte, the champion in 2013 and 2015, and Bardet, who crashed during the stage, came in 47 seconds down while Contador, winner in 2007 and 2010, lost over a minute.

Démare had also won the opening stage last year, shortly before going on to win the first high-profile ‘Monument’ one-day classic of the season, Milan-San Remo.

Monday’s second stage of the 75th ‘Race to the Sun’ covers 195km from Rochefort-en-Yvelines to Amilly.

2017 Paris-Nice - Stage 2

Stage 1 results

General classification