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MAUREPAS, France (AFP) — World road champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick-Step) won the prologue to Paris-Nice on Sunday.
The Polish champion in the race against the clock, who is taking part in the “Race To the Sun” for the first time, won the 6.7km prologue by a fraction of a second ahead of world hour record holder Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) with German time-trial champion Tony Martin (Etixx) third at seven seconds.
“I knew at 500 meters that it was going to be really close,” Kwiatkowski said. “I had the split times of Tony, which was a really big advantage for me to pace myself along the parcours. It was key to start as one of the last riders. …
“At 500 meters I just tried to do my best sprint possible and that helped me get the win.”
Dennis said he came into the race hoping to do well on the first and last stages — both individual time trials — in his first major race since setting the world hour record last month.
“The goal the rest of the week is to try and find my legs and do as well as I possibly can for the team,” Dennis said. “I am pretty sure Tejay [van Garderen] has some good form after Oman. He has been looking at this race for a while now.”
Van Garderen, considered one of the favorites for the overall, finished 11th on the day at 14 seconds, one tick ahead of two other likely candidates for yellow, Sky teammates Bradley Wiggins — the reigning world time trial champion — and Richie Porte.
Van Garderen said he was pleased with his result in his first outing since finishing runner-up at the Tour of Oman last month.
“I think today was a success,” van Garderen said. “I feel bad for Rohan, missing out on such a narrow victory. That would have been a nice win for him. But as far as both of us are placed, we are right there with some of the GC guys and we even put a lot of time into some of the contenders.”
Monday’s first road stage will be a 196.5km leg between Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse and Contres.
“When I knew I was going to be riding the Paris-Nice, I was really up for it,” said Kwiatkowski said. “I’m really happy about this victory with such strong competitors, but in the end it is just 6.7 kilometers of about a thousand kilometers before the finish line in Nice. It’s going to be a week of hard racing. But the one-week races can suit my skills, so we will see what can happen.”