Kristoff Sprints to Victory in Stage 1 of Paris-Nice
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) has won Stage 1 of Paris-Nice. The Norwegian dusted the field in a bunch sprint to win the flat, 195.5-km run from Saint-Remy-les-Chevreuses to Contres in 5:15:18. Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) finished second, and Bryan Coquard (Europcar) took third. Prologue winner Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick Step) remains the overall leader.
The hostilities began early. The day’s first climb was the Category 3 Cote de Bel Air at three km, and Jonathan Hivert (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) led the field over it to take the race’s first polka dot jersey. The Frenchman forged a 3:45 lead before the peloton reeled him in at 33 km.
Five km after the catch, Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) jumped clear, and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) joined him. The break led the bunch by six minutes at 100 km. Then, the peloton awakened.
The sprinters’ teams, which were led by Etixx-Quick Step, started chasing. Much of the time, the field kept the gap between two and three minutes to avoid capturing the break too soon. When the break’s advantage dropped to one minute, the pair accelerated and extended the lead.
With 18 km left, disaster struck Etixx-Quick Step. Tom Boonen collided with another rider and hit the deck. The Belgian abandoned with a dislocated left shoulder. The injury will keep him out of the Northern Classics.
With 11 km to go, the bunch led the break by about a minute and a half. Sky went to the front, and the chase gained urgency. Seven km later, the gap had narrowed to about 0:30. With 1.5 km remaining, the peloton overtook the escapees.
Katusha led the field into the final km. Giant-Alpecin charged up the right side of the road, and John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) lunged into the lead. Kristoff, who had Bouhanni’s wheel, powered past Degenkolb and held on to win by a bike length.
Kristoff thanked his team for putting him in a position to win. “I'm really happy,” the Katusha man said. “It's my first stage win in Paris-Nice, and this is my fourth time coming here. It's a step up for me. I was sitting in good position, but Degenkolb went early on the right side and I moved there behind Nacer Bouhanni. Later, I started my sprint from Bouhanni’s wheel and was able to go in front and to take this victory. The race was really slow today and only the final kilometers were really fast. My teammates supported me in the final. I want to thank all the team, especially Viacheslav [Kuznetsov] and Jacopo [Guarnieri]. They brought me in a perfect position for the sprint.”
In the overall, Kwiatkowski leads Rohan Dennis (BMC) by a fraction of a second and Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) by 0:07. Stage 3 will be a flat, 172-km run from ZooParc de Beauval-Saint Aignan to Saint-Amand-Montrond. A sprinter should take the stage. Who will do it? Kristoff? Bouhanni? Degenkolb? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!