Kwiatkowski Wins Paris-Nice Prologue
Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick Step) has drawn first blood in Paris-Nice. The world road race champion won the race’s prologue today, powering over the flat, 6.7-km course in Maurepas in 7:40. Kwiatkowski pipped world hour record holder Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing Team) by less than a second, with Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) finishing third at 0:07. Kwiatkowski is the race’s overall leader.
Dylan Van Baarle (Cannondale-Garmin p/b POC) posted the early standard with an 8:04. Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) bettered the Dutchman’s time by 0:02, only to see Tiago Machado (Katusha) come in at eight minutes even. Dennis then shattered the Katusha man’s time with his 7:40. Dennis led the stage for most of the next two hours. Only Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) with a 7:50 and Martin with a 7:47 got close to the Australian. Then, Kwiatkowski blasted home and took the lead, which he kept.
Some general classification contenders did not perform as well as they would have liked. Richie Porte (Sky), who won the race two years ago, posted a 7:55 but could do no better than 11th. Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing Team) finished a place ahead of Porte at 7:54. Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin p/b POC) settled for 39th at 0:25, while Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) was 0:10 slower in 85th place and Fabio Aru (Astana) 81st at 0:33.
Kwiatkowski was elated by his victory, but he is not getting ahead of himself. He understands that much hard riding is ahead. "I knew at 500 meters that it was going to be really close," the Pole said. "I had the split times of Tony [Martin], 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, on such a strong lineup of Etixx-Quick-Step. I'm happy that I had those great split times of a champion like Tony. At 500 meters, I just tried to do my best sprint possible and that helped me get the win. I'm really happy about this victory with such strong competitors, but in the end it is just 6.7 km of about a thousand km 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. The main goals are still ahead. I'm excited about what I did today, but I'm looking forward to the rest of Paris-Nice, defending the yellow jersey with a strong team here. We will do our best day-to-day. I'm still a young guy, turning 25 this year, so I am still developing as a rider even with the success like today. I am looking forward to the experience of Paris-Nice the rest of this week."
In the overall, Kwiatkowski leads Dennis by a fraction of a second and Martin by 0:07. Stage 2 will be a flat, 196.5-km ride from Saint-Remy-les-Chevreuse to Contres. Who will take it? John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin)? Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal)? Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)? Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge)? Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!