Alexander Kristoff continues winning streak with victory on stage one of Paris-Nice as Michal Kwiatkowski retains overall lead. Photos by Graham Watson
Kristoff out-paced home favourites Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) and Bryan Coquard (Europcar) to take his fifth win of the season. British sprinter Ben Swift (Sky) finished ninth.
Prologue winner Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) retained the overall race lead, tied on the same time with Rohan Dennis (BMC) in second. Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickSTep) is third at seven seconds. Geraint Thomas (Sky) gained a one second time bonus during the day’s final intermediate sprint and sits in 10th overall, 13 seconds behind Kwiatkowski.
The frenetic bunch sprint came at the end of a slow day. Jonathan Hivert (Bretagne-Séché Environnement) was the first rider to attack out of Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse, cresting the opening climb of the Cote de Bel Air out front to grab the King of the Mountains jersey. Hivert continued out front alone until he’d also taken maximum points at the day’s first intermediate sprint, and was then caught by the peloton.
Australian sprinter Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) put himself in second spot in that first intermediate sprint to grab two bonus seconds – which would help his position on GC.
Hivert’s Bretagne team-mate Anthony Delaplace was the next to attack after Hivert was scooped up by the peloton. He was joined by fellow Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), and the two built up a lead of over five minutes as the peloton was content to take it steady. The duo’s time gap over the bunch reached its maximum of just over six minutes at the 100km point.
Voeckler and Delaplace were allowed to continue unchallenged as the peloton continued its leisurely pace. As the French pair hit the 20km to go mark, Voeckler upped the pace, with Delaplace matching him and their gap extended to over two minutes again – creating a bit more urgency in the peloton’s chase.
That urgency almost turned to panic in the final five kilometres, as Voeckler and Delaplace continued to forge ahead out front. A variety of the sprinters’ team joined forces to make the catch with two kilometres to go.
On what was otherwise an uneventful day, Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) was forced to abandon the race after crashing and suffering a suspected broken collarbone, potentially wrecking his classics season before it started.
Paris-Nice 2015 stage one: Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse to Contres, 196.5km
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
2. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ
3. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Europcar
4. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling
5. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek
6. Joe Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar
7. Moreno Hofland (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
8. Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre-Merida
9. Ben Swift (GBr) Sky
10. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge all same time
22. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky
Overall classification after stage one
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Etixx-QuickStep in 5-22-58
2. Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC at same time
3. Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx-QuickStep at 7 secs
4. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Alpecin at 9 secs
5. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana at 10 secs
6. Lars Boom (Ned) Astana at 10 secs
7. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 10 secs
8. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling at 10 secs
9. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin at 13 secs
10. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky at 13 secs
12. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky at 15 secs