Thomas De Gendt won the opening stage of Paris Nice today as a three-man break stole a march on the peloton in the last 40 kilometres to snatch the win.
De Gendt (Vacansoleil) escaped along with Jeremy Roy (FDJ) and Jens Voigt (Leopard-Trek) with just under 40km to go and held on by a few metres when he crossed the line. Roy held on for second but Voigt was swept up in the sprint, finishing sixth.
The trio raced clear after the early break had been caught and the sprinters teams failed to nullify the attacks. They stretched the lead out to roughly a minute and somehow managed to hold a 20 second gap from kilometre 10 to kilometre one, despite the peloton splintering under the speed of the chase.
In the last five kilometres HTC applied pressure that opened up gaps in the peloton but it managed to avoid snapping. Full of fresh legs, the bunch closed the gaps and came back together as they returned to Houdan in one long line at the end of the circuitous parcours to the west of Paris.
In the final kilometre they were breathing down the trio's neck. To their credit, and De Gendt's advantage, they carried on working together to the last few metres. It was De Gendt who made the first move and jumped to his left, opening his sprint up. It was perfectly timed as not only did he get away from both Roy and Voigt, he held off a flying peloton.
Heinrich Haussler proved fastest from the bunch, taking third spot, just ahead of Peter Sagan and Team Sky's Greg Henderson.
All the pre-race favourites finished in the bunch. Tomorrow's stage - 199km from Montfort l'Amaury to Amilly - starts the race's journey south to Nice, and should be one for the sprinters.
Paris-Nice stage one: Houdan-Houdan 154.5km
1 Thomas de Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil 4-05.06hrs
2 Jeremy Roy (FRA) FDJ at 1 sec
3 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin Cervelo
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas
5 Greg Henderson (NZl) team Sky
6 Jens Voigt (Ger) Leopard Trek
7 Wouter Weylandt (Bel) QuickStep
8 Danilo Wyss (Sui) BMC
9 Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil
10 Gert Steegmans (Bel) QuickStep all at same time
54 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky
58 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
103 Daniel Lloyd (GBr) Garmin Cervelo
137 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Team Sky
24-year-old Thomas De Gendt wins Paris-Nice stage one
The race to the sun starts under clear blue skies, but the leg warmers are out
Paris-Nice 2011 stage one photo gallery
Paris-Nice 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Founded in 1891, Cycling Weekly and its team of expert journalists brings cyclists in-depth reviews, extensive coverage of both professional and domestic racing, as well as fitness advice and 'brew a cuppa and put your feet up' features. Cycling Weekly serves its audience across a range of platforms, from good old-fashioned print to online journalism, and video.
What is this FKT phenomenon and why attempt one?
Encompassing three of cyclists’ favorite metrics—speed, distance and time—it’s no surprise that FKTs are becoming more of a trend and why numerous high-profile riders are pursuing them.
By Tim Peck • Published
New UCI rules target extremely narrow handlebars... but appear to miss
Minimum width is now 350mm from outside to outside - but there's nothing in the new technical regulations about the hoods
By Luke Friend • Published