Young French national champion Nacer Bouhanni picked up his first Paris-Nice stage in his first Paris-Nice. And swapped the his bleu-blanc-rouge for a maillot jaune.
With a stage win in the Tour of Oman already under his belt this season, 22 year old Nacer Bouhanni came to Paris-Nice with his eyes on at least a stage win for his FDJ team. Presumably he can now go home happy having claimed his stage win and the leader's yellow jersey to boot.
Bouhanni was the narrow winner of a rather harum-scarum sprint where teams struggled to maintain some kind of lead-out order.
Although Orica-GreenEdge put in most work inside the final three kilometres, their work only yielded an eighth place for Leigh Howard as riders popped out from everywhere to put themselves in the frame for a stage win.
Bouhanni pipped old stager Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Merida) and Elia Viviani (Cannondale) to the line, though he looked well out of it with 100 metres to go. It was clear that FDJ had faith in their national champion though with Yohan Offredo putting in a big effort with to dissuade anyone from attacking inside the final kilometres and Jeremy Roy doing his bit to bring back the early break.
In fact, the early three-rider break - Roman Sicard (Euskaltel), last men standing Bert-Jan Lindeman (Vacansoleil) and Yannick Tabardon (Sojasun) - had a lead of around seven minutes after 42 kilometres but there was nobody in the race convoy who thought they had a hope in hell of staying away.
With Europcar hoping to get another day in yellow for surprise prologue winner Damien Gaudin and the sprinters teams eyeing the stage too, the break was doomed to fail, though they dangled in the wind for most of the day.
But, as the break was caught after 18km, there was some drama before the sprint showdown as around 40 riders somehow conspired to lose contact with the peloton in the crosswind. Although they closed to within 25 seconds of the front with five kilometres to go, they suddenly cracked and lost 1-53 by the line.
Among the losers were Brits Jonathan Tiernan-Locke (Sky) and David Millar (Garmin) neither of whom was likely to figure in the battle for the final general classification. German sprinter Marcel Kittel ended up in the back group as well, nixing his chances of a stage win, but there's always another day. In the bigger picture, the real loser of the day was poor Rui Costa of Movistar, caught up in a crash at 127km and forced to abandon with the wrist injury he sustained.
In any case, thanks to the 10-second time bonus on the line for the win, Bouhanni took over the yellow jersey from Gaudin, by dint of a couple of thousandths of a second.
You have to wonder whether or not FDJ really wanted to take the jersey since that means it will be up to them to control the race tomorrow on a long stage which should end in a sprint. It's several hours of tempo riding they could probably have done without, but Bouhanni and the management can't complain too much. A stage win and a yellow jersey - not a bad first stage for FDJ.
Paris-Nice 2013, stage one:Saint-Germain-en-Laye to Nemours, 195km
1. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ
2. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Merida
3. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale
4. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
5. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling
6. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Blanco
7. Jose Rojas (Spa) Movistar
8. Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
9. Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana
10. Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM all same time
Overall classification after stage one
1. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ in 4-51-01
2. Damien Gaudin (Fra) Europcar at same time
3. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 1 sec
4. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 1 sec
5. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale at 1 sec
6. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 2 secs
7. Wilco Keldermann (Ned) Blanco at 2 secs
8. Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) FDJ at 2 secs
9. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 3 secs
10. Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Leopard at 3 secs
Early escape group
Nacer Bouhanni celebrates the win
Bouhanni in yellow
Paris-Nice 2013: Race preview and information
Paris-Nice 2013: start list
Paris-Nice 2013: Who will win?
Paris-Nice 2013: The Big Preview
Paris-Nice 2013: Stage reports
Prologue: Damien Gaudin takes surprise win
Paris-Nice 2013: Photo galleries
Stage one photo gallery
Prologue photo gallery
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