Bora-Hansgrohe’s Max Schachmann won the first stage of Paris-Nice in miserable weather as he beat Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), Tiesj Benoot (Sunweb) and Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-McLaren) in the sprint for the line.
Alaphilippe and Benoot had escaped the peloton earlier in the stage as tail-crosswinds buffeted the bunch, before Teuns countered with 4km to go and Schachmann getting on his wheel, making their way over to the leading pair.
With Alaphilippe forced to do a lot of work in the closing kilometre, he appeared to run out of steam, not contesting the sprint finish, as Schachmann edged out Teuns, with Benoot then taking third.
Sunweb’s Cees Bol then led the peloton over the line 15 seconds later.
How it happened
Two Frenchmen formed the opening breakaway, Romain Combaud (Nippo Delko Provence) and Jonathan Hivert (Total Direct Energie). As they built up a five-minute lead, Deceuninck – Quick-Step came to the fore in the bunch behind as echelons began forming due to the crosswinds. Soon, the peloton was split into three, with Trek-Segafredo’s Richie Porte and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) one notable name caught at the back.
The echelons had brought the break’s gap down to just 30 seconds after 50km of racing, before the front two splits coming back together with Porte’s group 10 seconds back, before they also eventually made it back with 95km remaining.
15km later, Combaud and Hivert were swept up by the bunch as calm fell over the peloton but only briefly, as they soon sped towards the first ascent of the cobbled climb on the way back into Plaisir.
Hivert attacked again on the cobbles, though, as he looked to grab more KOM points after collecting three on the first climb of the day.
As the wind picked up again, Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) came down in a crash. Bardet was gingerly holding his elbow but eventually got back up on his bike. Barguil, however, looked in much worse shape, but also got back on, slowly pedalling behind his team car, before getting off, shouting at the tv moto, and then mounting his bike once more.
The crash helped split the bunch once more as the winds picked up again, with Julian Alaphilippe and Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) making the front group. Alaphilippe seemed keen to help the move succeed, taking up the pace alongside EF Pro Cycling, who were riding for Sergio Higuita.
With 40km remaining, the front group of 16 had a 20-second advantage over the second group, with Bardet finding himself in a third group a minute and a half further back. Although the gap held initially between the front two groups, it did start to come down, with Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) looking to get back in contention.
Approaching the sprint point, Tiesj Benoot (Sunweb) attacked the leading group, with Alaphilippe getting on his wheel. The Frenchman beat the Belgian to maximum points, but the duo then decided to press on up the road.
The weather wasn’t improving with 30km to go, as Alaphilippe and Benoot built up an 18-second lead, which quickly grew to half a minute. Three Deceuninck – Quick-Step riders helped nullify progress with the chase as they sat near the front of the peloton.
Their gap hadn’t shrunk with 20km to go, while Bora-Hansgrohe joined the chase. Bardet and a number of the top sprinters at the race found themselves unable to improve on their 1-30 deficit, out of contention for the day and GC candidates seeing their chances of victory end on stage one.
With 10km remaining, the gap was at 40 seconds and the leading pair’s chances of victory were improving significantly. Two and a half kilometres later the gap came back down under the 30-second mark as the bunch organised itself. As they hit the final climb, the gap was down to 20-seconds, before tumbling again to 13, the high pace being set the chase group nearly comes apart.
As Benoot led Alaphilippe over the top of the climb, Dylan Teuns accelerated behind with 4km to go, escaping the peloton alongside Schachmann. It took them a little over a kilometre but the two chasers eventually made their way up to make it four riders set to contest the finish.
Sagan was dropped behind as his Bora-Hansgrohe team-mate Schachmann attacked as soon as he made contact with Alaphilippe and Benoot.
Alaphilippe managed to not let Schachmann getaway, as Benoot attacked under the 1km banner, with Alaphilippe once again keeping the quartet together. Teuns then opened up his sprint before Schachmann powered ahead and was first across the line.
Paris-Nice 2020, stage one: Plaisir to Plaisir (154km)
1. Max Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 3-32-19
2. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-McLaren
3. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Sunweb, both at same time
4. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at three seconds
5. Cees Bol (Ned) Sunweb, at 15s
6. Nils Politt (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation
7. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) NTT
8. Sergio Higuita (Col) EF Pro Cycling
9. Felix Großschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
10. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, all at same time
General classification after stage one
1. Max Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 3-32-09
2. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Sunweb, at two seconds
3. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-McLaren, at 4s
4. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 7s
5. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, at 24s
6. Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at same time
7. Cees Bol (Ned) Sunweb, at 25s
8. Nils Politt (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation
9. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) NTT
10. Sergio Higuita (Col) EF Pro Cycling, all at same time