Large groups of riders were forced to work hard after finding themselves on the wrong side of a split in the peloton caused by gusting winds. Other riders suffered mechanicals and punctures in the race’s finale, ruling them out of contesting the finish.
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Prologue winner Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) rode tactically well to preserve his overall lead, claiming a couple of vital bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint and finishing in fifth behind stage victor Arnaud Démare (FDJ).
British sprinter Ben Swift (Sky) looked to have had the stage victory sewn up with a long sprint, but Frenchman Démare just pipped him on the line. Swift had to settle for second.
Welsh overall hope Geraint Thomas (Sky) finished in tenth place, and moves up to fifth place overall, eight seconds adrift of Matthews.
Paris-Nice continues on Tuesday with stage two from Contres to Commentry, and looks set to be a day for a bunch sprint. The WorldTour-level race concludes on Sunday, March 13.