Bouhanni Wins Stage 1 of Paris-Nice, Takes Overall Lead
Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) has won Stage 1 of Paris-Nice. The Frenchman overcame an early crash to take the flat, 162.5-km ride in and around Mantes-la-Jolie in a bunch sprint in 3:53:11. John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) finished second, and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) took third. Bouhanni is the race’s first yellow jersey.
Sunny skies and mild temperatures greeted the riders. In the opening kilometers, Christophe Laborie (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) attacked. His lead maxed out at 10 minutes, and he led the field by seven minutes at 70 kilometers. The peloton woke up, however, and caught Laborie with 50 kilometers remaining.
Belkin, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, and Giant-Shimano battled for control of the peloton, with Giant-Shimano taking the field into the last two kilometers. Degenkolb was boxed in and delayed, but Meersman started the sprint. With 200 meters remaining, Bouhanni burst up the middle of the road to pass the German and the Italian.
Crashes marred the day. Bouhanni was the first to go down, although he remounted his bicycle immediately. Later, Vasil Kiriyienka (Sky) hit the deck along with Mattia Cattaneo and Jose Serpa (both from Lampre-Merida). Not long after that, Alessandro Vanotti (Astana) crashed. The mishaps were an inauspicious way to start the season’s first major European stage race, and worse was to follow.
With 26 km remaining, a crash split the field into three groups. Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) lost more than a minute, while Andy Schleck (Trek), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), and Thor Hushovd (BMC) all lost time. Schleck lost 1:50, which put paid to his general classification hopes.
In addition to the crashes, illness affected the race. At 80 kilometers, Tejay van Garderen (BMC) abandoned because of a stomach ailment. The American has two top five finishes in the Race to the Sun, so his absence will be felt.
In the overall, Bouhanni leads Meersman by 0:01 and Degenkolb by 0:04. Stage 2 will be a flattish, 205-km run from Rambouillet to Saint-Georges-sur-Baulche. The finish will be slightly uphill, so it could pose a challenge to Bouhanni’s bid to keep the yellow jersey. Will the Frenchman win the stage? Will he keep the overall lead? If not, who will take it from him? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!