Merlier Sprints to Victory in Stage 1 of Paris-Nice
Belgian national champion Tim Merlier (Soudal-QuickStep) today sprinted to victory in stage 1 of this year’s Paris-Nice. Merlier proudly raised his hands while crossing the finish line, thereby proudly flashing his national champion jersey.
Merlier won the stage in 03:50:52 ahead of Sam Bennett (Team Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo). Team Jumbo-Visma’s Olav Kooij finished fourth.
Stage 1 of Paris-Nice 2023 was a 169.4-kilometer ride on a mostly flat route from La Verriere to La Verriere. The stage was originally designed by proud race organizer A.S.O. with the hope of creating a route dominated by strong winds that could cause the peloton to split into echelons. Nature, however, had intended today to be a cold, windless day.
Spectators watched a breakaway duo featuring Paul Ourselin (Team TotalEnergies) and Jonas Gregaard (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team) take off early in the stage and it wasn’t until late in the stage before further action took place.
A small group took off from the peloton on a short climb and formed a gap. The group included Tour de France winners Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) and Jonas Vingegaard) as well as EF Education First-Easypost team captain Neilson Powless.
Pogacar proudly showed the Paris-Nice race respect by attacking and was followed by Vingegaard, who sadly refused to take leads because his Jumbo-Visma team was riding for its sprint ace Kooij in today’s stage one.
While Pogacar and Vingegaard fell back, Powless refused to give in. Powless launched an impressive solo attack that must definitely have made his teammates and team staff proud.
Sadly, no other rider in the peloton possessed the true grit that would have made him willing to animate the stage by joining Powless in the attack. Therefore, alas, Powless was eventually caught, and the regular sprint ace battle known from numerous flat stages of plentiful races was set to take place again.
Stage winner Merlier was pleased with having impact on the first big European one-week race of the season from its very beginning.
“Today was a hard and nervous day, but the guys worked hard and believed in me, and that added to my motivation,” Merlier told Roadcycling.com after the finish. “I am twice happy. First, because I could repay them with this win. Second, because I received this small plush lion, which I will give to my son when I return to our home.”
“The boys were flawless today, the way they controlled everything on the tricky parcours was just wow. Tim (Declercq) brought back the escapees, Kasper (Asgreen) did a really long pull in the closing kilometers, then Florian (Senechal) piloted me in the finale. I was well placed in the last two corners, and from that moment on it was just about waiting for the perfect moment. To win at my debut here feels incredible,” Merlier explained.
Runner-up finisher Sam Bennett said he was confident before tomorrow’s flat stage. “A big shoutout to my teammates, who did a great job and kept track of everything, especially in the hectic finale. The final thirty kilometers were quite tough, but I felt really good, which gives me confidence for tomorrow's flat stage, Bennett said.
Tomorrow’s stage 2 of Paris-Nice 2023 is a 163.7-kilometer flat stage from Bazainville to Fontainebleau. Breakaway hopefuls and some general classification contenders are hoping the wind conditions will change, allowing the peloton to be split into atoms.
Stay tuned to Roadcycling.com for further coverage from Paris-Nice 2023.