Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma - Quick Step) was missing from the front group which contested the sprint finish during Stage 1 of Paris-Nice on Monday. The Belgian, along with Argos-Shimano hopeful Marcel Kittel, left close to two minutes behind the first 124 riders.
"I did not want to take any chances on this stage, which was, in my opinion, very dangerous," Boonen told reporters at the finish.
Several crashes marked the 195km stage with Rui Costa (Movistar) and Jure Kocjan (Euskaltel-Euskadi) both forced to abandon the race. Others remain in doubt heading into stage 2 today.
"I avoided the fall several times and then I preferred to stay in the back, to try and avoid unnecessary stress and fall," Boonen continued. "I do not want to harm my preparation for the classics. I was afraid it's true and, let's face it, I have not got the legs. But otherwise, all is well. "
Boonen also told nieuwsblad.be that he was unhappy with the parcours for the stage.
"This course was not suitable for an opening stage of Paris-Nice, which has always been naturally very nervous," he explained. "If you do not feel comfortable, then you do not have good legs. The problem was that the wind was not good. Now everyone thought it was going to happen behind every corner. And nothing happened. Therefore you sat with many in too small a space. My enthusiasm was over. There is no reason to panic."