A nervous peloton in the first WorldTour race on European soil coupled with crosswinds and the usual assortment of road furniture was the root of several crashes in today's opening road stage at Paris-Nice. Crashes forced two riders to abandon during the stage, Rui Costa (Movistar) and Jure Kocjan (Euskaltel-Euskadi), while several others finished battered and bruised and may be questionable to start on Tuesday. Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ), a teammate of stage 1 winner Nacer Bouhanni, also abandoned early on the day, but a bout of the flu was the culprit, not any incident out on the road.
Costa, winner of the 2012 Tour de Suisse and one of the pre-race favourites for a general classification podium spot at Paris-Nice, was arguably the biggest casualty of the day. The Portuguese rider fell with approximately 70km remaining in the stage and was transported to a local hospital to evaluate his injuries, particularly the pain in his left wrist.
"The Portuguese rider, who initially attempted to get back to the group with pain and bruises all over his body, was eventually moved to a medical center in Fontainebleau, where the medical checks ruled out any fractures in his left hand - a broken wrist was feared - having received several stitches on the crash's site," said Costa's Movistar team. "Costa was back in the hotel with his teammates at around 6pm today and will return to Portugal in the next few hours."
Costa's teammate Imanol Erviti also went down in the same crash, but managed to finish the stage in the large second group which crossed the line 1:53 behind Bouhanni.
Kevin Seeldraeyers (Astana) crashed during the stage but was able to finish in an eight-man group 8:23 off the pace. Following treatment for his injuries, however, the 26-year-old Belgian has withdrawn from the race and faces eight days off the bike for recovery.
"I crashed hard and got a cut below my left knee that is very deep and needs stitches," said Seeldraeyers. "I can move the knee and bend it, but if I move and bend it a lot the stitches can come out, and then I have to go back to the doctor. I'm off the bike for eight days until it can heal enough to pedal."
The loss of Seeldraeyers is a blow for his Astana team's overall ambitions as they've lost a key domestique for leader Jakob Fuglsang in the mountain stages to come.
Katusha's Alexander Kristoff, bronze medalist in the 2012 Olympic Games road race, crashed heavily with 53km to the finish, but managed to re-mount and cross the line as the stage's final finisher, 17:15 off the pace. It remains to be seen whether the Norwegian starts on Tuesday.
"Alexander Kristoff received haematoma in the area of sacrum, multiple abrasions and bruises of his back as well as of his left shoulder, leg and thigh. Also, he hit his head. Initial medical examination did not reveal any fractures," said the Katusha Team in a statement. "The decision on further participation of Alexander Kristoff in the race will be taken tomorrow morning."
Stage two of Paris-Nice will take the peloton 200.5km from Vimory to Cérilly on Tuesday.