With 2.6 kilometres to race on stage 1 of Paris-Nice, Astana's Jakob Fuglsang found himself tangled up in a late crash. The Dane was able to remount and had teammate Magnus Cort for company, but at the conclusion of the day he conceded 1:38 minutes to stage winner Arnaud Demare (FDJ), all but ending his hopes for the GC.
The late climb ensuring the three-kilometre rule was not enforced for the stage.
The major group of GC favourites was two seconds behind Demare in Meudon, where the majority of the fast-finishing riders survived the late two-kilometre climb. Although Fuglsang was out of contention for the stage win, Luis Leon Sanchez and Michael Valgren both placed in the peloton to ensure the team still has cards to play for the overall with seven stages to come.
Fuglsang, the 2017 Critérium du Dauphiné winner, has twice finished in the top ten at Paris-Nice, and after placing third at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and fourth at Ruta del Sol to start his season, he was confident of another top result. Stage wins are now the likely focus later in the week for Fuglsang.
"There was a crash in front of me, and I could just avoid it but then someone crashed into me from the back and I went down," Fuglsang said. "Luckily no serious injury for me, but of course it never feels good when you crash. Now I have to recover and then we'll see what I can do in the next stages."
For Astana's sports director Dmitriy Fofonov, Fuglsang's crash was a late blow to the team aspirations after a wet and cold day of racing. However, Fofonov is looking to later in the week for his captain to bounce back and believes Sanchez and Valgren can also make their mark on the race.
"Today was a nervous day, with some dangerous roads and of course the rain and cold," Fofonov said. "We worked well during the day, but we had very bad luck with the crash of Jakob Fuglsang. There was no 3km-regulation rule today, so we lost some precious time in the general classification. It was good that we had Luis Leon Sanchez and Michael Valgren in the group with the favorites. We're going to see day by day what we can do in the next stages, but we're confident."
Fuglsang wasn't the only GC rider to suffer a mishap during the stage. BMC lost its GC leader Tejay van Garderen with the American forced from the race after two crashes. Katusha-Alpecin's Ilnur Zakarin also had a tough day with the Russian caught up in the same crash as Fuglsang but was a far bigger loser in the GC stakes, conceding over five minutes to his major rivals.
Stage 2 of Paris-Nice is expected to suit a bunch sprint finish with the GC stages to come later in the week as the race continues its journey south.