By Jean-François Quénet in La Chapelle-Saint-Ursin, France
The Cofidis team had a black day on stage two of Paris-Nice as its three captains all suffered. David Moncoutié lost 2:13 minutes in the crosswinds, Rémi Pauriol broke a collarbone and Amaël Moinard also crashed in the final three kilometres.
"It's a very painful day," said Cofidis directeur sportif Francis Vanlondersele.
It was a stark contrast with the team's confidence after Pauriol's excellent time trial on Sunday. The Frenchman finished that stage in 10th spot.
"I used to do well in hilly time trials sometimes," Pauriol explained at the start of stage two in Saint-Brisson-sur-Loire. "But riding well on the flat was new to me."
Pauriol's result on the opening stage came after two wins at the GP La Marseillaise and the GP of Lugano, where he outsprinted Davide Rebellin one week before Paris-Nice.
"When I joined Cofidis I promised to myself to start with good form because it's important to give guarantees as a new rider in a team," he said.
Pauriol is a former amateur French champion who is in his comfort zone on circuit races. Last year he came in third at the Tour of Catalunya after wearing the leader's jersey. This race was a turning point in his career. "I realised what my level was, but I also reproached myself for having lost the race for a long time afterwards," he said.
Hailing from Lambesc, near Marseille in the south of France, Pauriol wanted to do well at Paris-Nice. He was one of the very few riders on the start line who had raced up the Montagne de Lure twice before. "It was in the amateur ranks and I didn't go well but now I have good form," he said prior to crashing.
Cofidis now hopes the injury Moinard sustained to his tibia will not prevent him from climbing well. Following his 15th place at last year's Tour de France, the all-rounder from Normandy has growing ambitions, while Moncoutié's goal remain the same. Moncoutié, the winner of the Mont Faron stage in the Tour of the Mediterranean, arrived 2:13 minutes after the peloton despite getting through the race unscathed.
"I got trapped twice when the bunch split up," he said. "The second time with five kilometres to go, I gave up the chase. I won't change now. I've never felt easy in the crosswinds. I didn't come here to race for GC. For me, Paris-Nice will begin on Wednesday. I feel sad for Pauriol."