It may be referred to as the 'race to the sun' but stage 1 of Paris-Nice was a wintery affair with the peloton facing snow, rain and cold conditions on the 195km ride from Condé-sur-Vesgre to Vendôme that featured two gravel sectors, ensuring riders crossed the line covered in mud.
For Tom Boonen, the conditions the peloton faced should have seen the UCI implement its Extreme Weather Protocol, which allows riders, teams and organisers to call for changes or reductions to the race route. The UCI extreme weather protocol was put into place for the first time earlier this season at the Classica de Almeria.
"There is a new UCI protocol and they don't follow their own rules. That's the most important fact of this stage," Boonen was reported as saying post-stage by Sporza. "We did 200 kilometres in really bad weather. I know it's hard to find solutions here, but nothing has happened yet again."
'Freezing rain' and 'snow accumulation on the road' are two examples of extreme weather conditions listed in the new protocol, along with with 'strong winds' -which blew at 80km/h at the Classica de Almeria, sparking the first implementation of the UCI extreme weather protocol last month. Former French professional Pascal Chanteur is the CPA delegate and rider representative at Paris-Nice while ACCPI and SCC president Cristian Salvato is the delegate for Tirreno-Adriatico.
"The problem is that there is nothing to do once you get started. You can stop and sit on the side of the road, but what does it help?" Boonen added of the stage that saw the peloton experience snow, close to freezing temperatures, wins and finally, sunshine.
One year ago, Boonen crashed on the first stage of the race, dislocating his shoulder and missing the Classics as a result. While the weather was forefront on his mind after finishing caked in the Vendôme mud, Boonen was mixing it up the sprint finale to finish sixth.
"I tried to do my own sprint, took the last corner in a good position, but it wasn't too much acceleration left in the legs. For me it was very important to finish safely and gain kilometres before the Classics. Now I'll try to recover after this hard stage and continue to improve in the following days," he explained.
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