While it was Arnaud Demare and Julian Alaphillipe who fought it out for the stage 1 Paris-Nice victory, Alexander Kristoff showed his form by taking out the bunch sprint behind the duo for Katusha-Alpecin.
The Norwegian got the better of FDJ's Demare at the Etoile de Bessèges last month but explained he was caught out by bad clothing choice in the wet and windy conditions and was content with the last place on the podium.
"It was such a hard start. I had on too many clothes and didn't expect the race to blow up so quickly and I wasn't quite ready to race," Kristoff said after his third-place finish. "I used time to get the extra clothes off and then I felt better when I didn't look like a balloon anymore.
Under the flame rouge, Alaphillipe launched his attack with Demare the only rider to follow. While disappointed to miss the win, a philosophic Kristoff explained there are still several opportunities for a victory to come.
"Marco [Haller] put me in a good position for the climb but then Alaphilippe attacked and I didn't have the legs to follow – only Démare could follow and he took the stage. He's in very good shape and shows he's ready for Sanremo and the races to come. I also felt like my condition is coming along, especially compared to last weekend," he said.
"I'm happy with third place and I hope we can make it better in the days to come. I wanted to win, of course, especially when you race so hard all day and end up with third place, but that's the best I could do today," he said. "Two guys were stronger than me on the climb but I beat many strong guys today so I will be happy with this third place."
With the race splitting to pieces in the crosswinds, Katusha-Alpecin's GC contender Ilnur Zakarin found himself on the wrong side of the separated peloton. Zakarin finished alongside Richie Porte (BMC) to ensure an advantage over a list of rivals headed by Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo). But 30 odd seconds down on the likes of Dan Martin (Quick-Step), Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) and Sergio Henao (Sky).
"In the final we took control of the race so that behind Ilnur Zakarin would not lose too much time for the GC. Sven and Tony did a good job for him, almost bringing him back," team manager José Azevedo said. "For us it was a good day and I feel we are in a good position for the GC. The TT will be important on Wednesday and then on Friday the race will really start. Zakarin holds 17-seconds in front of the others so it is good."
The stage also saw Tony Martin use disc brakes for the first time in his professional career. While the UCI's trial of disc brakes allows the use of mix braking technologies in the peloton, the (Cyclistes Professionels Associés) CPA is arguing for an 'all-on-discs' trial. Marcel Kittel is also riding a disc brake equipped bike at Paris-Nice this week.
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