In what could be a sign of things to come for the ProTour in 2006, Tom Boonen (Quick Step) has won stage 1 of Paris-Nice after a bunch sprint in Saint-Amand-Montrond. Although happy to get the win, Boonen was riding hard at the finish in part to get out of the cold as well as take win number eight for the year so far. "The bunch wasn't riding fast and I was cold; I was so cold that I asked the organisers to cancel the last lap," he said after the stage.
In the first ProTour race of the season, Boonen showed that he's got the best form in the world right now by taking yet another win. "Today the team was perfect," explained the Belgian. "The stage was hard, because of the cold and the rain. Everybody waited for me and I'm happy to have been able to win first up. It's important for the morale and for the next stages. Besides this is the first victory in the first 2006 ProTour competition. I'm very satisfied," he added.
Overnight leader Bobby Julich finishing safely in 48th place, now seven seconds behind Boonen in second on general classification, but CSC boss Bjarne Riis knew today would be one for the sprinters, and isn't worried about Boonen as a GC threat. "It went according to plan for us today. As expected Quick Step had ambitions for Boonen to win the stage and the jersey and this means we can leave it up to the sprinters' teams to keep the peloton together and instead try to control the race as far as rivals for the overall victory are concerned," he said after the stage.
Tomorrow's stage takes riders from Cerilly to Belleville, covering 200km and several cat 3 climbs. Boonen said after today's stage that, "Tomorrow, it will be a stage for someone else. We're here to get ready for the classics." He's happy to get the win but anything else will be a bonus. "I also came with the goal of a stage win, that's done now. If I win two stages, it'll be even better but I'll have to lose the yellow jersey first."