The Race to the Sun continues today with a 195km first stage which should give the sprinters a chance to show what they have.
Welcome back to Cyclingnews' coverage of the 2013 Paris-Nice. Today's first stage is one for the sprinters.
184 riders took off at 11:26 this morning, happy to see continued blue skies and sunshine. The day's break took off literally from the start. When the gun sounded, Romain Sicard (Euskaltel), Bertjan Lindeman (Vacansoleil) and Yannick Talabardon (Sojasun) jumped and haven't yet looked back.
The gap reached 7:20 after 42 km, but then started dropping slightly. Right now, after 100km, it is 5:35.
We have our first abandon, Pierrick Fedrigo of FdJ, who has the flu. His team director Thierry Bricaud told letour.fr earlier, "He nearly didn't start the prologue yesterday. He really is not in great shape. We'll take it day by day.”
This stage is flat to slightly rolling, with one tiny bump built in for a category four ranked climb. The wind may well play a role, though, and force some echelons, which could have a major effect on things.
Last year's first stage, in fact, showed what a major factor the wind and echelons can be. As the CN race preview says, “On last year’s opening road stage, Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Sky provoked a split in crosswinds that immediately eliminated all but 20 or so riders from overall contention, and a similar ambush is possible this time around.”
As we said, this is one for the sprinters, and they include Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), Heinrich Haussler (IAM), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Merida), Elia Viviani (Cannondale), Borut Bozic (Astana), Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil) and Nacer Bouhanni of FDJ.
And let us not forget Matti Breschel (Saxo Tinkoff), Mark Renshaw (Blanco), Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge), Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Yauheni Hutarovich (Ag2r) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha).
There are two intermediate sprints today, one at km 115.5, which is coming up soon, and one at km162.
85km remaining from 195km
About 85km to go, and Argos-Shimano and Europcar are leading the chase.
Yesterday's prologue provided us with a surprise winner, Damien Gaudin of Europcar. He is the first to wear the yellow jersey in this race. Here the top ten:
1 Damien Gaudin (Fra) Team Europcar 0:03:37
2 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:01
3 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
4 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Blanco 0:00:02
5 Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) FDJ
6 Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:03
7 Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack Leopard
8 Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team
9 Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Team Europcar 0:00:04
10 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 0:00:05
The top ten of the points ranking is, unsurprisingly, the same as the top ten GC:
1 Damien Gaudin (Fra) Team Europcar 25 pts
2 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team 22
3 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 20
4 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Blanco 18
5 Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) FDJ 16
6 Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team 15
7 Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack Leopard 14
8 Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team 13
9 Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Team Europcar 12
10 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 11
80km remaining from 195km
The three leaders have gone through the first intermediate sprint, with Lindeman taking it ahead of Talabardon and Sicard.
Wilco Kelderman of Blanco wears the best young rider jersey today.
1 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Blanco 0:03:39
2 Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) FDJ
3 Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:01
4 Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale 0:00:03
5 Jesus Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team
6 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica GreenEdge 0:00:05
7 Martijn Keizer (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:00:06
8 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica GreenEdge 0:00:07
9 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano
10 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Belisol
Organizers were careful to build a ranked climb into this stage, so that the mountain jersey could be awarded. The field will tackle the not-so-mighty Col de Buthiers at km 119.5. With its .5km long climb with a gradient of 4.2%, it is ranked only category four, and is rapidly approaching.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep had four riders in the top 20, which gave it the lead in the first team ranking:
1 Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:11:00
2 Blanco Pro Cycling Team 0:00:06
3 Team Europcar
4 Vacansoleil-DCM 0:00:07
6 Astana Pro Team 0:00:09
7 Movistar Team 0:00:10
8 Katusha Team 0:00:12
9 Sojasun 0:00:13
10 Radioshack Leopard
74km remaining from 195km
The gap is down to just over four minutes, and we expect to hear momentarily who took the mountain points.
The mountain points went just like the sprint points, letour.fr lets us know: Lindeman, Talabardon and Sicard. So LIndeman will wear the mountain jersey tomorrow.
What bikes was everyone on yesterday? What do this year's time trial bikes look like? Of course we have the answer, take a look at this gallery of tech loveliness.
The gap has gone back up, as the field hits the day's climb 4:50 after the leading trio.
There are 23 teams in this race, all 19 of the WorldTour teams plus Cofidis, Europcar, Sojasun and IAM.
66km remaining from 195km
And we now hear that with 66km left, the gap has dropped back down to 4:10.
IAM'S Martin Elmiger was amongst those who hit the pavement during yesterday's prologue. On the team's website, he explained what happened: “I crashed almost immediately after starting when I took the second corner very tight and nicked a block of concrete placed on the side of the road. I’m a little cut up on the side, but nothing so severe that it will prevent me from continuing. I lost maybe 20 seconds in the whole incident, without which I expect I could have placed in the top 10.”
We had a crash involving Rui Costa (Movistar), Tony Gallopin (RadioShack), Lucas Haedo (Cannondale) and Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r),but fortunately they are all uninjured and still going.
Another rider who made contact with the road in the prologue was a very disappointed Maxim Monfort of RadioShack-Leopard. “My front wheel slipped away. There was no real reason. I was fast but not too fast coming into that right hand corner and I wasn’t doing something crazy. I was doing a good TT until that crash. It was my first crash ever in a TT,” he said on the team website
“Now I’ve lost 40 seconds. After one minute of racing my dream was over," he continued. "Paris-Nice was my first goal of the season. It will be hard to get on the GC podium now. Maybe I will have more freedom in the peloton now, but I don’t think so.”
57km remaining from 195km
57 km to go and the gap is exactly 4 minutes. How lovely to see sunshine again!
Lots of green Europcar jerseys at the head of the chasing field.
And Rui Costa has abandoned. He must have been injured in that crash.
And another crash. A Katusha rider is down and not looking happy.
It is Alexander Kristoff, who had been favoured for the sprint today. He is getting care and a new bike, if he can get back up....
BMC didn't feature near the top of things yesterday in the prologue. Philippe Gilbert lost eight seconds by not taking any chances, and Tejay Van Garderen was not happy to be 10 seconds down. You can read about it here.
49km remaining from 195km
Less than 50km now, and the gap is 3:20.
We are happy to say that Kristoff is back on his bike. Glad he was not seriously hurt.
The peloton just passed under the final km marker. Don't worry, they are now setting off on a closing circuit and will come back again.
Blanco's Mark Renshaw is another sprinter looking for the win today. He will be pretty much on his own, though, as the team is concentrating on the GC for Robert Gesink.
42km remaining from 195km
Only 42 km left to go, and the gap is 2:15.
Gaudin is resplendent in yellow today, shining in the sunshine, after his surprise win in yesterday's prologue.
Just a reminder: click here to find those Paris-Nice time trial bikes to drool over....
35km remaining from 195km
The gap is now at 1.35. FdJ has moved up to help with the lead work, as they want their sprinter Bouhanni to take the sprint.
Another crash! A handful of riders involved. Kevin Seeldraeyers looks to be uncomfortably hobbling around.
Sicard drops back as the other two take off for the final intermediate sprint. It appears that he has been dropped, rather than simply not sprinting. So to speak.
Once again Lindemann takes the sprint, followed by Talabardon, with Sicard presumably third.
And again! Another crash? Viviani was involved, it looks like he and a teammate got their bikes tangled. Will Cannondale drop back to get him?
30km remaining from 195km
Only 50 seconds now betwen the peloton and the two leaders.
Sicard will be swallowed up by the field any second now...
The chase continues, but the field seems to be happy with keeping things at the 45 second mark. Don't want to catch them too soon and give someone else the chance to get away.
World Champion Gilbert is now up at the front as well for BMC.
23km remaining from 195km
23 km and 25 seconds. The two leaders are doing everything they can to stay away, but realistically, they have no chance.
And their time at he front is nearly over. The field is breathing down their necks.
With 22.4km to go, the two are caught up. And at the other end of things, Sicard has dropped off the back of the field.
The pace is very high now and a largish group has been dropped, including Jens Voigt and David Millar. And Tom Boonen, which is a surprise.
It looks too as if the gap is large enough that they have no chance of catching up again.
Blanco is at the head of the field. The yellow jersey is up there too. Now BMC moves up to the front.
The field is at a big open space right now, and the wind is playing a role. It is not a major role, but still....
Of the sprinters, it looks like Bouhani and Kittel are in the front group.
There is now 40 seconds between the two groups, with the peloton split roughly two-thirds ahead, one-third behind.
Astana takes its turn at the head of the field.
14km remaining from 195km
Less than 14 km to go, and no change in the race circumstances. A tight turn, but the head group makes it through safely.
Kittel had a mechanical earlier, and was caught between the two groups. He tried his best to catch up again, but has now dropped back to the chase group.
A mechanical for a Cofidis rider, who thereby drops back to the Boonen group.
10km remaining from 195km
The last 10 km to go, and many of the top sprinters are not in the head group. Who will take this one?
We hear the gap is now only 20 seconds, and riders are moving up to the lead group, including Kittel.
Astana's Enrico Gasparotto has been pulling the lead group along for a while now, doing yeoman duty.
As we wrote that, of course, he dropped out of the lead.
6km remaining from 195km
The gap is back up to 28 seconds and they may have given up hope with only 6km to go. And now they say that Kittel is not in the lead group.
5km remaining from 195km
Yup, the chase group has given up, as the gap is now 45 seconds. Europcar is back near the front of things, determined to hold on to the yellow jersey for another day.
Orica GreenEdge looks to be trying to set something up for the finish, with 3 km to go.
And who is behind the Orica train, but the old master, Petacchi!
Cannondale moving up, so presumably Viviani has caught up again after his mechanical.
Viviani is now on Petacchi's wheel.
Orica is leading the way here....
Bouhani is moving up to the fron, as the sprint opens!
Bouhani moves early -- does he hold on? Photo finish between Bouhani, Petacchi and Viviani!
Yes, it looks like Bouhanni gets the win!
The Boonen group comes in about 1:54 down.
So the French national champion wins today, after a Frenchman won yesterday as well.
Orica GreenEdge is not going to be happy after doing all that work for nothing.
Bouhanni and Petacchi are first and second, but it looks as if Lotto's Debusschere came in for third on the other side of the street, pushing Viviani into fourth place.
That also gives Bouhanni the overall lead, with the same time as Gaudin.
A handful of riders, including Sicard, now crosses the finish line over 5 minutes down.
The official results have now been changed, with Viviani indeed taking third ahead of Debusschere.
Here are the top ten for the stage:
1 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ
2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Merida
3 Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling
4 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Belisol
5 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling
6 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Blanco Pro Cycling Team
7 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team
8 Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
9 Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team
10 Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
And the new top five in GC:
That's it for stage one. Join us again tomorrow for stage two, as the sprinters get another chance.
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