Paris-Nice: Kristoff wins bunch sprint in Contres

Alexander Kristoff cruised in to win the sprint of the first stage of Paris-Nice, easily leaving Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) and Bryan Coquard (Europcar) behind him. The Norwegian had a clear bike length lead over this followers as he crossed the finish line in Contres. 

John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) had picked up points at the first intermediate sprint early on, and the bonus seconds would have allowed them to take the yellow jersey with a stage win. Degenkolb was the first to go in the sprint, however, he went into the wind too early and didn’t even finish in the top 10 on the day, but he did move up to fourth overall. Matthews finished 10th on the stage and moved up one spot on GC to seventh.

"I'm really happy. It's my first stage win in Paris-Nice and this is my fourth time coming here. It's a step-up for me," Kristoff said after the stage. “I was sitting in good position but [John] Degenkolb went early and I wasn't sure if I would hold on until I crossed the line."

World champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) retained the overall lead ahead of Rohan Dennis (BMC) and his teammate Tony Martin.

The race was marked by a long break by two French riders, Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne-Seche) and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar). The two made a determined effort against the chasing peloton, which had to make an extra hard effort to catch them near the end.

There was also one notable crash, as Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) had to leave the race with a suspected collarbone. It was later revealed that he suffered a dislocated shoulder.

How it unfolded

The sun was missing on much of the 196.5km race from Saint-Remy-les-Chevreuse to Contres. It was a largely flat course, with the only bump along the way coming early on.

The stage started with the first climb of the race coming at the three kilometres marker, the Cat 3 Cote de Bel Air. Jonathan Hivert of Bretagne-Seche led the way over the top to claim the first polka-dot jersey, and then just kept on going. He took the first intermediate sprint as well, and built up a lead of 3:45, before folding his sails and falling back into the peloton.

Hivert was caught at kilometre 33, and only seven kilometres later his teammate Anthony Delaplace took off, soon followed by Thomas Voeckler of Europcar. The two quickly built up a lead of over six minutes, but the field was determined to have its mass sprint at the end, and dragged them back.

Etixx-QuickStep led the chase, with Stijn Vandenbergh doing much of the work. While the Belgian team was riding for race leader Michal Kwiatkowski, they were closely followed by Astana, who hoped to propel Lars Boom from fifth to first place.

The peloton let the French duo dangle at the two- to three-minute mark, not wanting to catch them too soon. All of the sprinters’ teams took their turns at the head of the chasing field. As soon as the gap neared a minute, the pair picked up their pace and held the peloton longer at bay.

Bad news struck with about 18km to go, as Tom Boonen of Etixx-QuickStep hit the bike in front of him and tumbled to the road. He had to leave the race with an apparent fractured collarbone, a real blow for him and his team, and his hopes for the upcoming Classics.

Matthews and Degenkolb had taken second and third at the first intermediate sprint, moving them into contention for the yellow jersey if they could also win the stage. The final intermediate sprint came with only 11km to go, and a gap of about a minute and a half for the two leaders. Behind them, Geraint Thomas (Sky) sneaked out to take the remaining point and time bonus available.

The pace picked up after that sprint, with Sky showing at the front. There were still 30 seconds with four kilometres to go, but the field caught them with only 1.5km to the line.

As they entered the final kilometer, Katusha rode hard for Kristoff. The Giant-Alpecin train came up on the right hand side, and Degenkolb launched himself for the win, but went too early. He was overtaken by the others and Kristoff took the clear win, as the German faded to finish only 15th.


Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha5:15:18
2Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 1 - Cell 2
3Bryan Coquard (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 2 - Cell 2
4Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM CyclingRow 3 - Cell 2
5Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek Factory RacingRow 4 - Cell 2
6Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 5 - Cell 2
7Moreno Hofland (Ned) Team LottoNL-JumboRow 6 - Cell 2
8Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre-MeridaRow 7 - Cell 2
9Ben Swift (GBr) Team SkyRow 8 - Cell 2
10Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica GreenEdgeRow 9 - Cell 2
11Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro TeamRow 10 - Cell 2
12Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 11 - Cell 2
13Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.frRow 12 - Cell 2
14Jonas Vangenechten (Bel) IAM CyclingRow 13 - Cell 2
15John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 14 - Cell 2
16Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R La MondialeRow 15 - Cell 2
17Michael Morkov (Den) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 16 - Cell 2
18Matti Breschel (Den) Tinkoff-SaxoRow 17 - Cell 2
19André Greipel (Ger) Lotto SoudalRow 18 - Cell 2
20Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Bretagne-Séché EnvironnementRow 19 - Cell 2
21Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 20 - Cell 2
22Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team SkyRow 21 - Cell 2
23Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 22 - Cell 2
24Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 23 - Cell 2
25Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team LottoNL-JumboRow 24 - Cell 2
26Nikolas Maes (Bel) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 25 - Cell 2
27Koen De Kort (Ned) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 26 - Cell 2
28Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 27 - Cell 2
29Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 28 - Cell 2
30Richie Porte (Aus) Team SkyRow 29 - Cell 2
31Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM CyclingRow 30 - Cell 2
32Dominique Rollin (Can) Cofidis, Solutions CreditsRow 31 - Cell 2
33Simon Yates (GBr) Orica GreenEdgeRow 32 - Cell 2
34Roy Curvers (Ned) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 33 - Cell 2
35Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 34 - Cell 2
36Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto SoudalRow 35 - Cell 2
37Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 36 - Cell 2
38Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ.frRow 37 - Cell 2
39Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 38 - Cell 2
40Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ.frRow 39 - Cell 2
41Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 40 - Cell 2
42Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 41 - Cell 2
43Vicente Reynes (Spa) IAM CyclingRow 42 - Cell 2
44Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro TeamRow 43 - Cell 2
45Michal Golas (Pol) Etixx - Quick-StepRow 44 - Cell 2
46Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 45 - Cell 2
47Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team