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Paris - Nice 2016: Prologue

The Race to the Sun! For many this is the true season opener, and the first real test of the top Grand Tour riders. Join us as we kick off in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.

The race starts off with a 6.1km ITT which is pancake-flat but has a number of sharp turns. It starts out with a nice run along the Seine River.

Conflans-Sainte-Honorine can boast a famous pro rider, who will be at the start – Nicolas Roche, of Team Sky. He was born here and spent part of his childhood here.

 

 

 

 

The first rider takes off at 11:42, and the last rider at 14:38. Times of about seven minutes are expected on this short course.

The peloton was surprised to wake up to snow the other day. The weather today should be better, with a high of 8°C, cloudy but only a 10% chance of precipitation.

Certainly it is not possible that the weather forecast could be wrong.... the first photos from the scene showed blue skies and white clouds. Somehow they have turned into numerous dark clouds, which look as if they might have a lot of rain in them.

If you want to know who is taking part in this race, you can check out our start list here.

Not that many previous winners are here today. Richie Porte (BMC) wearing Nr. 1, won here in 2015 and 2013. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) took the title in 2010. Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) won in 2009. All have changed teams since they won.

Remy di Gregorio (DMP) will be the first to go, at 11:44.

The course is short enough that all 175 riders will go off at one-minute intervals. Richie Porte will be the last rider, at 14:38.

With so many top names taking part in this important race, we thought we would help you know how to watch. Here are our 10 riders to watch.

We have started! Di Gregorio is on his way. Next up is fellow Frenchman Pierrick Federigo.

 

Thomas Voeckler is an early starter here. The Direct Energie rider recently won La Provence, his first win since 2013.

 

Tom Dumoulin is heading up Giant-Alpecin at Paris-Nice, and is aiming for a good overall GC.

 

Eight riders have started so far, but we are still waiting for the first finishing time.

 

Orica-GreenEdge's Michael Matthews is opening his season today. Last year he had four top ten finishes here and won the fourth stage, which put him in the leader's jersey for a day.

 

And all of a sudden we have seven riders who have finished! Jos van Emden of Lotto-Jumbo has the current top time of 7:54.

 

We have a "new" team in the race today. For Paris-Nice, we no longer have Lotto-Soudal, but Lotto-Fixall! And they have changed their jerseys as well, just to add to the general confusion.

 

With 14 riders in, van Emden still leads. He has seven seconds over his number two.

 

Alberto Contador won here in 2009 and 2010 and skipped the race there after. But he is back again this year, saying "I'm returning to the race that revealed me as a rider, in 2007, and which in some aspects was the springboard for the Tour de France."

Pierre Rolland just took to the course. The Frenchman has moved to Cannonade this year, and is heading up the American team. 

 

Letour.fr gives us the bad news that rain and thunderstorms may be moving in.

 

There is all kinds of racing going on today, including the UCI Track World Championships in London. Lots of action there today! 

 

Wilco Kelderman has just shaved two seconds off the best time, knocking Lotto-Jumbo teammate van Emden into second place. The new best time is 7:52.

 

Kelderman is Dutch time trial champion, so his good time shouldn't be a surprise.

 

And we now hear that the rain has started falling. Perhaps Kellerman's time will hold up!

 

Niki Terpstra has put in the third best time, six seconds down.

 

Speaking of other races, yesterday was Strade Bianche, which featured a really thrilling finish. World Champion Peter Sagan was a favourite to win, and he was the one who sparked the decisive move. But his legs lost their power and he finished only fourth. 

 

50 riders have started and 125 are still to go. But will the weather play a role in the remainder of the stage?

 

In case you missed the Strade Bianche yesterday -- and shame on you if you did! -- you can catch up on the men's race here. 

The women raced too, and the World Champion won that race in a  dramatic fashion. 

 

 

And here is the link to the women's race. 

 

Jerome Coppel (IAM),the French TT champion, now tops the list. His time of 7:48 is four seconds faster than Kellerman's.

 

Marcel Kittel is currently on the course. The sprinter has certainly seen a major turn-around after changing teams, joining Etixx-QuickStep this year. 

 

Kittel came in at 8:01,13 seconds down.

 

Team Sky's Ian Boswell is returning to Paris-Nice after a two-year absence, saying his dream is to one day win the race. 

 

We talked about Lotjto-Soudal-Fixall, now here are the details. 

 

Coppel has only done what one might expect of him. This year he won the ITT at the Etoile des Bessages and went on to win the overall title. He is also not only French national champion but also brought in bronze in the Worlds last year.

 

Things are still hopping at the Track Worlds, read about it here!

 

We are happy to say that the sun is shining again at the race! 

 

88 riders are in, and Coppel still holds the lead. 

 

The UCI is doing a lot of testing for mechanical doping at the Track Worlds. They have conducted more than 200 tests so far, with more to come. 

 

Tyler Farrar (Dimension Data) had a time of 8:14.

 

Lotto-Jumbo now has three riders in the top five. German Paul Martens has put in an excellent time of 7:59 to take fifth place.

 

Lars Boom of Astana has just zipped in at 7:54, six seconds down.

 

We are starting to see some fast times again. Gorda Izaguirre (Movistar) is now third at five seconds. 

 

Kittel is still tenth, 13 seconds down. Since there are sprint stages coming up, a good placing here might well help him take the yellow jersey in coming stages.

 

 Nicolas Roche, born here, comes to the line 12 seconds down on Coppel. The Team Sky rider hasn't had the perfect start to the season but that's a decent time.

Condition look perfect out there as we seen rides along the riverside. A few speed bumps don't help but the tricky corners are more of an issue. Just as the riders turn away from the river they take a short but sharp climb and so far every rider has taken it out of the saddle. 

 

Following Tankink right now. The solid domestique isn't too shabby as a time trial rider and picks a few decent lines as former Hour Record holder Brandle comes to the line. Can he take top spot?


No. but it's not bad with 4th at the moment. 

 

The Lotto Jumbo rider, Tankink, comes to the line but he will not trouble the leaderboard, 46th on the line. Still over 50 riders yet to start today, including the main GV men. For now Coppel leads Keldermann by four seconds. 

 

US national champion in the TT, Andrew Talansky comes to the line. The Cannondale rider is 7th, eight seconds off the lead. Not too bad from the American but there are plenty more GC men to come. 

 

This is a course for a real powerhouse, with it's long flat section, and that punchy little climb. 

 

We have a new leader, Herrada, three second clear of Coppel on the line. 

 

Former French national champion Chavanel has started his TT. He's getting on a bit but he's found some form at the start of the season and has already won. 

 

Chavanel hits the climb and the crowds urge him on. He's a huge home favourite and he obliges by rising out the saddle and powering to the top. Back on the TT bars and he's onto the flat once more. 

 

Vanmarcke, with possibly the least-low pro position I've ever seen, comes over the line with a very good time. He goes 4th at the finish, seven seconds down on Herrada (Movistar).

 

Here comes Chavanel and this looks very good. The Frenchman moves into second, two seconds off Herrada's pace. 

 

Herrada still leads with a time of 7'45 with Chavanel, Coppel, Keldermann and Vanmarcke in the top five. Westra, who cam close to winning the race a few years ago, is now on the course. 

 

Where did that come from? Bevin from Cannondale has just posted the fastest time, four seconds clear of Herrada. 

28 riders left to start the TT and Simon Yates is the next man out of the start house.

 

Westra has been rapid, very rapid but he can't take top spot and slots into third on the line. Bevin still leads. 

 

Former world road race champion Gilbert is next to start. He'll just get this out of the way as it's not a stage for him. The Classics are his major target as we see Majka finish tenth on the line. Expected more from the Giro contender really. 

 

Bevin still leads the TT with a time of 7'41 but there are plenty of GC contenders still to come. 

 

Gilbert hits the climb and he's just rolling through at the moment as Vuillermoz struggles home in 70th place. 

 

No changes at the top of the leaderboard as Gilbert heads towards the finish. He crashed in Omloop and he's still finding his feet. He's been caught for a minute.

 

Dumoulin now on the course and he pings up the climb as if it's not even there. He's the first rider to take most of the climb in his TT position. 

 

Bevin still leads but can he hold off the challenge from Dumoulin? 

 

Contador is off! The Spaniard out of the saddle as he starts his TT. 

 

LL Sanchez who once won this race and cracked Contador in the process is on the TT course too. The Astana rider looks to be flying but Contador has the quicker cadence. No time gaps on the pair though but here comes Dumoulin.

 

Top. The Giant Alpecin rider sets the fastest time by less than a second to go at the top at the leaderboard. Bevin was so close. 

 

Matthews, who is only just starting his season today, is on the course now. Just a few riders to go as Thomas is out there now. A big test for the Sky rider today.

 

Thomas hits the climb and is roared on by the French crowds. 

 

Boonen comes to the finish. He has stages further down the line to concentrate on. 

 

Contador comes to the line now and he's set a time of 7'55. 23rd position so nothing spectacular for the Spaniard. 

 

Matthews is flying though and he could move into the top ten here.

 

He's done it. The Australian beat Dumoulin to go top by just over half a second. 

 

Remember this is his first race of the season. Just a few riders left out now as Porte hits the climb. He's won this race twice before and is the defending champion. What can he do today?

 

Gallopin finishes in a time of 7'55, one place ahead of Contador. 

 

Thomas is heading to the line now and takes 7th, seven seconds down on Matthews. 

Porte is putting in a storming ride but he's not going to win today.

 

The BMC rider is 11th, 10 seconds down on Matthews and three seconds slower than Thomas. 

 

Matthews takes the first yellow jersey of the race after beating Tom Dumoulin in the time trial.

 

1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 0:07:39
2 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:07:40
3 Patrick Bevin (NZl) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:07:41
4 Jesus Herrada (Spa) Movistar Team 0:07:45
5 Jon Izaguirre (Spa) Movistar Team 0:07:45
6 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana Pro Team 0:07:46
7 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:07:46
8 Dries Devenyns (Bel) IAM Cycling 0:07:47
9 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Direct Energie 0:07:48
10 Jerome Coppel (Fra) IAM Cycling 0:07:48

 

So Matthews wins on his first outing of the season, edging out Dumoulin to wear the first yellow jersey of this year's race. That was a really exciting and close prologue. 

 

Further down on GC Porte and Thomas both put time in Alberto Contador - as expected perhaps but it sets things up for what should be a really exciting race this week. 

 

We have full results from today's stage, right here on Cyclingnews.

 

Thanks for joining us today. We'll have photos, and a report from the stage soon. We'll also have more live coverage from Paris-Nice tomorrow. 

 

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