On paper, today's stage looks destined to be one for the sprinters, as the Paris-Nice peloton tackles two laps of a circuit that begins and ends in Bois-d'Arcy, just west of Versailles. The twin ascensions of the Côte de Senlisse (1.1km at 5.5%) certainly won't cause any problems. That said, it is a miserably wet day in the Parisian hinterland, the temperature is in single figures and with the multiple changes in direction this afternoon, there might just be enough wind to break up the race. Stranger things have often happened at Paris-Nice.
The peloton has just rolled away from the neutralised start in Bois-d'Arcy and will reach kilometre zero at around 1.20pm local time.
147km remaining from 148km
The flag has dropped and the 2017 edition of Paris-Nice is underway in sodden conditions with the wind expected to rise as the afternoon progresses. As ever, the Race to the Sun feels likes something of a misnomer on its opening stage.
We understand that Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) is back using disc brakes once again, having suspended his use of the system in the wake of his crash at the Abu Dhabi Tour last month.
During his time at Orica, Michael Matthews made something of a habit of starting his season late, and the trend continues on his new departure at Team Sunweb. The Australian makes his debut for the team at Paris-Nice today, and Dan Benson spoke with him on the eve of the race.
143km remaining from 148km
A four-man break has opened up a small lead over the peloton in the opening kilometres. Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Kristian Koren (Cannondale-Drapac), Romain Hardy (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Gatis Smukulis (Delko Marseille Provence KTM) have a 20-second buffer.
141km remaining from 148km
Chavanel put in a notable, if ultimately futile, stint of pace-making in support of Bryan Coquard at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne last Sunday. This week, Direct Energie have deployed the former French champion off the front, and his efforts have helped push the break's lead out to 40 seconds.
139km remaining from 148km
One of the unsung strongmen of the peloton, Smukulis' move to Delko Marseille Provence KTM this year marks something of a return, given that he spent the 2008 racing as an amateur with VC La Pomme. The break's lead is now out to 1:30.
Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) rolled up at the start line on a disc brake-equipped bike and must have known it was going to cause a minor stir. "Oh yes, disc brakes. I think it’s a good choice for this weather condition. I’ve said before that I still believe in the disc brakes and I’m convinced by it," he said. "I don’t want to comment on the debate at the moment as it’s also driven by the journalists in that. Sorry, no personal offence with that, but it’s just a story that’s been blown up in my eyes. I want to keep the emotions out of it. I still believe in it and I also agreed that the UCI had to investigate what happened in Abu Dhabi. Then we’ll see what happens but the trial is going on and I’ll continue using disc brakes."
Alberto Contador was reportedly on antibiotics last week, but he lines up here among the favourites for overall victory. His fellow new arrival John Degenkolb said that Trek-Segafredo's strategy for the race is built around the Spaniard. "Alberto is definitely the main priority," Degenkolb said at the start. "We want to be successful with GC here. He has to be attentive and ride at the front during stages and that will save energy and help my teammates."
131km remaining from 148km
Chavanel, Smukulis, Koren and Hardy continue to pad out their advantage, which now stands at 2:15.
126km remaining from 148km
Hardy leads the escapees over the Côte de Senlisse for the first time with a margin of 3:50 over the peloton.
Since September, when Dave Brailsford somehow took more than ten days to make any public statement at all about Bradley Wiggins' therapeutic use exemptions, the tenability of his position as Sky team manager has been called into question. Nicole Sapstead's evidence at the select committee hearing on Wednesday has only increased that pressure. Former Sky directeur sportif Steven de Jongh - forced to resign in 2012 after confessing to doping as a rider - has since said that he does not envisage Brailsford lasting too much longer in his role. "In Brailsford’s position, for me it’s very unlikely that he can stay because of the things that have happened," De Jongh told Cyclingnews yesterday.
Philip Deignan, part of the Sky squad at Paris-Nice, said at the start today the team's riders were focused on the race in hand. "To be honest, I’m the same as most of the guys. We’re just getting on with it and racing our bikes. We’re concentrating on the racing aspect of things," said Deignan, who was a late addition to the roster for this race. "It’s an unexpected start here but I’m going alright. I was down for a break after Valencia and Algarve. I wasn’t going to race for a month. My role here is to support Sergio [Henao]. He’s our main GC guy here. We’re all here with one goal, to look after him."
115km remaining from 148km
The Chavanel quartet are being allowed plenty of leeway by the peloton for the time being. The gap is now up to 4:50.
There was another curious Team Sky story in this morning’s Sunday Times, where it was reported that Dr. Richard Freeman – who failed to provide evidence to the select committee hearing on Wednesday – received a delivery of testosterone patches at the Manchester velodrome in 2011. Dr. Steve Peters, formerly British Cycling’s chief of medicine, told the Sunday Times that the patches had been delivered in error and were returned immediately to the supplier. Seriously.
110km remaining from 148km
As the break's lead yawns out to six minutes, FDJ decide to take matters in hand with Arnaud Demare's sprint chances in mind and have sent a delegation to the head of the peloton.
100km remaining from 148km
The efforts of FDJ's Rudy Molard and Mickaël Delage have shaved 30 seconds off the break's lead, as the rain subsides and the sun pokes through the clouds. 5:30 the gap.
It's going to be very difficult for a break to stay clear given the extensive roll call of recognised sprinters in this Paris-Nice peloton: Arnaud Demare (FDJ), Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin), Michael Matthews (Sunweb), Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Andrea Guardini (UAE-Emirates), Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie), Dan McLay (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Kristian Sbaragli (Dimension Data), Riccardo Minali (Astana)...
96km remaining from 148km
And with that, the relative calm of the early part of the stage is suddenly interrupted. The race swings into a section of crosswind and the peloton is riven into three distinct echelons. There are fifty riders or so in the front group.
Romain Bardet (Ag2r), Nacer Bouhanni and Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac) have all been caught out and are in the third segment of the peloton...
Not surprisingly, Quick-Step Floors are well represented in the front echelon, which letour.fr says contains 27 riders, among them Marcel Kittel, Dan Martin and Julian Alaphilippe.
The front echelon also features Greipel, Kristoff, Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal), Sergio Henao (Sky), Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step) and Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie). They are 4:10 down on the break, and 20 seconds ahead of the second portion of the peloton.
89km remaining from 148km
Bardet, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), Richie Porte (BMC), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) and Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) are all in the second part of the peloton, 40 seconds down on the first echelon, which contains Dan Martin, Tony Gallopin and Sergio Henao.
85km remaining from 148km
The situation is as follows: Chavanel, Smukulis, Hardy and Koren are 3:00 clear of a 26-man group featuring Kittel, Dan Martin, Henao, Demare, Gallopin and Greipel. The third group on the road is 3:40 down, and includes Contador, Bardet, Porte, Yates, Zakarin and Bouhanni.
80km remaining from 148km
Quick-Step and FDJ are the main drivers of the front part of the peloton. They sense a chance to eliminate some dangerous sprinters - and put some GC contenders in difficulty. They are 2:30 down on the break and 45 seconds clear of Contador, Porte et al.
The 26 riders in the front echelon are: Marco Haller, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Jon Izaguirre, Greg Bole (Bahrain-Merida), Tony Gallopin, Andre Greipel, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal), Dan Martin, Julien Alaphilippe, Jack Bauer, Philippe Gilbert, Marcel Kittel, Yves Lampart (Quick-Step Floors), Gorka Izaguirre (Movistar), Sergio Henao, Luke Rowe (Sky), Arnaud Demare, Davide Cimolai, Jacopo Guarnieri, Olivier Le Gac, Rudy Molard, Mac Sarreau (FDJ), Cyrile Lemoine, Bryan Coquard, Angelo Tulik (Direct Energie). A lot of teams have missed the bus...
76km remaining from 148km
The break leads the FDJ-Quick-Step-powered group by two minutes. Contador et al are at 2:40.
Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) has reportedly been distanced by the second part of the peloton. This is turning out to be a brutally tough day of racing.
72km remaining from 148km
After a frantic pursuit, the Contador-Porte group is now back to within 25 seconds of the front of the peloton shortly after completely the first loop of today's circuit. The bad news, of course, is that they have to do it all over again, and on this evidence, there should be more pyrotechnics before the finish.
67km remaining from 148km
Quick-Step and FDJ continue to drive the pace in the second group on the road. They're 1:35 down on the four leaders, and still around 30 seconds ahead of the Contador group.
67km remaining from 148km
Quick-Step and FDJ continue to drive the pace in the second group on the road. and they're almost in touch with the escapees, and around 45 seconds ahead of the Contador group.
63km remaining from 148km
The break is caught, leaving 29 riders at the front of the race. This determined group, driven by FDJ and Quick-Step is stretching its advantage over Contador et al once again, and the gap is 1:10.
59km remaining from 148km
Trek-Segafredo and Orica-Scott are leading the chase in the second group, but they are still 58 seconds down.
BMC are also putting their shoulders to the wheel in this second group in support of Richie Porte, but the gap of 58 seconds is showing no signs of diminishing quickly. "I’m looking forward to getting the racing started but the goals are to get through the day and not lose time. We don’t want any silly business," Porte said at the start.
50km remaining from 148km
Romain Hardy leads the front group over the second ascent of the Côte de Senlisse to ensure that he will wear the polka dot jersey tomorrow. The gap to the Porte-Contador group, where Nicolas Roche is working, now stands at 1:07.
Andre Greipel has been making notable efforts on the front in support of his GC leader Tony Gallopin. Kittel, Kristoff and Demare, meanwhile, are doing all they can to spare their energy ahead of an eventual sprint finish.
Dan Benson caught up with Marcel Kittel at the start today, and the German explained his decision to return to disc brakes despite the controversy that greeted his use of the technology at the Abu Dhabi Tour.
44km remaining from 148km
Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) rides at the head of the second group in a bid to limit the damage being incurred by leader Alberto Contador, but there is, it seems, nothing to be done. The gap nudges out slightly to 1:14.
40km remaining from 148km
Into the final 40 kilometres for the select front group, which remains 1:10 clear of the chasers. The big winners from a GC point of view as it stands would be Dan Martin, Ion Izaguirre, Julien Alaphillppe and Tony Gallopin.
40km remaining from 148km
Into the final 40 kilometres for the select front group, which remains 1:10 clear of the chasers. The big winners from a GC point of view as it stands would be Dan Martin, Ion Izaguirre, Julien Alaphillppe, Sergio Henao and Tony Gallopin.
While Simon Yates loses ground here, it's been a rather more felicitous afternoon for his brother Adam, who has won the GP Larciano in Tuscany, out-sprinting Richard Carapaz (Movistar) and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac). Find out more here.
34km remaining from 148km
The combined efforts of Orica-Scott, BMC and Trek-Segafredo are making no inroads here, as their deficit remains locked at around the 1:10 mark.
32km remaining from 148km
Andre Greipel leads the front group onto a brief cobbled section. The German is holding precious little back ahead of the possible sprint finish. Kristoff, by contrast, has the luxury of sitting on, as his GC leader Ilnur Zakarin has been caught behind. The Norwegian also has lead-out man Marco Haller for company in this group.
30km remaining from 148km
Gatis Smukulis has been flitting at the back of his group ever since he and the early break were pegged back, and the Latvian can hang on no longer. He sits up and waits to be absorbed by the chasers behind.
28km remaining from 148km
This small leading group has increase its advantage further after bludgeoning its way through a section of crosswind. The gap is out to 1:19.
27km remaining from 148km
Mat Hayman (Orica-Scott) comes to the front of the chasing group, but the situation seems to be escaping their control. 1:23 the gap.
25km remaining from 148km
Warren Barguil (Sunweb) is the next rider to have a go at chipping away at the deficit, but it seems a forlorn effort at this point.
24km remaining from 148km
A big moment in the front group, now down to 23 riders, as they swing into one of the crosswind sections that tore this race asunder in the first place. Luke Rowe and Quick-Step are immediately to the fore.
Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) is tangled up in a crash in the second group. He quickly remounts and gives chase, but his day is becoming ever more complicated. The incident occurs on that crosswind section, which had already begun to break up the chasing group.
20km remaining from 148km
Luke Rowe (Sky) drives on the front of the reduced front group, which leads by 1:25 as it enters the final 20 kilometres of racing.
18km remaining from 148km
The chasing group seems to be down to around 20 riders or so, with Porte, Contador and Simon Yates all still aboard. Bardet is still chasing back on, and desperately navigating a way through the convoy of cards.
Having done so much of the hard work by making the split in the first place, Jon Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) appears to have been jettisoned by the select front group.
16km remaining from 148km
Lotto Soudal and Quick-Step are dividing the workload at the head of the front group. Philippe Gilbert is on the front as they come through the second intermediate sprint, and he picks up the three bonus seconds on offer. The chasers are 1:08 behind.
Bardet makes it back up to the Contador-Porte group. He will still be disappointed at the end of this stage, but that fightback at least keeps him in the game.
13km remaining from 148km
Katusha-Alpecin's Tony Martin has started to take mammoth turns in the chasing group, and their deficit has closed to within a minute. 54 seconds the gap.
10km remaining from 148km
Katusha's commitment to the pursuit is putting a different slant on proceedings. The gap between the front two groups is dropping to more manageable dimensions.
9km remaining from 148km
Bardet is safely in the second group, but the tears on his legwarmers and shorts confirm that he hit the ground in the crash that forced him into that frantic fightback.
7km remaining from 148km
Even inside the final ten kilometres, Greipel is committed to setting the pace at the head of the leading group. 48 seconds the gap to the chasers.
5km remaining from 148km
The finale is quite a technical one, but rather easier to manage in a group of 23 riders than in a full-sized peloton.
Bryan Coquard is dropped on a short rise inside the final five kilometres, and his hopes of stage victory have disappeared.
4km remaining from 148km
Quick-Step and FDJ lead this very select group into the final four kilometres. Chavanel, Coquard's teammate, has also been distanced.
3km remaining from 148km
Greipel continues to ride on the front. 43 seconds the gap back to Contador, Zakarin et al.
3km remaining from 148km
Jack Bauer puts in one final turn on the front of the race for Quick-Step and then swings over.
2km remaining from 148km
Greipel drops back through the group, finally turning his mind to the sprint against Demare, Kittel and Kristoff.
Marcel Kittel is dropped from the front group... There are only 15 riders left for an eventual sprint here, but this next rise could cause further difficulties..
1km remaining from 148km
FDJ force the pace and Greipel is dropped... Demare and Kristoff are the only sprinters left.
1km remaining from 148km
Alaphilippe attacks near the top of that rise and opens a small gap. Demare bridges across beneath the flamme rouge...
Demare comes straight through and works on the front. The two Frenchmen look set to decide this between them...
Demare is forced to lead out the sprint...
Alaphilippe goes first, but Demare comes around him.
Arnaurd Demare (FDJ) wins stage 1 of Paris-Nice ahead of Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step).
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) wins the sprint for third.
The second group splintered into pieces on the approach to the line. Bardet comes home 46 seconds down after jumping away in the finale. Contador is further back, coming in a little over a minute down on Demare.
Dan Martin and Tony Gallopin came home 9 seconds down on Demare, meaning they picked up around 35 seconds on Bardet and close to a minute on Contador.
As Arnaud Demare (FDJ) waits to mount the podium and take the first yellow jersey of Paris-Nice, he has this to say: “It was a race of attacking, and we took the initiative. I enjoyed the whole stage. There were fewer riders than we expected in the finale but it was a crazy race. We were chasing to bring down the break and so when we hit the crosswinds, we were already at the front before the split happened. I think that caught a lot of people out. In the finale, the way the race went changed everything. Everybody was tired, so I didn’t expect a sprint at the end, but was hard to follow Alaphilippe at the end.”
1 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ 3:33:43
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
3 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin 0:00:09
4 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
5 Romain Hardy (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital Concept
6 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors
7 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal
8 Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha-Alpecin
9 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky
10 Rudy Molard (Fra) FDJ
Zakarin, Porte and Bardet came in 47 seconds down on Demare. Contador lost 1:04.
1 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ 3:22:33
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:04
3 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin 0:00:15
4 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:16
5 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal 0:00:17
6 Romain Hardy (Fra) Fortuneo - Vital Concept 0:00:18
7 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:19
8 Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha-Alpecin
9 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky
10 Rudy Molard (Fra) FDJ
Thanks for joining our live coverage of Paris-Nice this afternoon. We'll be back with more from tomorrow's second stage, and we'll also have all the news and reaction from today's opener to come on Cyclingnews. In the meantime, a full report, results and pictures from stage 1 can be found here.
Before we take our leave, some very important breaking news... We understand that that Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) has been disqualified from the race by the commissaires for holding onto a team car as he chased back following his crash.
Before we take our leave, some very important breaking news... We understand that that Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) has been disqualified from the race by the commissaires for drafting behind a team car as he chased back following his crash.
For more news on Romain Bardet's disqualification from Paris-Nice, click here. We'll be back with more live coverage from stage 2 tomorrow.
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