Live coverage of the opening stage of the 2019 Paris-Nice, a short and largely flat 138.5km stage around the outskirts of Paris.
Good morning and welcome to Cyclingnews' live race centre for the opening stage of Paris-Nice. Often referred to as 'the race to the sun' - it makes its way from the capital in the north of France down to the Côte d'Azur in the south on the verge of spring - it's one of the most prestigious week-long stage races in pro cycling.
The race gets underway today with a fairly short and largely flat stage around the outskirts of Paris, and it's likely to come down to a bunch sprint. Beware, though, the wind could decide otherwise. Either way, we're covering it every step of the way right here.
The riders are already rolling but not yet racing. We have a short neutralised section to get through before the flag drops and the race proper begins.
Here's the stage profile
Now's probably a good time, if you haven't already, to have a read of Barry Ryan's in-depth race preview, where he dissects the route and the contenders both for the individual stages and the overall title.
This is the scene at the start town of Saint-Geramin-en-Laye, which is also the finish town. Yep, this race is about getting from Paris to Nice but after one stage of eight we'll be no closer.
It's what everyone's talking about this morning. It's blowing from the west at around 45km/h, and that could have a big impact on the race. We often see echelons at Paris-Nice and it would be a surprise if we didn't today. As you can see in the map, there's a long period, between the two climbs, where the strong wind will be blowing from the side.
The race has been waved underway, a little later than scheduled.
Already we have three riders who have attacked and formed a breakaway. They are:
Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie)
Amael Moinard (Arkea-Samsic)
Romain Combaud (Delko Marseille Provence)
There are plenty of quality sprinters in the field hoping to battle it out for victory later on. Here are some of them...
Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin), Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo), Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept).
The breakaway riders have just reached the top of the earlier third-category climb of the Côte de Beynes. Gaudin was first to the top, ahead of Combaud and Moinard.
The peloton comes over the top of the climb 3:20 in arrears.
The race will soon turn left and south, meaning the wind will be blowing from the side for the first time.
I mentioned some sprinting names earlier, but the overall contenders will have to be alert today. Here's a few of them. Again, there's no shortage of quality.
Michal Kwiatkowski and Egan Bernal (Team Sky), Nairo Quintana, Marc Soler, and Richard Carapaz (Movistar), Simon Yates and Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott), Miguel Angel Lopez, Ion Izaguirre, and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Romain Bardet (AG2R), Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First), Sergio Henao (UAE Team Emirates), George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma), Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb), Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
I'm sure I've missed someone out. Take a look at the full start list and send in your complaints.
Ok, fine, I forgot to mention Andre Greipel earlier. The German was a high-profile signing for Arkea-Samsic last year and he has a very important role this week. There are three French Pro Conti teams fighting over the two remaining wildcards for the Tour de France. ASO have said it will come down to performances, and success this week, in ASO's premier week-long race, could well be the clincher.
Arkea also have Warren Barguil and Elie Gesbert for the overall but if Greipel can win it would make a big difference. They're up against Vital Concept, who have Bryan Coquard but are frustratingly without marquee signing Pierre Rolland this week, while Direct Energie are the other team in the frame, with Niki Terpstra, Lilian Calmejane and Niccolo Bonifazio.
Back in the race, and we're yet to see echelons but the pace is high in the peloton, and the gap is coming down towards the 2:30 mark.
My colleague Ellis Bacon was handed the unenviable task of picking out five particularly notable names from that start list, and here's what he came up with.
Big crash in the peloton.
A number of riders caught up but none seriously affected, it seems.
The tension is high and now Groupama-FDJ have hit the front and are attempting to split the race in the wind.
And they've succeeded!
We have the predicted echelons and the peloton has split in this strong crosswind.
A group of around 30 riders have been distanced and are losing ground. Among them are Calmejane and Terpstra for Direct Energie, Domenico Pozzovivo for Bahrain-Merida, and Louis Meintjes for Dimension Data.
More riders are losing contact here as it remains fast and furious. The gap to the breakaway trio is tumbling. 1:20 now.
The Terpstra/Pozzovivo group has managed to get itself back onto the body of the main peloton.
It's all calm again, as Philippe Gilbert and the other riders caught up in that crash make their way back into the field.
I mentioned Bryan Coquard earlier. I spoke to him recently at the Tour of Oman and the interview was published this morning. The Frenchman discusses the rough couple of seasons he's endured, and the psychological toll that was taken. He also explains why he feels he's back to his 'old self' now. Here's the link.
80km remaining from 138km
The calm in the peloton means the breakaway trio can start to increase their lead once again. It has just gone above the two-minute mark.
Michael Matthews (Sunweb) has crashed.
The gap is hanging around the two-minute mark as the rain begins to fall.
This is a good weekend of racing. Yesterday we had Strade Bianche, which was not as muddy as last year but was still good. Julian Alaphilippe added to his rapidly-growing palmares and QuickStep's Classics dominance with a fine victory. Report, results, photo gallery all in the following link.
Meanwhile in the women's race, Annemiek van Vleuten surprised herself and everyone else with an amazing solo victory in what was only her second race of the season after 2018 had been ended by a fractured kneecap. You can catch up on that here.
70km remaining from 138km
It's still gusty out there, and races have been cancelled over in Belgium, but no one is minded to force new echelons here.
It's miserable out there, and Ivan Sosa is forced off the road and onto the grass verge. It's a soft landing at least.
And now Uran does exactly the same.
It's tense out there again and they've come out of a wooded section onto more exposed roads. The threat of echelons is clear to see and the pace picks up once more.
Uran makes his way back through the cars and back into the peloton.
Back into the trees and it bunches up once more.
55km remaining from 138km
With 55km remaining, Gaudin, Combaud, and Moinard have 1:30 in hand on the rest of the field.
AG2R and Movistar are riding up at the front of the bunch. Both of them are protecting their lightweight climbers and Tour de France leaders, in Bardet and Quintana respectively. AG2R also have Tony Gallopin for the overall title, while Movistar have the defending champion Marc Soler.
Michael Matthews abandons
We mentioned earlier that Matthews had crashed. Well, bad news has just come through: the Australian has abandoned the race. His 2018 season was derailed by an early crash. Let's hope this one's not too serious.
Geraint Thomas isn't racing Paris-Nice this year, having won it in 2016. He raced Strade Bianche yesterday and my colleague Stephen Farrand grabbed a word with him at the start, where the Tour de France champion spoke about one of the biggest storylines of the year: the possible internal rivalry with Chris Froome at Team SKy. Here's what he had to say.
They're back on exposed roads and AG2R are giving it full whack.
It's AG2R's Classics leaders, Oliver Naesen and Stijn Vandenbergh piling on the pressure. Gallopin comes through for a turn now. This could do some damage if they sustain it.
It's splitting again!
Pozzovivo caught out again as several riders lose contact.
FDJ, instigators of the earlier splits, join the party now and continue the intensity.
44km remaining from 138km
Trek-Segafredo also getting involved. The increase in pace has seen the break's lead plummet once again. It's only 30 seconds now.
Trek have Degenkolb, who will be pining for a reduced bunch sprint.
Some roundabouts disrupt the race but now we're back on a long exposed straight road and it's really splitting here. Three clear echelons.
Pozzovivo is off the back and in real trouble here, without teammates. Meintjes has been caught out again as well.
The breakaway trio are just 15 seconds ahead now. They're going to be caught soon by a front echelon of around 30.
The second and third echelons are not too far back at the moment.
41km remaining from 138km
The break is caught.
Kwiatkowski and Bernal both there for Sky, with Luke Rowe driving it on.
It's splitting further. There are about six groups on the road now.
Quintana is up at the front, and is coming through for turns. Movistar's other leader, however, Marc Soler, has missed out.
Demare has made it into the front group, along with Degenkolb, Trentin, Coquard, Jungels.
The first couple of echelons have come back together. There have been some casualties, however. Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel are both seemingly out of the picture.
Groenewegen is back in the front with teammates and they hit the front now. They accidentally open a gap over the rest before knocking it off slightly.
Another crash! Jasper De Buyst is down for Lotto and in some pain. He lies stricken on the grass verge. A Sunweb rider also went down.
And now it's starting to split again! Uran is back up front and is trying to pile on the pressure with a teammate.
The crash occurred half-way down that front peloton and pretty much split it in two.
33km remaining from 138km
There's a front group of more than 30, followed by a group of around 20 and then one around 12.
Rowe pushes on for Sky, Bernal in the wheel. Greipel is up there in third place. ANd now Bernal comes through and accelerates hard!
The second echelon gets back on as the race heads back into the trees.
We're heading through a small town now and we'll soon be at the second of the day's two climbs, the third-cat Côte de Beule.
30km remaining from 138km
30km to go and they hit the climb. It's 2.8km long with an average gradient of 5.2%.
Evaldas Siskevicius (Delko Marseille Provence) attacks on the climb.
Zakarin and his echelon regain contact with the main peloton.
Barguil sets off in pursuit of Siskevicius on the climb.
Puncture for Gallopin. It's not the worst time, as things have calmed somewhat after that period of madness.
Gaudin, who was in the break, goes after Barguil and Siskevicius.
Gallopin is back in the peloton.
Gaudin raises the pace and Barguil has been dropped. On a climb. Never thought I'd write that.
Gaudin takes the maximum four points at the top of the climb once again and he'll be in the king of the mountains jersey at the end of the day.
25km remaining from 138km
Gaudin and Siskevicius are taken back into the peloton. All together with 25km to go.
Behind the main peloton is a group of around 25 riders. In there is Kittel, along with Sergio Henao, and Louis Meintjes.
20km remaining from 138km
There are 22 seconds between those two groups at the moment.
Intermediate sprint at Flambertins coming up very soon.
There are bonus seconds on offer here - 3,2,1 - which could play an important role in a race as close as Paris-Nice, which has been decided by less than five seconds in recent years.
Luis Leon Sanchez, a former winner, takes off and helps himself to the three bonus seconds.
Behind him are Kwiatkowski and Bernal.
Gilbert is on his own chasing this front group at 30 seconds.
The race heads out onto exposed roads once more and Kwiatkowski accelerates.
No one's trying to form echelons just yet but the wind could yet play a factor on this run-in, as the race will soon turn back into a cross-tailwind.
Kittel's group is back in, but there's a group of around 15 desperately trying to regain contact.
And they turn into that cross-tailwind section I mentioned and it's splitting again!
Luke Rowe drives clear with both Kwiatkowski and Bernal. Three-man Sky break!
12km remaining from 138km
Jungels reacts and gets across, and now more scramble to make it over. But it's splitting up again big time behind!
The peloton once again splits into several echelons.
Rowe calls for cooperation in what is now a swelling front group. He gets it from EF and Trek.
This front group has swelled to more than 30. Bernal is drilling it on the front again.
This is impressive from Bernal. He was caught out in Colombia last month and appears he will not make the same mistake again.
Lopez and Yates are not in this front group.
10km remaining from 138km
Jungels takes it up as the group strings out through a couple of roundabouts. But the pace is ebbing now as they look over their shoulders.
Groenewegen, Trentin, and Degenkolb are all there near the front.
8km remaining from 138km
Jumbo-Visma take it up now. Groenewegen has to be the favourite here.
6km remaining from 138km
Coquard, Colbrelli, Demare and Greipel are all present and correct, but it's Jumbo who have the numbers and are set to lead this out.
Another intermediate sprint coming up. How late is that? Will we see the GC riders trying to take bonus seconds again?
Jumbo-Visma have a man on the front, followed by Rowe and Bernal and then the rest of the Jumbo train.
Bennett is there for Bora as well.
Yates has made it back in. Fabio Jakobsen too.
Rowe takes it up again now. He's looking good here, after being forced to miss the opening weekend through illness. Bernal and Kwiatkowski are up with him.
3km remaining from 138km
Here comes the intermediate sprint. Rowe leads it out, Kwiatkowski looks behind and then opens the sprint. Here comes Sanchez again.
Kwiatkowski takes it, then Sanchez, then Rudy Molard in third.
Kwiatkowski and Sanchez both therefore have five seconds over pretty much everyone else in the field.
2km remaining from 138km
And now it's time for the run-in. Who's going to take it up? Jumbo have dropped back for now.
Gilbert accelerates. Big move from the Belgian. He has a gap.
Ivan Garcia Cortina tries to follow for Bahrain but Gilbert is away. He took advantage of some hesitation there but now they're getting organised.
1km remaining from 138km
We've seen Gilbert do this before. He has Jakobsen in the group behind who can sprint for QuickStep.
1km remaining from 138km
Flamme rouge and Gilbert has a few seconds. But now Jumbo take it up
Jumbo-Visma take it up with two in front of Groenewegen. 500m to go!
Colbrelli goes from range!
Trentin launches now, Groenewegen too!
Ewan powers through the middle and it's a tight one between him and Groenewegen!
Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) wins stage 1 of Paris-Nice
Groenewegen isn't sure, but replays show he just got his front wheel across the line in front of Ewan. Ewan had started on the Dutchman's wheel and did well to draw level but just ran out of road.
Jakobsen was third.
Marc Soler, the defending champion, comes home in a group of around 20, one minute down.
1 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma 03:17:35
2 Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto Soudal
3 Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Deceuninck-QuickStep
4 Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe
5 John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
6 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott
7 Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 00:00:01
8 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida 00:00:01
9 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Vital Concept-B&B Hotel 00:00:01
10 Anthony Turgis (Fra) Direct Energie 00:00:01
We await the full results to see which other GC riders lost time today.
"It was really hard finale and a really hard day. It was a short day, but hard. Enjoy it? I don’t know about that. It was windy, very open, and we know about that being from Holland. It was a great day.
"There are a lot of really good sprinters here. It was really close, but we won, so I’m really happy. Caleb Ewan came really close. I maybe beat him by one millimetre but it was enough."
Groenewegen pulls on the yellow jersey as the first overall leader of the 2019 Paris-Nice.
"I already have a yellow jersey but now I have the real yellow jersey, so I’m really happy," he jokes.
General Classification after stage 1
1 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma 03:17:25
2 Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto Soudal 00:00:04
3 Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team 00:00:05
4 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky 00:00:05
5 Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Deceuninck-QuickStep 00:00:06
6 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky 00:00:09
7 Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 00:00:09
8 Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe 00:00:10
9 John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo 00:00:10
10 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott 00:00:10
Aru, Henao, Pozzovivo, Meintjes, Ion Izaguirre, and Van Garderen all lost around three minutes today.
Soler, Lopez, Pantano, Chaves, Antunes all lost just over a minute.
Kittel was around three minutes down, too, while Cavendish was a full nine minutes down.
That's Groenewegen's third win of the season, after stages in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and the Volta ao Algarve. The 25-year-old Dutchman had something of a breakthrough year in 2018, winning two stages at the Tour de France, and it seems he's continuing that form into 2019.
A glance at the GC shows us that Kwiatkowski and Sanchez have five seconds over the rest of the GC contenders who finished in that front group.
When you think that the last edition of Paris-Nice was won by four seconds, the one before that by two seconds, and the one before that by four seconds, you realise how important today was and how important seemingly innocuous intermediate sprints can be in a race as tight as this. The last time the winning margin was above a minute was 10 years ago.
For more photos, including some nice echelon shots, check out our photo gallery in our race report.
Join us again tomorrow for stage 2, another flat one with exposed roads and danger of echelons. Au revoir!
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