Australian sprinter Michael Matthews made his debut in Team BikeExchange colours today, gathering up bonus seconds during the opening stage of Paris-Nice, to catapult himself into third place on the general classification, five seconds off the new race leader Sam Bennett (Deceuninck – Quick Step).
The 166km stage concluded with a bunch sprint as predicted after one rider, Fabien Doubey (Total Direct Energie), animated the early proceedings, attacking and leading the race solo by over five minutes before eventually being swallowed up ahead of the fast finale.
Team BikeExchange worked to keep Matthews well positioned throughout the stage, allowing the 30-year-old to take second place and two bonus seconds in the first intermediate sprint of the day after 66km of racing, before claiming maximum points and bonus seconds in the final uphill intermediate sprint, with just 16km remaining.
The final fiercely contested dash for the line saw Matthews slightly out of position, coming home in 17th place, with Bennett taking the stage victory to move into the early race lead.
“It was a nice day today, a pretty relaxed Paris-Nice stage one and I’m pretty lucky to have this as my first race of the season. I am just really happy to be back, it feels like I am really back home with the guys and they supported me thought-out the day for the intermediate sprints.
“We tried in the final, it got a little messy but, in the end, we got a couple of seconds in the intermediate sprints and we’ll fight again tomorrow.
“We are going to keep fighting to try and get that yellow jersey, it would be nice to have it for a couple of days and we will continue to try to get some time back in the intermediates and finals and we will see what we can get.”
2021 Paris-Nice Results – Stage 1:
1. Sam Bennett (Deceuninck – Quick Step) 3:51:38
2. Arnaud Demare (Groupama – FDJ) ST
3. Mads Pedersen (Trek – Segafredo) ST
17. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) ST
General Classification after stage 1:
1. Sam Bennet (Deceuninck-Quickstep) 3:31:28
2. Arnaud Demare (Groupama – FDJ) +0:04
3. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) +0:05
Photo courtesy of Getty Images