Crashes Prove Decisive on Opening Stage of Paris-NiceSun 9 Mar 2014
A late race crash split the bunch on the opening stage of Paris-Nice. Jens Keukeleire, Mat Hayman, Michael Albasini and Simon Yates made the 100 rider front group. Matt Goss, Michael Matthews, Mitch Docker and Simon Gerrans were caught behind the crash, missed out on the move and crossed the finish line 1’09 behind the main field.
“There was a lot of stress in the bunch during the last circuit lap,” said Sport Director Dave McPartland. “All our guys were riding in the middle of the peloton when there was a crash. Five of our guys missed out – Gerro, Bling, Gossy, Docker and Simon Yates. Somehow Simon was able to work his way back to the front, so we had four ahead and four behind.”
“The plan today was to work for Gossy in the sprint,” McPartland added. “We committed all the guys to him. It was unfortunate to lose an opportunity, but we were lucky to get away without any major injuries. There were a lot of crashes today.”
Paris-Nice has become synonymous with nasty weather conditions in recent years. This year, the eight day French tour began under sunny skies in Mantes-la-Jolie. Christophe Laborie (Bretagne-Séché Enviornnement) went on the attack in the opening kilometres and built up a lead that stretched beyond the ten minute mark.
“There was only one guy up the road,” said McPartland. “We decided we would chase, but we didn’t want to do it ourselves. When it got to 10’30, Giant-Shimano began to ride. They came back to us to ask for help. We put Simon Yates on the front. With guys working together from a few teams, we didn’t have any problems at all bringing back just one rider.”
Fifty kilometres from the finish, Laborie had secured the polka dot jersey of mountains classification leader and sat up to rejoin the bunch. Several riders attempted to slip up the road following the catch. None of the moves gained traction.
“Things were looking good for us at this point,” said McPartland. “Everything was going according to plan.”
Giant-Shimano was pushing the pace when a mid-pack crash blocked the road. The chaos that followed would prove decisive. Several overall contenders were amongst those in the second group that lost time on stage one.
“Gerro took a chain ring to the back leg,” noted McPartland. “He somehow managed to avoid cutting himself. Bling’s got a pretty deep cut in his finger, but it’s nothing grave. That’s the worse of it for us – aside from missing out on the stage.”
Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) was the first to open his sprint. He was forced to settle for third when both Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) and John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) came around him in their bid for the line. Bouhanni took the stage win to pull on the first leader’s jersey. Mat Hayman was the best-placed rider for ORICA-GreenEDGE in 11th place.