Matthews extends lead on stage one of Paris-NiceMon 7 Mar 2016
Yesterday's Paris-Nice prologue winner Michael Matthews has successfully defended the yellow jersey today on stage one of the WorldTour race.
The 25-year-old world championship silver medallist finished the day in a respectable fifth place and now leads by three seconds on the general classification thanks to two intermediate bonus seconds in the last 15km.
Arnaud Demare (Française des Jeux) took the stage victory in the 198km stage from Condé-sur-Vesgre to Vendôme.
"It was a hard day all day," said Matthews. "I'm glad we had a super strong ORICA-GreenEDGE team today to take care of the race and bring back the four escapees. The main focus today was on defending the jersey."
"It would be nice to win a stage but the jersey was the main focus. It's great to hold it for one more day especially as I managed to take two seconds in the last intermediate sprint.
"The final lap was tougher than I expected. I saw that some of the general classification guys were up there so I had to make the effort to chase them. Maybe it took away some of my energy for the sprint."
During the race riders had to tackle demanding conditions with low temperatures, a period of snow fall and sections of dirt roads on the final circuits. Sport director Laurenzo Lapage was pleased with the way the race played out today for the team.
"It was a hard day for the boys with really bad weather," explained Lapage. "At one point we had snow, temperatures of one degrees and only up to five degrees at the end. It was a hard stage with the wind also and the boys did a great job, everything went perfectly and exactly what we wanted."
"Michael took a two-second time bonus on the last lap at the finish line sprint, he always had the team around him and everyone did a great job."
Heading into tomorrow's 213.5km stage the team will be defending the yellow general classification jersey along with the green sprint jersey on a tougher, longer stage.
"Tomorrow is a bit hillier so again we will control and try to keep the jerseys," continued Lapage. "I am sure we will have some help from other teams again controlling the race."
How it happened:
Another bitterly cold morning awaited the riders as they set off from Condé-sur-Vesgre. Soon after the start flag dropped four riders crept away, quickly establishing ground on the peloton in a race that looked more like a 'race to the snow' than a 'race to the sun'.
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Perrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie), Steven Tronet (Fortuneo Vital Concept) and Theirry Houpond (Delko Marseille Provence) worked well together in the early stages rapidly growing their advantage to over ten minutes.
ORICA-GreenEDGE took up their positions at the front of the peloton setting the tempo to control the distance between themselves and the breakaway. As the race moved through the halfway mark, snow began to fall and the wind picked up creating tough conditions for the riders.
With 40km to go the breakaway's advantage plummeted due to strong winds and open roads which subsequently created echelons and a split in the peloton. Around 30 riders formed a front group including race leader Matthews along with teammates Daryl Impey, Simon Yates and Michael Albasini.
The breakaway of four riders were absorbed by the front group as ORICA-GreenEDGE, with help from Team Sky, worked hard into the first section of dirt roads.
Matthews picked up a two-second bonus in the second intermediate sprint with 15km remaining and went on to finish the stage in fifth position consequently keeping him in the race lead with an advantage of three seconds.
Paris-Nice Stage one results:
1. Arnaud Demare (Française des Jeux) 4:29:53
2. Ben Swift (Team Sky) ST
3. Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis Solutions Credits) ST
5. Michael Matthews (ORICA-GreenEDGE) ST
General Classification after stage one:
1. Michael Matthews (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 4:37:30
2. Thomas Dumoulin (Team Giant-Alpecin) +0:03
3. Patrick Bevin (Cannondale Pro Cycling) +0:04