The expectation was maximum at the premiere of the 81st edition of Paris-Nice. It is not every day that one can count on the privilege of having the last two Tour de France champions at the start, who are called to mark an epoch in cycling and who will once again be top favorites for the title in the next Large Boucle: Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard. And already at the first exchange we had a small appetizer of what may be to come, with a first pulse that fell on the Slovenian side: tremendous start in the last intermediate sprint and 6 bonus seconds. A declaration of intentions. Nothing is given here. the victory of stage, along with the leader’s first yellow jersey, went to Tim Merlier, who clearly prevailed over the sprint at the La Verrière finish line.
After a few first minutes where calm reigned, Paul Ourselin (Total Energies) and Jonas Gregaard (One-X) attacked to leave the peloton behind and establish the break of the day. Their maximum advantage stabilized at less than 4 minutes, but the route, in the purest classic style of the Ardennes with constant ups and downs, invited them to dream. The squad’s intentions, with the pursuit pace set by Lotto, Quick-Step and Alpecin, they were totally opposite.
The fast men were winning integers facing a possible outcome to the sprint, since the leading duo was neutralized with 31 km to go. However, the last 20 km of the route kept two traps that could compromise the massive arrival: the climbs of Côte de Milon-la-Chapelle and Côte des Dix-sept Tournants. The first one, a real wall of 500 meters at 11% average. The tension grew to gain a good position, and at that point Neilson Powless sped up from the bottom. Attentive, for what could happen, was Pogacar, who even changed the rhythm with the intention of messing it up. Putting out the fire within him, however, the Slovenian glanced back quickly and caught himself.
The one who did not do it was Powless, who, taking advantage of the short break after the regrouping, launched his counterattack. The impulse of Jumbo, who had been crouching all day, he hooked the American with 7 km to go, but when that last hill came, the moral blow was delivered by the UAE. The reason? Six juicy bonus seconds awaited at the top. Trentin took Pogacar well placed and the Slovenian didn’t even think about it: Bestial start to beat a surprising Latour and pocket bonus.
At that moment a curious picture was produced. Latour, Pogacar and a Vingegaard who got behind the wheel, opened up a small gap with respect to the peloton, but the Dane was not interested in entering the relay. Thinking about everything that is to come and after a brief conversation with Vingegaard himself, pogi He decided to lift his foot so as not to spend more bullets. With Latour absorbed, the outcome had to be the sprint. Bennett and Kooij were on a par, but between them the imposing figure of Merlier emerged, who surpassed them with much authority. This Monday, a flat stage with another clear chance of victory for the sprinters in Fontainebleau.
Results of the first stage
1st Tim Merlier (Quick-Step) – 3h 50:52
2nd Sam Bennett (Bora) – mt
3rd Mads Pedersen (Trek) – mt
General of the 81st Paris-Nice
1st Tim Merlier (Quick-Step) – 3h 50:42
2nd Sam Bennett (Bora) – at 4″
3rd Tadej Pogacar (UAE) – mt
4th Mads Pedersen (Trek) – 6″
11th Ivan Garcia Cortina (Movistar) – 10″