Vendme - France's Arnaud Demare won a sprint finish as snow fell on the first
stage of the Paris-Nice race on Monday with Australia's Michael Matthews
holding the overall race lead.
FDJ rider Demare, junior world
champion in 2011 and French champion in 2014, crossed ahead of Britain's
Ben Swift and France's Nacer Bouhanni after the 198km stage of 'The
Race to the Sun' between Conde-sur-Vesgre and Vendome, southwest of
Swift launched the sprint but was caught with 24-year-old
Demare claiming his second success of the season after a stage in the
Tour of the Mediterranean last month.
"It's a victory that I've waited a long time for," said Demare, whose dream remains success on the Paris-Roubaix on April 9.
were a lot of setbacks last season. I put a lot in last year and it
didn't pay off. I put in even more this winter. The legs are good, I'm
ready to challenge."
Riders had to tackle demanding conditions with freezing temperatures, snowfall and sections of dirt roads.
was important not be trapped by the cold during the stage. We knew
there was a cross wind and we reacted straight away," said Demare.
the final climb I chose to stay back and allow myself to be carried by
the movement. My choice was rewarded, it was a great victory.
"This is going to give me and my teammates confidence."
Prologue winner Matthews crossed in fifth to hold the leader's yellow jersey.
The 25-year-old world championship silver medallist leads by three seconds thanks to two intermediate bonus seconds.
"It was a hard day all day," said Matthews.
"But I'm not afraid of extreme conditions.
"It would be nice to win a stage but the jersey was the main focus."
Orica team leader added: "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.
team worked all day and I found myself a bit isolated in the final lap.
I had to keep an eye on the general classification guys."
Tuesday's second stage will favour the sprinters, covering 213.5km from Contres to Commentry in central France.
Results following the 198km first stage of the Paris-Nice race between Conde-sur-Vesgre and Vendme on Monday:
Arnaud Demare (FRA/FDJ) 4hr 29min 53sec (average: 44.02 km/h), 2. Ben
Swift (GBR/SKY) same time, 3. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA/COF) s.t., 4. Adrien
Petit (FRA/DEN) s.t., 5. Michael Matthews (AUS/ORI) s.t., 6. Tom Boonen
(BEL/ETI) s.t., 7. Sep Vanmarcke (BEL/LNL) s.t., 8. Simon Geschke
(GER/GIA) s.t., 9. Jonas Van Genechten (BEL/IAM) s.t., 10. Geraint
Thomas (GBR/SKY) s.t.
12. Richie Porte (AUS/BMC) s.t. 22. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) s.t.
Michael Matthews (AUS/ORI) 4hr 37min 30sec, 2. Tom Dumoulin (NED/GIA)
at 0:03sec, 3. Patrick Bevin (NZL/CAN) 0:04, 4. Ion Izagirre (ESP/MOV)
0:08, 5. Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) 0:08, 6. Lieuwe Westra (NED/AST) 0:09,
7. Dries Devenyns (BEL/IAM) 0:10, 8. Richie Porte (AUS/BMC) 0:12, 9.
Arnaud Dmare (FRA/FDJ) 0:14, 10. Wilco Kelderman (NED/LNL) 0:15
17. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) 0:18, 59. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA/COF) 0:56