Arnaud Demare takes Paris-Nice lead with thrilling first-stage victory
By Andy Charles
Last Updated: 04/03/18 4:20pm
Arnaud Demare is the early leader of Paris-Nice after a thrilling finish to the opening stage in the suburbs of the French capital.
The French champion, riding for Groupama-FDJ, produced a gutsy performance on the uphill finish in Meudon and managed to beat Spain's Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain Merida) by a matter of millimetres.
Run in horrible cold and wet conditions, only a fairly small group came to the short, sharp finishing climb together, with a number of riders taken out by earlier crashes - Tejay van Garderen was among the overall contenders to come down and his race was over almost before it began.
Alexis Vuillermoz tried to steal the stage with a late break on the final hill, and still led with less than 300m to the finishing line.
However, Izagirre stormed to the front and appeared to be on his way to a stage victory until Demare managed to force his bike to the front a matter of centimetres from the line.
Christophe Laporte was inches behind in third with a fast-finishing Tim Wellens continuing his fine form in fourth - all four were barely covered by a wheel.
Demare also wore the race leader's yellow jersey after the opening stage of last year's race and held on to it until the individual time-trial on stage four.
Stage 1 result:
1 Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 3hr 7min 39sec
2 Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain Merida all same time
3 Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
4 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
5 Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Sunweb
6 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
7 Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe +2s
8 Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing st
9 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott
10 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain Merida