March 8, 2017
Arnaud Demare (FDJ) leads Paris Nice ahead of stage four ITT.
With a six second lead Arnaud Demare will need the strongest ride of his life in the stage four ITT if he hopes to retain the lead he has held since winning stage one.
Stage One: Bois-d'Arcy - Bois-d'Arcy, 148.5km
Milan-San Remo champion Arnaud Demare showed he was well on track to defend his crown when he won the opening stage of Paris-Nice for the second year on the trot, just ahead of fellow-Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe.
The FDJ team leader caught his compatriot in the final kilometre after the the latter had made a move to outwit the sprinters. The win gave Demare the top spot on GC with a four seconds lead over Alaphilippe. The results meant French riders in the top spot of each jersey category. Alaphilippe consoled himself with the white jersey as the best young rider in the race, while the polka dot climbers jersey settled on the the back of Romain Hardy (Fortuneo), who was part of the day's early breakaway. The short stage was a real mini-classic in which the wind played a major role, splitting the bunch into several echelons which saw some of the main pre-race favorites like Alberto Contador (Trek), Richie Porte (BMC) or Romain Bardet (Ag2R) lose serious ground.
Demare spoike after the stage, "I had a tremendous amount of fun running today. It's great to ride in races like this. I didn’t think the peloton was going to be the victim of the echelons so early in the day. But my team and I were lucky to be at the forefront at that time. When Julian Alaphilippe came out a few yards from the line, I made a huge effort to get him. I knew that if I did, I would be the fastest"
1. Arnaud Demare (FDJ) 148,5 km in 3h22’43’’
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Quick – Step Floors) s.t
3. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) 9’’
1. Arnaud Demare (FDJ)
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Quick – Step Floors) 4’’
3. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) 15’’
Stage 2: Rochefort-en-Yvelines - Amilly (195km)
Sonny Cobrelli handed his new Bahrain-Merida team their first World Tour victory when he surged early in the final stretch to snatch the 195-km second stage of Paris-Nice ahead of John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and race leader Arnaud Demare (FDJ).
The 26-year-old Italian was clearly not over-awed by the occasion as he held his nerve to take a superb win on wet, eventful stage which saw 2013 and 2015 winner Richie Porte lose considerable ground. Several pre-race favourites also struggled, notably France's' Nacer Bouhanni, who called it quits on the road from Rochefort-en-Yvelines.
Sonny Cobrelli described his joy at winning: "It’s the greatest victory of my career. It’s incredible. I managed a perfect sprint and to beat riders like Degenkolb or even Kittel just shows that. Of course I have Milan- San Remo in mind. Everyone knows that Paris-Nice is the perfect preparation for that race. But it’s not over yet, I still want to manage things this week."
Stage 3: Chablis to Chalon-sur-Saône (190km)
Irishman Sam Bennett (Bora - Hansgrohe) pushed Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) into second place at the end of Stage 3 to take one of the most important races of his career. The 26-year-old Bora-Hansgrohe rider surged at the right time to upstage Norway's Kristoff , Germany's John Degenkolb (Trek) and Marcel Kittel (Quick Step) while Australia's Michael Matthews was fifth. France's Arnaud Demare (FDJ) had to settle for sixth but he retained his overall leader's yellow jersey before the decisive time trial in Mont Brouilly.
Stage and GC Results in Full after three stages