March 06, 2013 (Cerilly, France) – The 2013 Paris-Nice started off with a 2.9km Prologue TT in Houilles where Damien Gaudin put France back on the time-trial map when he became the first home rider since Laurent Brochard 13 years ago to win the Paris-Nice prologue on Saturday. The three-times French pursuit champion made the best of his track skills to upset the favorites and snatch his first pro victory in three minutes and 37 seconds on the winding 2.9-kms course in the streets of Houilles. The Europcar rider left French time-trial champion Sylvain Chavanel trailing in second place, one second behind, just ahead of last year’s runner-up in Nice, Dutchman LieuweWestra. Another talented Dutchman, WilcoKelderman, finished 4th and took the best young rider’s white jersey.
The prologue started in ideal conditions, with a sunny and cold weather. Several riders chose to use their normal bikes rather than TT ones. French champion NacerBouhanni set one of the first reference times, confirming that the course ideally suited sprinters.
While top spot quickly changed hand, Slovenia’s BorutBozic stayed in the lead for nearly an hour with a time of 3:40, slightly improved by Slovakia’s Peter Velits (OPQ).
France’s Geoffrey Soupe (FDJ) was the first rider to break the 3:40 barrier in 3:39 and his time held shortly before being bettered for 0.06 seconds by Dutch prospect WilcoKeldermann, one of the two youngest riders in the peloton at 21.
Last year’s winner Gustav Larsson of Sweden clocked a disappointing 3:48, nine seconds slower than Keldermann.
Boosted by the chance of racing on home ground, French riders then stole the show. French time trial champion Sylvain Chavanel ousted Kelderman from top spot in 3:38 only to be dislodged in turn by triple French pursuit champion Damien Gaudin on 3:37.
Westra was the only late starter to pose a threat to Gaudin’s lead. But the Dutchman, who will still be a major contender this season, had to be content with third spot.
While Kelderman retained fourth place, Soupe held to a top five position making sure three Frenchmen finished in the top five of a major stage race prologue, a first in the last decade.
Stage 1 – Mar. 4 – Saint-Germain-en-Laye – Nemours – 195km
Nacer Bouhanni was the number one favorite to win the 1st stage of Paris-Nice and he lived up to the expectations to swap his French champion tricolore for the Yellow Jersey of the Race to the Sun. The FDJ ace sprinter overpowered Italians Alessandro Petacchi and Elia Viviani to snatch one of his most brilliant victories to date thanks to a perfect lead-out work by his team-mates.
As a result, three Frenchmen are now leading the general classification, prologue winner Damien Gaudin trailing Bouhanni by fractions of a second while Sylvain Chavanel is third, one second adrift, and holds the green jersey.
The break of the day took shape from the start when Romain Sicard (EUS) attacked, quickly followed by Bert-Jan Lindeman (VCD) and Yannick Talabardon (SOJ). Their lead steadily increased to reach a maximum of 7:20 at kilometer 42. While there was hardly any wind on the roads of Ile-de-France, the pace was leisurely with an average speed of 39.7 kph after two hours.
The peloton gained momentum and the gap went down (5:00 after 100 kms). Argos Shimano then joined Europcar in organising the chase. After 96 kms, Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ), who suffered from flu since the start, was the first rider to give up in this edition. At the first intermediate sprint in Malesherbes (km 115), Lindeman was first ahead of Talabardon and Sicard.
The first climb of this Paris-Nice, Cote de Buthiers (Km 119.5), was only a 4th category ascent, but it mattered since it is the only one to award points in the first three days of the race. Sicard beat Talabardon at the top to seize the polka-dot jersey he should normally keep for two more days since there are no climbs in stage 2.
At km 127, a crash took place in the peloton involving Rui Costa (MOV), Tony Gallopin (RLT), Lucas Haedo (CAN) and Samuel Dumoulin (ALT). Costa was forced out of the race with a wrist injury. Eleven kilometers later Alexander Kristoff crashed in turn on a pavement but made it back on his bike.
With 40 kms to go, FDJ joined the chase as the gap kept going down (1:30 at km 160). Another pile-up took place after 160 kms, with Kevin Seeldrayers (AST) the most seriously hurt. While the second intermediate sprint again went to Lindeman ahead of Talabardon, Sicard was dropped and caught by the main pack with 30 kms to go.
The break ended at kilometre 172 and the junction led to an immediate split in the peloton. Rein Taaramae (COF), Tom Boonen (OPQ) and Marcel Kittel (ARG), who punctured at the worst moment, were among the riders trapped at the back while BMC seized the reins. The gap between the two bunches topped increased regularly and reached 1:23 on the line.
In the finale, while Chavanel found himself unexpectedly in the front, Bouhanni came back from behind with the help of Geoffrey Soupe and William Bonnet and launched the sprint from afar, holding back Petacchi and a late surge by Viviani, who should be his main rivals in the two stages ahead.
Stage 2 – Mar. 5 – Vimory – Cerilly – 200.5km
Fortunes can change quickly on Paris-Nice as Marcel Kittel (ARG) found out when he clinched the second stage in Cerilly while the previous day’s winner Nacer Bouhanni crashed out in an incident- ridden 200.5-kms ride from Vimory.
Germany’s Kittel, who had missed the first bunch sprint in Nemours after a puncture, surged impressively in the long final stretch to take the day’s laurels ahead of Elia Viviani. The Italian made the best of his consistency over the first three days of the race to take the yellow jersey away from Bouhanni. The Cannondale sprinter also picked the green and white jersey on a perfect day in which only stage victory eluded him.
Bouhanni slid and hit the canvas after 156 kms of a long trek against headwind on the roads to Auvergne and was taken to hospital with lip and hand injuries.
Latvia’s Gatis Smukulis (KAT), Belgium’s Kris Boeckmans (VCD) and Dane Mads Christensen (TST) broke clear from the first kilometre. Sixteen kilometres later, Boeckmans won the first intermediate sprint in Les Choux (Km 15.5) but waited for the peloton, leaving his two companions to continue their effort without him. The pair did not try too hard either against headwind and were finally reined in at kilometer 43.
At kilometre 64, two Vacansoleil riders, Thomas de Gendt and Romain Feillu, attacked. They were rapidly joined by Maxime Bouet (ALT) and Mikel Astarloza (EUS). Their lead stabilised around four minutes. Overall, because of the wind, the average speed was extremely, especially in the second hour, raced at 26 kph. While American Jacob Rather (GRS) called it quits with a wrist injury?
With some 80 kms left in the stage, as rain started falling, the pace went up a gear
Rain and even hail fell briefly on the peloton with serious consequences as two crashes took place, involving notably three BMC riders – Moinard, Frank and Bookwalter -, two Sky riders – Siutsov then Boswell – and two Europcar riders – prologue winner Damien Gaudin and Alexandre Pichot, who was forced out of the race. Nacer Bouhanni’s lead-out man Geoffrey Soupe was also held back. The gap with 60 kms to go went down to the minute.
But the most tragic accident took place at kilometer 143 when Paris-Nice leader Bouhanni slid and crashed, hitting the canvas heavily. The French champion, blood pouring from his face, was forced out of the race and evacuated with lip and hand injuries. The tempo raised again after the crash and the four-man break finally called it a day at kilometer 156.
The stage was then set for a sprint finish without Bouhanni and the first passage on the line in Cerilly saw Viviani outpace Sylvain Chavanel and Ruben Perez Moreno (EUS). Omega Pharma Quick Step toughened the tempo in the final loop but could not prevent a mass sprint to take place. Argos Shimano, Lampre and Cannondale tried in turn to take the upper hand and FDJ’s William Bonnet and Geoffrey Soupe also tried to avenge Bouhanni’s loss. But there was no real opposition when Kittel made his move to win easily ahead of Viviani and Australia’s Leigh Howard (OGE).
1. Damien Gaudin (Fra) Team Europcar 3:37
2. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:01
3. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
4. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Blanco 0:02
5. Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) FDJ
6. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:03
7. Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack Leopard
8. Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team
9. Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Team Europcar 0:04
10. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 0:05
1. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ 4:47:24
2. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Merida
3. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling
4. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Belisol
5. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling
6. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Blanco Pro Cycling Team
7. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Esp) Movistar Team
8. Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
9. Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team
10. Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano 5:42:18
2. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale
3. Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica GreenEdge
4. Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team
5. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
6. Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team
7. Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
8. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Belisol
9. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Esp) Movistar Team
10. Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack Leopard
GC after Stage 2
1. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale 10:33:11
2. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:07
3. Damien Gaudin (Fra) Team Europcar 0:08
4. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:09
5. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:10
6. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Blanco
7. Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) FDJ
8. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:11
9. Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack Leopard
10. Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team