Race report

Tiesj Benoot with strong 3rd place after dominant team display in Paris-Nice crosswinds

Paris-Nice

The opening day of racing at Paris-Nice saw the peloton start and finish in the town of Plaisir. A rolling parcours combined with strong winds forecasted and exposed sections, led to a nervous bunch as they rolled out of the neutral zone.

A breakaway duo were able to establish themselves at the head of the race early into the stage, quickly building up an advantage of over five minutes. It appeared as if the bunch had settled into a rhythm but after 40 kilometres of racing, the route changed direction and echelons were formed. This saw the gap to the breakaway duo tumble as the peloton split, with the team riding strongly to help to force the pace and be in the front group.

After a frantic 20 kilometres of action, the race was all back together, before the original breakaway forged on at the head of the race again. Yet, another increase in pace saw everything regroup with 75 kilometres to go.

The team came to the fore and after another change in direction, the race completely split in the crosswinds. Søren Kragh Andersen, Nikias Arndt, Tiesj Benoot and Cees Bol made the front group of 16, with Michael Matthews doing a good job to disrupt the chase in what was left of the peloton behind. The gap hovered between 15 and 25 seconds for the following 30 kilometres, but things regrouped on the climb to the intermediate sprint point.

Benoot and Alaphilippe attacked out of the front group to pick up some bonuses, with Benoot gaining two seconds, before the duo pushed on over the top of the hill, building a lead of 30 seconds with 25 kilometres to go. They worked well together and made it through the second intermediate sprint, where Benoot took another two bonus seconds, holding onto the same gap with just 15 kilometres to go.

It all came down to the cobbled climb in the finale and with the gap down to just ten seconds, Schachmann and Teuns attacked out of the peloton and made the junction. Heading into the last kilometre Benoot hung off the back of the group before making an attack on the other side of the road, managing to get a small gap. Giving it his all, he dug deep but was caught inside the final 300 metres, yet held on strongly for third place on the day. Combined with the bonus seconds he gained earlier, he sits in second place on GC after the opening stage.

Behind in the reduced peloton, Bol delivered a very impressive and dominant sprint to claim fifth place and move into the lead of the young rider’s jersey, rounding off a great display from the team today.

“I was thinking of taking some seconds and after the small downhill we had 20 seconds on the group behind.” explained Benoot at the finish. “We wanted to keep the pressure on as a team so I kept riding with Alaphilippe. In the final a few riders attacked and joined us so I just tried to go for it at around 800 metres to go. I misjudged the last corner a bit, lost momentum and took third. The whole team worked really well today. With five out of 16 guys in the front echelon it was really good; it’s hopeful for the rest of the week. We’ll take GC day-by-day but the first day was good so far, so we’ll keep going.”

Team Sunweb coach Matt Winston added: “It was a good opening stage for the team. We were together in the key moments where the crosswinds were and that showed when we were able to put several guys in the front split when there was an echelon. From there we raced aggressively and Tiesj found himself in a two-up move with Alaphillipe and in that moment it was a good moment to hit out and go to the finish; which Tiesj did. The guys kept themselves nice and organised behind in case the bunch came back at the finish for a sprint with Cees; as he showed with fifth at the line. Overall, it was a really good and positive opening stage. We’ll see what else is to come in the coming days.”

Results

Pos. Rider Team Time Points
1 SCHACHMANN Maximilian BORA - hansgrohe 3:32:19 60
2 TEUNS Dylan Bahrain - McLaren ,, 25
3 BENOOT Tiesj Team Sunweb ,, 10
5 BOL Cees Team Sunweb 0:15 -
23 KRAGH ANDERSEN Søren Team Sunweb ,, -
26 MATTHEWS Michael Team Sunweb ,, -
29 ARNDT Nikias Team Sunweb ,, -
100 HAMILTON Chris Team Sunweb 9:33 -
101 EEKHOFF Nils Team Sunweb ,, -
110 DENZ Nico Team Sunweb 11:27 -