New Zealandâ€™s Greg Henderson won the a windy, tricky and eventful first stage of Paris-Nice, in which favourite Alberto Contador was trapped by his leading rivals in the last of the several â€śborduresâ€ť of the day.The Team Sky New Zealander, already winner of a Vuelta stage last season, outsprinted a group of 17 strong men who broke with the field in the finale.On the finish line in Contres, Henderson beat Sloveniaâ€™s Grega Bole while Franceâ€™s Jeremy Galland took third place.Dutchman Lars Boom, the prologue winner, retained his overall lead ahead of Germanyâ€™s Jens Voigt and Briton David Millar. Contador is now 8th overall, 25 seconds off the pace.
The start was given at 11:58 to 175 riders. The first move of the day took place at kilometre 3, when Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil) attacked, followed by Dutchman Albert Timmer (Skil Shimano). Given the cold and windy conditions, the peloton let the two increase their lead which reached a maximum of 6:20 after 32 kilometres. The pace was a high one at 48.4 kph in the first hour.
In Gaubert (km 66), site of the first sprint won by Feillu ahed of Timmer and Lars Boom, the lead had gone down to 2:35. The gap went up again as the pack relaxed a bit but it never exceeded 5:15 (km 84).
At the second intermediate sprint in Herbault (Km 145), the gap had gone down to 30 seconds as Boom again grabbed one point and one second behind the two escapees. The break ended in Santenay (km 149) and, while a number of splits and crashes took place at the back â€“ involving Samuel Sanchez, Levi Leipheimer and Damiano Cunego among others -, Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma Lotto) attacked alongside Dutchman Tom Veelers (Skil Shimano). The two quickly took their lead to one minute (km 167) but were caught with 16 kms to go.
Caisse dâ€™Epargne trap Contador
On the junction, four Caisse dâ€™Epargne riders, including polka-dot jersey holder Alejandro Valverde and title-holder Luis Leon Sanchez, but also Vicente Garcia Acosta and Jose Ivan Guttierez, surged. Race leader Lars Boom was able to react and a group fo 17 riders took shape, also including Jens Voigt, Tony Martin, Roman Kreuziger, Nicolas Roche, David Millar, Grega Bole, Serguei Ivanov, Alexandr Kolobnev, Greg Henderson, Marco Marcato, Jeremy Galland and Cyril Lemoine.
Trapped at the back, Alberto Contador crashed with Heinrich Haussler and
had to be content with catching the chasing group while, at the front, Henderson beat Bole and Galland for the stage win.
I won Team Skyâ€™s first victory in the Down Under Classic. It was highly symbolic but itâ€™s even more magical to win for Sky on Paris-Nice. I won a sprint in slow motion because everybody was tired with the wind. It was very hard after a day when we kept speeding and braking. When the Caisse dâ€™Epargne went and the yellow jersey followed, I knew I had to go too. I did not have a team-mate to lead the sprint for me, but Sean Yates told me the Lampre kid (Bole) was fast. I stayed in his wheel and thatâ€™s it.
Lars Boom: "It was tough, nervous but it was OK, the team managed to keep the race under control. In the end, Valverde attacked and I was able to go with them. In the end, it was a hard day but a good day. In Holland, we have lots of classic like this with crosswinds, the team knows how to handle this."
Top thrre placings in the first stage:
1. Gregory Henderson (Nzl, Sky)
2. Grega Bole (Slo, Lampre)
3. Jeremy Galland Fra, Saur Sojasun)
New Zealand’s Gregory Henderson (Sky) wins the first stage.
Tony Martin attacks in the last kilometre.
Contador is back in the group chasing behind the 17 leaders.
Alberto Contador crashed at the 3-km mark.
Each morning before the start, Bernard Hinault gives his views on the dayâ€™s stage and the riders to watch:
To me Lars Boom was a familiar name. I already spotted him on the Tour of Brittany he won two years ago. He then won a time trial and a couple of other stages with a lot of class. At the time, I was already convinced that I would see him again on bigger races. I noticed that the best two young riders in the prologue, Boom and Sagan, are cyclo-cross specialists who just had a demanding season. Theyâ€™re at their peak. Knowing Boom, I can tell you that he can climb. Maybe heâ€™ll have a bad day but he wonâ€™t give up the yellow jersey without a fight. As for Contador, there is nothing wrong about his 4th place yesterday. At this time of the season, he can afford to take a few days to warm up.