Belgium’s Thomas de Gendt outwitted the sprinters to win the short and lively first stage of Paris-Nice in Houdan on a sunny Sunday on the southern outskirts of Paris.The Vacansoleil rider, who only had a couple of wins at home in Belgium behind him, surged with half a mile to go to part with fellow-escapees Jeremy Roy (FDJ) and Jens Voigt (Leopard-Trek) and resist the return of the peloton.Roy retained enough strength to take second place ahead of the main bunch.Sprinters, led by Garmin’s Heinrich Haussler, were left to battle for the last podium place. The Australo-German beat Peter Sagan and Gregory Henderson for third place, an indication of what might be expected in Monday’s second stage from Montfort l’Amaury to Amillly.
Gaudin takes climber’s jersey
The peloton took it very easy at the start (31.5 kph in first hour) until kilometre 15, when Damien Gaudin (Europcar) and Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Euskaltel) broke away, taking a quick lead. Gaudin was first at the top of the only climb of the day, Cote de Septeuil (km 24.5) and seized the best climber’s polka dot jersey. Their lead reached 8:15 after 33 kilometres and started decreasing after HTC took the chase in their hands.
The gap stabilised around three minutes and went down again when Team Sky and Garmin took turns to lead the bunch.
The two were finally caught at kilometre 113 after a 98-kms break.
And then they were three…
Two kms after the junction, three riders took their chance. They were Jeremy Roy (FDJ), winner of a stage in 2009, Jens Voigt (Leopard-Trek), winner of the prologue in 2005, and Belgian Thomas de Gendt.
As the tempo rose, echelons formed and the peloton split, trapping some riders at the back like France’s David Moncoutie (Cofidis). De Gendt won the second bonus sprint of the day ahead of Voigt as the three were leading by 50 seconds.
The pack, led by Quick Step and Astana, regrouped 20 kms from the line and the gap was down to 30 seconds.
But the three took turns avidly to salvage their chances and kept a 13-sdconds lead under the red flame. While Voigt was reined in by the flock, De Gendt, 24, surged to take Roy off his guard and win his most significant victory to date.
We only had 30 seconds all of the time and I thought we could be caught in the last two kilometres. But we went full gas and they could not catch us. Of course it was great to be with Jens Voigt. He was riding very hard and I knew that with him in th break, we had a chance. It was only a little chance but we took it. It’s wonderful. I can’t believe it.
Belgium’s Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil) won the 154.5-kms first stage of Paris-Nice, ahead of France’s Jeremy Roy (FDJ) and Heinrich Haussler (Garmin).
and the peloton is nearing...
and the two lead by 17 seconds.
and the three escapees maintain a 20-seconds lead over the peloton.