Our riders kept their wheels firm on the tarmac despite the windy contitions in the opening stage of Paris-Nice. Amael Moinard went ahead with Damien Gaudin and Romain Combaud in order to be in the front group in case of potential echelons. With about 60 kms to go, the wind split the peloton on a wind-exposed flat section with some riders ending up in a ditch. There were several splits in the bunch but Andre Greipel worked super hard to stay in the front and he was joined by Warren Barguil before both men worked hand in hand to stay in position. Struggling in the final climb, Andre Greipel managed to get back in the mix five kms from the line for the final sprint. The German was disappointed after taking 14thplace.
Andre Greipel (14th) : “It was tough, you had to be focused from the start to the end, it cost a lot of energy. I missed out on the front group in the last echelon1 but I managed to get back in five kms from the finish. In the first echelons I was feeling good. It was very nervy. With Warren we tried to stay together, to help each other, to talk to each other. In the finale, I got dropped before I fought my way back in but tonight I’m not happy with my sprint. I have to accept it. The last straight was a bit chaotic and I was well positioned but 10 seconds later I had to do it all over again. I hung up several times to be on the right wheel but then I did not have the legs for a good sprint. It’s Paris-Nice and nobody is going to give you a free ride to the line so we all have to fight. It will not be easy to get to the finish with fresh legs for a sprint but we’ll have to do what we can to be able to do that.”
Warren Barguil : “These days are interesting. You have to always be well positioned and focused. The 130 kms went by so quickly. Usually, I manage to be well placed and today I was following the good moves so it was nice. When the peloton started to split I was in the second group but I was with some favourites so I did not panic and I waited until we caught the leading group. Then I put myself well in front to avoid being caught off guard a second time. I did my best to help Andre. We helped each other a lot in the echelons. In the last climb, when Andre got dropped, I slid back to help him. I did the maximum to help him ahead of the sprint but everyone was tired and the sprint was chaotic. Obviously we all wanted to get a good result especially since we had been working so hard all day. But today could also have been a disaster. It’s Paris-Nice, anything can happen every day. After this first stage, I haven’t lost time. Back to it tomorrow!
Amael Moinard (in the breakaway) : “We wanted so bad to have someone in the front in anticipation. We had a similar stage two years ago. When you anticipate, you are a step ahead and you can serve as a relay to help your leaders in case of echelons. It was not hard to get in the breakaway today because nobody wanted to go ahead. The peloton upped the pace after 30/40 kms. We dug deep to keep our advantage but we got reined in far from the finish and with the wind it was hard for three men. When I got caught there was an echelon and that’s where being in the breakaway paid off because I stayed with Andre and then Warren came back. At the top of the last climb I re-positioned Andre and Warren and that was the end of my day, I was cooked, I made a big effort because I knew that at the top of this hill we would be taking a right turn and there would be an echelon. I finished in the peloton so that I could give my bike to someone in case of a mechanical but with 10 kms left I just rode at my own pace.
Yvon Ledanois (sports director) : “The good point is that we finished with Warren and Andre in the first group at the end of a stage that was especially nervy and dangerous. On the flip side, I would have liked to see one or two riders with them but we can’t ask for too much. By taking the breakaway Amael Moinard stuck to the plan and it was a good morale boost for his leaders to see him with them in the echelon. Elie Gesbert was not in a good day and he paid for it. Bram Welten punctured at the beginning of the stage when the peloton was splitting and he also paid the price for it, which is logical. It was a demanding stage in which being well positioned was crucial. The sprint was all about how energy left you had. Even if the stage was only 138.5-km long, everybody finished how they could. I think Andre spent a lot of energy staying in a good position in the echelons and it backfired in the sprint.
Tomorrow we’ll be at it again, let’s not get carried away. Some leaders have lost time. For us it’s one stage checked off our list but also a sprint opportunity that’s gone. We have to focus on this and make sure that Andre can sprint in good conditions tomorrow.”