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Paris Nice Stage 1

David Millar is on the ground* reporting on Paris Nice for British TV.  For the duration of the race he will be providing the CHPT3 community with an abridged version of each stages goings on. 

*Ealing, UK

Welcome to the CHPT3 Paris-Nice race journal.  I'm commentating for ITV with Ned Boulting from the glamor of Ealing Studios in London, which to be frank is better than being with the race as the weather over there looks savage, and with the pandemic that is coronavirus floating around our biosphere I'm quite happy to be holed up here. 

What is Paris-Nice?  Well, this is a quote from an interview I did many years ago which pretty much sums it up:

"The lovely thing about Paris-Nice is that you know what is going to happen. You’re going to get frozen. You’re going to crash. There’ll be winds. They’ll make you ride up a mountain. By day three, you’re knackered. You get to hotels covered in shit. I love this race."

I was one of the few riders who relished it, probably due to the fact I hated Tirreno Adriatico so much that Paris Nice offered an escape therefore I loved it in contrast.  My team mate Christian Vande Velde hated it so much that in one edition he spent most of the race compiling a list of reasons why nobody should ever take part in it, I must try and find it before the end of the week.
Today's stage was from the town of Plaisir to the town of, well, Plaisir - that means Pleasure to Pleasure - it did not look pleasurable.  It was a 154km crazy erratic loop in the surrounding countryside, it looked like a child had got a crayon and attacked the map.  In classic Paris Nice fashion there was wind, rain, and crashes, at one point about 70km from the finish it looked like it might all remain together until the final cobbled climb with 4km to go, then 10km later all hell broke loose, a left hand turn into crosswind, followed by two crashes, one of which left Barguil and Bardet injured on the tarmac, neither of them would see the front of the race again.  

By the time the cameras refocused on the front of the race there were echelons everywhere, with only 16 riders leading.  Sunweb and Deceuninck were dominant, Quintana and Alaphilippe stood out as GC favourites.  With 30km to go the second group on the road was about to rejoin the front when Tiesj Benoot launched an attack on a small climb, Alaphilippe didn't hesitate.  This shouldn't be thought a surprise, but Alaphilippe has been quoted as saying he was tired and not feeling at his best coming into the race, to the degree that he didn't join his team mates when they recon'd the stage.  Which pretty much sums up what a pure racer he is.

The two of them then raced the final 30km on their own, the gap never going below 20 seconds, although neither above 40 seconds.  It did not look fun out there.  The weather got progressively worse to the point where it was chucking it down with rain, the wind was howling, and it became so dark the vehicle lights were all that could be seen from the longer TV shots.  This would have been an early addition to Christian Vande Velde's list of hate for the race.

Long story short, everybody was f*cked.  No team could rally the resources to bring back the two escapees, only Bahrain Mclaren and Bora Hansgrohe showed willing.  We soon discovered why: on the final cobbled climb 4km from the finish, Dylan Teuns (Bahrain) and Max Schachmann (Bora) attacked from the remnants of the front group.  They bridged up to the two leaders with 2km to go, Alaphilippe and Benoot didn't really stand a chance when the two (relatively!) fresher riders joined them. 

The top ten ended up being:

1 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 3:32:19
2 Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain McLaren 3:32:19
3 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Team Sunweb 3:32:19
4 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-Quickstep 3:32:22
5 Cees Bol (Ned) Team Sunweb 3:32:34
6 Nils Politt (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation 3:32:34
7 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling 3:32:34
8 Sergio Andres Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Pro Cycling 3:32:34
9 Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 3:32:34
10 Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck-Quickstep 3:32:34

Tomorrow should be a bit simpler, a classic point to point going south east for 166km.  Although it's Paris Nice, and nothing is simple at this race.  Tune into ITV4 to follow the highlights show, and listen to the CHPT3 Never Strays Far podcast (Apple Podcasts here or Spotify here) to hear yet another version of the days racing, and any other business, obviously.