Paris-Nice Stage 1: Meersman 3rd in Hectic Opening Stage
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team kept themselves near the front for much of the final kilometers of 162.5km Paris-Nice Stage 1. That turned out to be a smart move as the stage was filled with crashes, and some riders were caught in a second group that lost time.
Gianni Meersman finished 3rd in the bunch sprint finale, as Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) won and John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) was 2nd. However, because Meersman successfully went for intermediate sprints, the time he gained moved him up to 2nd in the general classification after the first stage. He is only 1" back from the race lead.
OPQS looks next to another flat stage, 205km Stage 2, on Monday. There are two intermediate sprints and a Category 3 climb.
"There was a roundabout at about two kilometers to go, and I took the left side together with a few of my teammates," Meersman said. "Tom Boonen and about half of the peloton took the right side. They lost their places near the front, and I really didn't know who was behind me. At a certain moment Maes was screaming that I had to do the sprint. But we were already into the last kilometer. Stybar pulled for me and then I jumped, but I jumped at 250 meters to go. I did the maximum at that distance, but two riders were able to pass me in the final meters. If I consider everything I am happy about this result. We had decided to do this stage for Tom, but he also had the problem at the roundabout. At the same time, I sprinted twice for the bonifications along the parcours. It was planned with Sport Director Wilfried Peeters. It was decided this morning that if I had the opportunity to do it I had to try. So, I did and it went well. My legs in the final were already burning from the earlier efforts, so if I consider all of these circumstances I am satisfied. Tomorrow is another day and we will see what we can do."