Stage one in France
Ion now 4th overall after going on the attack in first road stage of Paris-Nice, a day with snow, dirt sections, crosswinds and attacks. Jesús Herrada punctures, loses 4' across the finish
Luck worked both ways for the two riders shining the most for the Movistar Team at yesterday's opening Paris-Nice TT. Stage one of the 'Course to the Sun' -198km between Condé and Vendôme, with a final circuit including two double sections of dirt roads-, Jesús Herrada was left out of GC contention due to a puncture into the first gravel segment, while Ion Izagirre showed he's coming to the French event determined not to go unnoticed.
The younger of the Ormaiztegi saga was the first of the Blues to join the front as Sky and Tinkoff created a selection through crosswinds with just over 50km to go. Rubén Fernández, Gorka Izagirre and Jesús Herrada later bridged back to the first peloton, with several attacks following the junction. Ion prominently featured into a late move chased down by Geraint Thomas (SKY) himself, the Basque off the front along with Vanmarcke (TLJ) and Gallopin (LTS) into the last dirt section, just 3km from the line.
Démare (FDJ) won the selected group's sprint at the finish, while Michael Matthews (OGE), 5th, conserved his yellow leader's jersey as Ion Izagirre now sits in the 4th place obtained by Jesús at the prologue. Ion's move in the finale, a Cat-3 climb, also awarded him the KOM jersey, which he'll wear on Tuesday during stage two to Commentry (213.5km). Gorka Izagirre and Rubén Fernández are now 12th and 18th overall.
José Luis Arrieta (sports director): "It was a matter of remaining strong against the winds not to lose any terrain today. That first section of crosswinds split the peloton, but they weren't as much intense as one could expect later on, and actually, after the first loop around the finish, the two main groups got back together. We'd have liked to have Jesús at the front, which he actually was; however, having Ion, Rubén and Gorka up there with the very best is already satisfying. The rest of the team worked hard and left them at the front in the finale, so they didn't suffer much.
"Jesús punctured at the very start of the first dirt section, and the Mavic car between the two groups didn't see him. He had to stay still until the second Mavic car went through, which was behind the second peloton, and ultimately, he lost sight of that group, too. Should that first Mavic car help him, it'd have gone just like with Gorka, who also punctured but could get into the second group. All in all, we must remain hopeful and look forward to what's to come; let's hope our guys recover well, with such a cold day and even some snow on the route today."