Tim Merlier took his 4th victory of the 2023 season by comfortably outsprinting his rivals into La Verrière on Stage 1 of this year’s Paris-Nice. The Belgian was able to gap a bunch of other fast finishers such as Sam Bennett, Mads Pedersen, Olav Kooij and one of the stars of the season so far in Arnaud de Lie. The bonus seconds see Merlier in the GC leader but Tadej Pogacar stole a march on his rivals by picking bonus seconds of his own on the final climb to sit 3rd, 6″ ahead of almost the rest of the peloton. The first head-to-head of the season between the 2022 Tour de France heavyweights – Pogacar & Vingegaard – this opening stage swings the balance slightly to the Slovenian.
The day’s break saw Paul Ourselin of TotalEnergies and Jonas Gregaard of Uno-X get clear and the pair spent most of the stage ahead of the bunch. The gap rose to over 3 minutes before settling, but a series of late punchy climbs saw the peloton reduce the gap comfortably. With 30km to go the break was caught. It was the run to the 3rd Cat Côte de Milon-la-Chapelle climb that saw several riders crash and with 20km to go Neilson Powless attacked and forced some splits. Initially caught, Powless tried again and was given a little bit of leeway.
Caught just before the final climb of the day, the Côte de Dis-sept Tournants, Tadej Pogacar then launched his own move near the summit to claim the bonus seconds ahead of Pierre Latour and Dorien Godon. The Slovenian pushed on a little, with Jonas Vingegaard joining but the peloton caught the move. From there, it was time for the teams of sprinters to come into action. Soudal Quick-Step controlled the front of the punch along with Trek Segafredo. Bora Hansgrohe came through late to launch Sam Bennett from a good position but Merlier freed himself from the wheel of Kooij and had the fastest sprint of the day.
“It’s a strong team and they believed in me today. It was a great lead-out. It was a hard day definitely because a there was a lot of stress in the peloton. There was a steep climb 19 kilometres from the finish that was also big tactically. We had two men in there, and then we came back on the last climb. I survived well. Then Kasper Asgreen brought me to the front. From there on, the team kept working together, and I can’t say how great it was to be in this train.”Tim Merlier
“There were only two riders who wanted to ride, so that was not enough. There was also a headwind. I saw that Jonas wasn’t riding along, so I knew I shouldn’t continue. I straightened up and decided to save some strength. Then it was clear that it was going to be a sprint and I crossed the finish line safely.”Tadej Pogacar
2023 Paris-Nice Stage 1 results
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