• Romain Bardet (R() finished the Paris-Nice opener with Richie Porte. (Getty)Source: Getty
Romain Bardet and his AG2R team have apologised for the actions which resulted in disqualification after a testing Stage 1 of Paris-Nice.
Cycling Central

6 Mar 2017 - 7:52 AM  UPDATED 6 Mar 2017 - 8:01 AM

In a desperate attempt to return to the peloton of favourites after a crash in the wet and windy conditions which split the peloton, Bardet and his team repeatedly flouted the rules of assistance.

He lost skin on his elbow, hand, hip, and left knee as well as suffering bruises on his back as a result of the crash, and was about to also lose significant time on his rivals for the Paris-Nice title.

Bardet punted from Paris-Nice as Demare takes opener
Pre-race favourite Romain Bardet has been disqualified from the Paris-Nice after being towed by his team car following a crash on the opening stage.

“We made a mistake due to the fact we weren’t thinking straight at a key moment in the stage, mainly as a result of my crash and the circumstances of a fantastic and animated stage," Bardet said.

"I am deeply sorry for my actions because nothing justifies taking advantage of the extensive assistance I received from the team car for mechanical repairs. This practice, too often tacitly accepted within the peloton, must now be guarded against in order to ensure the integrity of our sport.

"I sincerely apologize to the organizers and the fans. I came to Paris-Nice with a great desire and conviction to be an important actor in the proceedings.

"Now I must concentrate on preparing myself for the races that I will face in the next few weeks when I will be dedicated to taking part in my sport in the way that I love it.

Paris Nice LIVE on SBS
The European stage race season effectively begins with the 5-12 March Paris-Nice, live right here on SBS.

The difficulty of the stage meant the general classification battle has already started, with Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) perhaps the most significant casualty after Bardet's expulsion.

"Okay, I lost some time to some of the other favorites, but if you look at it the other way, I was also close to crashing three times and managed to save myself, this is also an important point," Contador said. 

"The team was good; in some moments, it was a crazy situation, and we were not all together. The only problem in the last part is that John and Jarlinson were caught up in the last crash and this was hard for me because I was fighting in the group all the time for a riding a good position.

"I spent a lot of energy and when Porte attacked I really felt my legs, and I could not follow him."

While Porte may not be in the best position tactically after the wind split the peloton, he remains confident in his ability to recover any lost time when the race tightens in the mountains.

“It was a disaster but not too much of a disaster. We lost time but in the end we took more time back on some of the other favorites. The race is not over," Porte said. "Today wasn’t ideal but my team were fantastic and they really controlled that, but tomorrow’s another day.

"The split just happened on the cobbles. Once it splits like that and there is such a big group, then it’s hard. It’s not over. There are some strong guys in front but still a lot of racing to go.”

Riders now well positioned for the overall title are Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) and Sergio Henao (Sky). both ahead of Porte and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) by 19 seconds on the general classification. Contador is a further 17 seconds in arrears.