Bennett claims Paris-Nice opener in bunch sprint

Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) was the fastest of the sprinters in the finale of Stage 1 of Paris-Nice, emerging off the wheel of Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) to take the win ahead of Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo).

Sam Bennett, Deceuninck-QuickStep, Paris-Nice

Sam Bennett of Deceuninck-QuickStep wins Stage 1 of Paris-Nice Source: Getty

Bennett was piloted near the front by his Deceuninck-QuickStep team, then picked the right wheel to follow in the finish as Ackermann followed his teammates' leadout. Bennett shouldered Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) off Ackermann's slipstream then waited to the final 100 metres to come around the German and put in lengths on the field, sprinting on the hoods, to take the win.

“The guys did a fantastic job again. We were a little boxed in for the last 15km, and the nature of the sprint here, with the straight roads, meant it was chaotic,” Bennett said.

“The narrowing in the last 500m made it very, very tricky. We planned to get myself into position, and the boys delivered me on a wheel, rather than do a full-lead out. The guys did a great job. Michael (Mørkøv, Bennett's teammate) again was just so calm. You never see him stress, and he always seems to get me there.”

Demare and Pedersen came down the opposite side of the road to fill out the podium, with Bennett taking the race leader's yellow jersey ahead of tomorrow's

The opening stage of the 2021 edition of the ‘Race to the Sun’ took place in mild conditions and blue skies, with no threat of the strong winds that wreaked havoc at the beginning of last year’s race.

Fabien Doubey (Total Direct Energie) was the lone rider in the early break, a sacrificial lamb for the peloton on the 165.8-kilometre series of loops around Saint-Cyr-L'École. 

Doubey gained a maximum lead of over five minutes, but was brought back in check by the sprinters' teams when they committed to the front of the peloton.

With the gap within a minute, Lotto Soudal roused the race from its slumber, launching Philippe Gilbert and Stefano Oldani with 54 kilometres to go. The pair were joined by Anthony Perez (Cofidis) and Chris Lawless (Total Direct Energie).

A crash for Richie Porte (INEOS Grenadiers) saw the Australian two-time Paris-Nice winner withdraw from the race, heading to hospital for further scans.

The escaped quintet never gained a big lead and were brought back to the peloton with 26 kilometres remaining, prompting another shortlived Lotto Soudal attack by Kobe Goosens. 

Tiesj Benoot (Team DSM) forced the pace to attack the final intermediate sprint of the day on a punchy climb, but Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) was able to come around the Belgian to take the top points and bonuses on offer, the Australian would stand at third overall after the conclusion of the stafe.

Pierre Latour (Total Direct Energie) attacked immediately afterward the sprint, taking six riders with him. 2009 Paris-Nice winner Luis Leon Sanchez and, surprisingly, general classification contender Alexander Vlasov set off in pursuit, but the bunch brought back both them and the seven leaders with 11km to go.

The peloton prepared itself for a sprint from there, with a number of top sprinters present and very keen to make an early mark against WorldTour opposition.

Groupama-FDJ came to the front of the peloton with just over three kilometres remaining and kept Demare ahead of his rivals until the final kilometre. Miles Scotson (Groupama-FDJ) crashed after pulling off from the front of the peloton and from there, it was a fast run to the line as Bennett followed the right wheel in the finale and came round to win comfortably. 

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4 min read
Published 8 March 2021 at 8:25am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS