De Gendt wins Paris-Nice opener
Sun, 06 Mar 14:36:00 2011
Belgian Thomas de Gendt overwhelmed the sprinters to secure a surprise victory in the 154.5km first stage of the Paris-Nice in Houdan.
Spectators and riders, including De Gendt himself, had expected a mass finish in the small town of Houdan on the southern outskirts of Paris, but the sprinters had to settle for podium places in a short, eventful opener.
The 24-year-old Vacansoleil rider had previously won only a couple of minor events in Belgium but he was wise enough to pick the right break, 40km from the line, when he joined forces with Germany's Jens Voigt and France's Jeremy Roy.
Voigt, the oldest man in the peloton, knows the race well, having won the prologue in 2005. Roy had also won a stage, two years ago.
Yet it was De Gendt who stole the show to take the stage, the overall leader's yellow jersey, and the points and young rider's classifications.
"We only had a 30-second lead all of the time and I thought we would be caught in the last two kilometres," he said.
"But we went full gas and they could not catch us.
"Of course it was great to be with Jens Voigt. He was riding very hard and I knew that with him in the break, we had a chance. It was only a little chance but we took it."
Roy finished second in the same time as De Gendt.
Australia's Heinrich Haussler showed he would be the man to watch in future mass sprints by taking third ahead of Slovakia's Peter Sagan and New Zealand's Gregory Henderson, both stage winners last year. Voigt finished sixth.
Monday's 199km second stage is between Montfort l'Amaury and Amilly.
De Gendt wins stage