FDJ's Nacer Bouhanni wins first sprint of Paris-Nice in Nemours.
Bouhanni, hidden out most of the day, followed his teammate Yoann Offredo into position at the last possible second, then powered through traffic up the right-hand barriers and just managed to overcome Lampre's Alessandro Petacchi for the victory. For the 22-year-old champion of France, the win on home soil in a World Tour event represents the biggest win so far of his promising career. And it almost didn't happen, as Bouhanni was far to the back as late as 3km to go, with his FDJ team desperately trying to drop him off at the front. It worked, and Bouhanni had just enough in the tank to finish it off.
Petacchi had led out the sprint on the left hand side, while Blanco's Mark Renshaw came up the middle, only to be blocked in a crowded bunch kick. Jens Debusschere of Lotto Belisol took third on the day.
Crashes and crosswinds stole the show, with Movistar's leader Rui Costa departing the race with a suspected wrist fracture after a five-rider pileup. As the peloton thundered to Nemours, a major split took place, leaving a few riders of note behind, such as OPQS's Tom Boonen and David Millar of Garmin-Sharp. Marcel Kittel of Argos-Shimano, one of the top contenders for the stage, found himself in the second group after a mechanical.
Overnight leader Damein Gaudin finished in the pack to remain in the lead. Provisional results:
- Nacer Bouhanni, FDJ
- Alessandro Petacchi, Lampre, s.t.
- Jens Debusschere, Lotto-Belisol, s.t.
- Elia Viviani, Cannondale, s.t.
- Heinrich Haussler, IAM, s.t.