2012 French Champion, Nacer Bouhanni recovered from an earlier crash and picked himself up off the tarmac to take the victory and race lead in the opening stage of the Paris-Nice race.
The 23-year-old, whose left knee was covered in blood as he crossed the line, triumphed in a bunch sprint at Mantes-la-Jolie following the 162.5km stage that was disrupted by several crashes.
John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) took second on the stage ahead of Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
Due to time bonuses along the course, Bouhanni has a one second general classification lead over Meersman, who leads the points classification going into the second stage.
It was the second year in a row the 2012 French champion had won a stage in this race, having claimed the second stage last year before crashing out the very next day.
[quote_box_center]”It reminded me of the French championship two seasons ago when I crashed and still won it,” said Bouhanni. [/quote_box_center]
Event organisers expressed their frustration with Team SKY, who removed Richie Porte from their lineup a day before the race was set to begin. It is the first time in recent history the defending champion has not competed in the race.
One rider who is now completely out of contention is 2010 Tour de France winner Andy Schleck who finished almost two minutes back in the third group.
The second stage takes the peloton over 205km from Rambouillet to Saint-Georges-sur-Baulche.
Stage 1: 162.5km, Mantes to la-Jolie
1 Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) FDJ.fr 3hr 53min 11sec
2 John Degenkolb (GER) Giant-Shimano
3 Gianni Meersman (BEL) OmegaPharma-QuickStep
4 Jose Joaquin Rojas (ESP) Movistar
5 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp
6 Bryan Coquard (FRA) Team Europcar
7 Luca Wackermann (ITA) Lampre-Merida
8 Fabio Felline (ITA) Trek Factory Racing
9 Fabio Sabatini (ITA) Cannondale
10 Francesco Gavazzi (ITA) Astana