Paris-Nice is closely watched as an important early season goal for many riders, and SundayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s opening prologue brought all the heavy hitters out. 2008 World Cyclocross champion Lars Boom (Rabobank) powered to the fastest time of the day, battling heavy winds and near-freezing conditions to beat out Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) and American Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) in the 68th running of the Paris-Nice stage race. Voigt finished three seconds back and Leipheimer stopped the clock just six seconds behind Boom for a third place finish.
The 8km time trial course featured several cobble sections, which gave riders some trouble in finding and maintaining their rhythm on the bike on a very tough day of racing.
Heavy crosswinds and temperatures approaching the freezing point proved too much for some riders; RadioShackÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Gert Steegmans broke his collarbone in a chilling crash when he was hit by a strong crosswind. On a posting on the RadioShack team website, sport director Dirk Demol described the accident: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Gert crashed on the descent of the first of two climbs, just on the fastest part where everyone was riding more than 70kph. There was an opening of maybe 20 meters between a house and a hedge. I saw the wind coming. Leaves and branches flew in the air and a second later, Gert was lifted in the air, too.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Weather for Monday’s first stage looks to be improving. BoomÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s prologue win will put pressure on the Rabobank team coming into the 201 km stage, although it is unlikely that Boom will look to defend the yellow jersey for the entire Paris-Nice. The first stage is a mostly flat course which should play well for sprinters; an exciting group finish is likely in the finishing city of Contres.
Stay tuned to BikeRumor for complete coverage of Paris-Nice throughout the week. See a full photo gallery from the prologue by Graham Watson here.