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“Bling” Topples Paris-Nice ITT

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Mar 6, 2016 – Road world silver-medallist Michael Matthews (Orica Greendge) was known as one of the most exceptional sprinters in the bunch. “Bling” emerged as an excellent prologue specialist as well, winning the 74th Paris-Nice opener in 7:39 for his very first race of the season.

A.S.O/Yuzuru Sunada

The Australian all-rounder, winner of a stage a year ago, upset pre-race favourite Tom Dumoulin by one second while unheralded New Zealander Patrick Bevin was third, a further second adrift. Matthews kept the race leader’s jersey in Australian hands after title-holder Richie Porte finished 11th in 7:49.

The 74th edition of Paris-Nice started at 11:44 when Frenchman Remy Di Gregorio, a stage winner in 2011, was the first rider on the course. Before the start, Conflans-born Nicholas Roche (Sky) was feted by his relatives and friends. Time trial specialist Jos Van Emden (Lotto Jumbo) quickly set a reference mark under eight minutes in 7:54. The former Dutch TT champion held his ground until his team leader Wilco Kelderman, the current national champion, improved his time by two seconds. While Nikki Terpstra made it a Dutch top three for a while, French time trial champion Jerome Coppel dislodged them in 7:48.

The IAM Cycling team leader, bronze medallist at the world championships in Richmond last year, held his ground while Dutch riders – 2012 overall runner-up Lieuwe Westra or 2010 prologue winner Lars Boom – kept piling into the top 10.

But the Frenchman’s time was bettered by former Spanish road champion Jesus Herrada, who clocked 7:45. Earlier his team-mate Gorka Izaguirre had also gone under the eight minutes bar in 7:53. France’s Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie) had just seemed to secure a podium berth when Herrada’s mark was improved by New Zealand’s champion Patrick Bevin. In 7:41, the 24-year-old sensation confirmed his Cannondale team manager Jonathan Vaughters’s views that he was “a rider who seems to have it all”. All but not enough to keep favorite Tom Dumoulin at bay. The Dutchman bettered his time by just a second.

It seemed that Dumoulin was in a position to snatch a close victory when Matthews surged to beat him by a second and take his second yellow jersey in Paris-Nice after holding it for a day last year thanks to his stage win in St Pourcain sur Sioule. The Australian finally took the green jersey to Nice.

In the contest between contenders for final victory, Geraint Thomas (Sky) is nine seconds off the pace, Porte ten seconds adrift, while Spain’s Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) finished 27th, 16 seconds behind Matthews. Frenchman Romain Bardet (AG2R) is 25 seconds back. There was also a race within the race between sprinters for a chance to snatch the yellow jersey in days to come.

But it will be hard to take away from Matthews. Marcel Kittel (Etixx Quicks Step) is 22 seconds adrift, in the same time as France’s Arnaud Demare (FDJ), with Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) close by, 25 seconds behind, while Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) clocked 8:17 and France’s Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) 8:37.

Winning ITT
https://youtu.be/mc-rMlAlcuU

Dumoulin reacts to loss (Warning: Coarse Language)

Prologue Results:
1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 0:07:39
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:01
3. Patrick Bevin (NZl) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:02
4. Jesus Herrada (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:06
5. Jon Izaguirre (Spa) Movistar Team
6. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana Pro Team 0:00:07
7. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
8. Dries Devenyns (Bel) IAM Cycling 0:00:08
9. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Direct Energie 0:00:09
10. Jerome Coppel (Fra) IAM Cycling

General Classification:
1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 0:07:39
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:01
3. Patrick Bevin (NZl) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:02
4. Jesus Herrada (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:06
5. Jon Izaguirre (Spa) Movistar Team
6. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana Pro Team 0:00:07
7. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
8. Dries Devenyns (Bel) IAM Cycling 0:00:08
9. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Direct Energie 0:00:09
10. Jerome Coppel (Fra) IAM Cycling