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"We didn’t expect to lose time today, but I don’t believe that a lot changes now. Fränk will remain the leader with Bob, which was the plan from the start. There are more leaders who have lost time as well, so that&rsq...

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ANDY SCHLECK

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BOB JUNGELS

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FABIO FELLINE

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FRANK SCHLECK

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PARIS - NICE

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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10.03.2014 @ 12:02 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Frank Schleck hasn't had a lot of luck since returning from suspension and the trend continued in yesterday's opening stage of Paris-Nice. Caught up behind a crash, both he and his brother Andy lost 1.09 to their main rivals but the team insists that Frank remains a leader alongside young talent Bob Jungels.

 

It was a stage destined for a bunch sprint, as the day’s escape involved only one brave soul (Christophe Laborie of Bretagne-Séché Environnement) who set off on a lonely journey from kilometer two. The inevitable catch was made with 50 kilometers remaining, and a listless - albeit high-strung - peloton seemed content to have a bunch sprint end the first stage, but not before numerous riders would hit the deck to disrupt the order of the day.

 

The biggest crash happened with 20-kilometers to go: 20 riders tumbled to the tarmac and numerous others were caught behind the melee, causing the peloton to split into two groups. The chasing group would never latch back on, ultimately losing over a minute by the finish.

 

In the end, the bunch kick was won by Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ), and he also claimed the first leader’s jersey of the eight day race. Fabio Felline managed to finish eighth in a chaotic sprint without the help of key lead-out man Danilo Hondo, who was caught up in two crashes and would finish far back.

 

“The final was very, very hard, and without Danilo even harder," Felline said. "The last kilometer was very fast. My main problem was that two other riders used their brakes at 100m to go and then I was boxed in because of that. I still caught three or four riders when I finally was able to start my sprint. I feel that my condition is good. But you also need a bit of luck, and that was what we missed today.”

 

Without the traditional prologue start the race was a nervous battle amongst the riders, and after the crash took out numerous team leaders it is shaping up to be a tactical fight over the next week. Bob Jungels, Fabio Felline, and Laurent Didier were the only ones to finish in the front group for Trek Factory Racing, while the rest of the team were caught out from crashes, but director Kim Andersen believes it will not change all that much in the upcoming days.

 

“We were not really lucky today," he said. "I thought that it would be a harder race, but it was not really a race at all. So at the end everybody was fresh and wanted to have their chance. On a circuit like this, with these small roads, it can become dangerous - the riders make the race and if they decide to not to race, then this can happen.

 

“The team was quite good in front, but the crash happened in 30th position – and that’s where we were. Bob [Jungels] and Fränk [Schleck] were able to come back, but then after a turn Fränk was dropped. In the front they went full gas, of course. Danilo [Hondo] crashed twice, and was far behind so he was not there to help Fabio in the sprint.

 

“It was good Bob was in the front. We didn’t expect to lose time today, but I don’t believe that a lot changes now. Fränk will remain the leader with Bob, which was the plan from the start. There are more leaders who have lost time as well, so that’s promises an interesting race. They all need to do something. We would like to take advantage of that.”

 

“It was a little crazy today, especially with the intermediate sprints as the GC riders were trying to do what they can, and that makes it extra nervous and extra dangerous,” agreed Bob Jungels about the hectic, abnormal start to Paris-Nice. “Also, the roads were not really easy. I’m happy that I was able to come back in the main group, and I didn’t lose time.”

 

You can read our preview of today's stage here and follow it on CyclingQuotes.com/live from 14.25 CET.

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