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Merlier on Leading Paris-Nice: ‘It’s a strong team and they believed in me today’

By Monica Buck

The Belgian national champion beats Sam Bennet (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) while Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) nabs bonus seconds.

Tim Merlier (Soudal-QuickStep) took his fourth win of the season on the opening stage of the 2023 Paris-Nice. Soudal-QuickStep took control of the closing kilometres while Trek-Segafredo kept close as the riders went under the flamme rouge. Bora-Hansgrohe then made a well-timed move to the front, which allowed Bennett to start the sprint to the line. However, when Soudal-QuickStep’s Merlier opened up, he quickly went past everyone and maintained a healthy lead all the way to the finish line.

“It’s a strong team and they believed in me today. It was a great lead out,” Merlier said.

“It was definitely a hard day because there was a lot of stress in the peloton. There was a steep climb 19 kilometres from the finish that was also big tactically. We had two men in there, and then we came back on the last climb. I survived well. Then Kasper Asgreen brought me to the front. From there on, the team kept working together and I can’t say how great it was to be in this train.”

Meanwhile, in the GC, Pogačar did try to make a break work but lacked cooperation from his rivals. Still, he did pick up the six bonus seconds in the intermediate sprint on the Côte de Dis-sept Tournants and thus already holds an advantage over his rivals. New season, same old exciting racing! Who do you favour for the GC?

Paris-Nice Stage 1 – La Verrière to La Verrière (169.4 KM)

  1. Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step) – 3:50:52
  2. Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe)
  3. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo)
  4. Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma)
  5. Arnaud De Lie (Lotto Dstny)
  6. Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla)
  7. Bryan Coquard (Cofidis)
  8. Iván García Cortina (Movistar)
  9. Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck)
  10. Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ)

General classification after stage 1

  1. Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step), in 3-50-42
  2. Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) + 4 seconds
  3. Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates)
  4. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) + 6 seconds
  5. Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies)
  6. Dorian Godon (Ag2r Citroën) + 8 seconds
  7. Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) + 10 seconds
  8. Arnaud De Lie (Lotto Dstny)
  9. Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla)
  10. Bryan Coquard (Cofidis)