French rider Nacer Bouhanni overtook Italian veteran Alessandro Petacchi in a sprint to the line to win the first stage of the Paris-Nice race on Monday.
Bouhanni overtook Petacchi in the last 100 meters and clocked a time of 4 hours, 47 minutes, 24 seconds over the flat 195-kilometre trek from Saint-Germain-en-Laye to Nemours. Italian sprinter Elia Viviani finished third in the same time.
Bouhanni took the race leader’s yellow jersey from countryman Damien Gaudin, winner of Sunday’s short prologue. Gaudin remains second overall ahead of another Frenchman, Sylvain Chavanel.
“To be able to wear the yellow jersey on the Paris-Nice is huge,” Bouhanni said.
“A lot of people spoke to me about Paris-Nice. I was very much in demand and I knew people were expecting a lot from me. Winning the first stage will be liberating for me.”
German rider Marcel Kittel and Tom Boonen of Belgium were among the pre-stage favourites but got left behind when the peloton split with 20 kilometres to go and could not catch up.
Race contender Rui Costa of Portugal, winner of last year’s Tour de Suisse, pulled out after hurting his left wrist following a crash. French cyclist Pierrick Fedrigo also withdrew during the stage after failing to shake off a bout of flu.