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Greg Van Avermaet (center) earned two seconds in bonus time on the opening stage. (©BMC/Graham Watson.)
Greg Van Avermaet (center) earned two seconds in bonus time on the opening stage. (©BMC/Graham Watson.)

Paris-Nice, Stage 1: Van Avermaet Into Top Five

9. March 2014

Greg Van Avermaet stands in fourth overall after Sunday's opening stage of Paris-Nice while the BMC Racing Team's leader, Tejay van Garderen, was forced to withdraw mid-race due to illness.

Van Garderen's Withdrawal:
One of the pre-race favorites and last year's fourth-place finisher here, van Garderen climbed off his BMC about 80 kilometers into the 162.5-km race. "Friday night, I had all these stomach cramps, and bad diarrhea all day yesterday and then a little bit of a fever and no appetite," he said. "It felt like my sickness was getting better and today, I woke up and I felt OK. But I was really just empty. I couldn't take in calories and just had nothing in the muscles."

Solo Breakaway:
Christophe Laborie (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) ventured off alone and built a nearly 11-minute lead after 40 km. He was caught with 50 km to go and would eventually finish the stage 7:11 behind the winner.

Bonus Seconds:
Van Avermaet helped himself move up the overall standings by earning two seconds in bonus time with a runner-up finish to Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) on the second of two intermediate sprints.

The Crash:
Several BMC Racing Team riders were delayed in a large crash with 20 km to go, including Norwegian national road champion Thor Hushovd, Amaël Moinard and Taylor Phinney. Though none suffered any injuries, they – and Steve Cummings, who avoided the crash but later flatted – all ended up losing more than a minute. Meanwhile, teammates Peter Stetina and Peter Velits finished with Van Avermaet in the lead group.

The Podium:
Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) won the stage ahead of John Degenkolb (Team Giant-Shimano) and Meersman to take the first yellow jersey of race leader. Van Avermaet cruised across the line in 17th place to secure his position in the top five overall, eight seconds behind Bouhanni, with seven stages to go.

What Van Avermaet Said:
"It was pretty hectic. Too bad we lost Tejay the first day. It's a big disappointment because this was was our main goal. But I think we still have a strong group and some other guys for the GC (general classification). In the final, I was really feeling pretty good. But it was just not a normal sprint, it was pretty hectic."

What Sport Director Yvon Ledanois Said:
"After the problem with Tejay and the crash, it was a bad day for the team. But Paris-Nice is eight days – not just one – and we have riders now for the stages. I have trust in the team for the next days."

Listen to complete comments from Ledanois, BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer Dr. Max Testa, Van Avermaet and van Garderen on the BMC Racing Team Audio Line.

View photos from the race on the BMC Racing Team's Flickr gallery.

Watch a post-race video on the BMC Racing Team's YouTube channel.