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World champion Tom Boonen wasted no time getting onto the podium at Paris-Nice as he cruised clear of his sprint rivals at the end of the first road stage to St Amand Montrond. The Quick Step team leader responded instantly to an attack 200 metres from the line by Liberty Seguros' Allan Davis and surged clear for a victory that, coupled with a time bonus on the line, also moved him into the leader's jersey at Bobby Julich's expense.
The stage began with an attack by Julich's team-mate David Zabriskie. However, on another cold day, no one showed any inclination to join the American. Zabriskie built up a lead of almost eight minutes after 25km, then slowed his pace and was soon back in the shelter of the peloton.
A few kilometres further on, Frenchmen Stphane Auge (Cofidis) and Christophe Laurent (Agritubel) combined for a more committed offensive. They built a lead of more than 10 minutes, but were steadily pegged back as rain began to fall, making conditions even more miserable. The pair were hunted down 6km from home as the sprinters' teams took control.
Boonen admitted that he'd had his eye on this stage. "When I saw the roadbook, I had marked it down as one of my main goals. It was a flat stage which suited me fine even though the conditions made it very hard," said the world champion. "It was cold, it rained and I'm all the happier to have been able to win in such conditions. I'm also happy to have taken the yellow jersey thanks to my fine performance in the prologue. It's good to have won this stage because now we can relax and take it easy until the end of the race."
However, that probably does not mean that Boonen won't be interested in tomorrow's rendezvous at Belleville, assuming his team-mates can keep the race together over some late climbs on a 200km stage.
Stage 1, Villemandeur-Saint Amand Montrond
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 193km in 4.56.01 (39.12kph)
2 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros
3 Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Saunier Duval
4 Elia Rigotto (Ita) Milram
5 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lampre
6 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto
7 Vicente Reynes (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
8 Lilian Jgou (Fra) Francaise des Jeux
9 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel
10 Hans Dekkers (Hol) Agritubel
11 Roger Hammond (GB) Discovery Channel
12 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Crdit Agricole
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 5.02.01
2 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC 0.07
3 Andrei Kashechkin (Kaz) Liberty Seguros 0.08
4 Brad McGee (Aus) Francaise des Jeux 0.09
5 Alberto Contador (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.10
6 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel
7 Bradley Wiggins (GB) Cofidis 0.12
8 Benot Vaugrenard (Fra) Francaise des Jeux
9 Steegmans 0.14
10 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Cofidis 0.14
11 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 0.15
- Boonen's main sprint rival, Alessandro Petacchi, continued his run of winning form when he took the opening stage of the Tour of Lucca on Monday afternoon. The Italian beat former Fassa Bortolo team-mate Claudio Corioni in the bunch gallop, while his Milram team-mate Erik Zabel was third.
1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Team Milram 189km in 4.22.39 (43.18kph)
2 Claudio Corioni (Ita) Lampre
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
4 Paride Grillo (Ita) Panaria
5 Fabrizio Guidi (Ita) Phonak
6 Gabriele Balducci (Ita) Acqua e Sapone
7 Domenico Loria (Ita) Universal Caffe
8 Murilo Fischer (Bra) Naturino
9 Lars Michaelsen (Den) CSC
10 Steven de Jongh (Hol) Quick Step
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