PARIS (Reuters) - Alberto Contador’s chances of winning a third Paris-Nice title took a hit when he fell behind his main rivals in a wind-affected first stage won by France’s Arnaud Demare on Sunday.
The twice Tour de France champion was trapped behind with Australian Richie Porte and France’s Romain Bardet when crosswinds split the peloton and he lost further ground in the finale.
Contador (Trek Segafredo) lies 21st overall, 1:14 behind Demare, who beat compatriot Julian Alaphilippe in a two-man sprint at the end of the 148.5-km stage around Bois d‘Arcy.
Alaphilippe (Quick Step Floors)attacked the leading pack on a short climb near the finish but Demare (FDJ) reined him in and easily won the sprint.
Among the favourites for the overall title, Ireland’s Dan Martin (Quick Step Floors) and Colombian Sergio Henao (Team Sky) are 19 seconds off the pace.
Porte (BMC), winner in 2013 and 2015, lies 57 seconds behind Demare, as does Bardet (AG2r-La Mondiale) after the Frenchman, who finished second overall in last year’s Tour de France, recovered from a crash 23 kilometres from the line.
“Apparently it’s nothing serious,” Bardet’s team manager Vincent Lavenu said.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis