More to come from Merlier?
March 7 th 2023 - 05:27
Despite the course, the hills, the corners and the attempts, the first stage of Paris-Nice ended up in a bunch sprint won by Soudal Quick Step’s Tim Merlier. More of the same is probably to be expected today between Bazainville and Fontainebleau. The distance is roughly the same, there are also two 3rd category climbs – the last one 60 km from the finish –, and there is also a late intermediate sprint to try and shake up the peloton a bit in the finale.
But as Merlier’s team perfectly handled day one, there is no reason to believe that the so-called Wolf Pack, even though it didn’t bite as hard at times this season, cannot control day two. Patrick Lefevere’s team will also have the extra motivation of defending the yellow jersey, making the Belgian champion the arch-favourite to make it two in succession, a feat last achieved by Dylan Groenewegen, who won the first two stages in 2019.
Of course, all the riders Merlier beat in the opener in La Verrière – Sam Bennett, Mads Pedersen, Arnaud De Lie, Olav Kooij, Michael Matthews, Ivan Garcia Cortina, Kaden Groves or Arnaud Demare – will be out for revenge. But Merlier is ready to fight.
“I’m really proud of this jersey. We’re going to try to keep it and maybe win again tomorrow,” he said after stage 1.
As for the chances of an echelon taking place, they are almost inexistent. The wind speed in Fontainebleau today is forecast at 2 kph. Attempts and breakaways are always welcome, but the weather does not seem likely to be a factor when a group of riders decides to part with the peloton.