BOIS D’ARCY, France (AP) — Frenchman Arnaud Demare won the first stage of the Paris-Nice race on Sunday, while two-time champions Alberto Contador and Richie Porte lost ground in windy conditions.
The veterans fell behind the main pack when heavy crosswinds split the peloton early in the stage.
“I didn’t think the pack would be split the way it was so early on in the day. My team and I were lucky to be near the front at the time,” said the 25-year-old Demare, who won last year’s Milan-San Remo classic. “I really enjoyed racing today. It’s great to be able to take part in races such as these.”
Porte fared slightly better than Contador, and the Australian is just under one minute behind Demare in 16th place overall. Contador — a two-time Tour de France winner — is 1:14 back in 20th place. Both are good climbers, however, and will be confident of closing the gap when the race reaches the mountains.
Frenchman Romain Bardet, another of the pre-race favorites, was disqualified from the race after being helped back into the pack by his team car following a crash, which is against race rules.
Demare held off countryman Julian Alaphilippe in a sprint to the line at the end of the 148.5-kilometer (92-mile) trek around Bois d’Arcy in the leafy suburbs of Paris.
“When Julian attacked near the line, I made a huge effort to catch him up,” Demare said. “I knew that (if) I managed to catch him, I would be quicker (in the sprint).”
Norwegian Alexander Kristoff finished in third place.
Monday’s second stage is a flat 195-kilometer route from Rochefort-en-Yvelines to Amilly in the Loire valley.
The race ends Sunday in the southern city of Nice.
BERN, Switzerland (AP) Andy Rihs, a Swiss businessman who owned the BMC Racing cycling team and Young Boys soccer club, has died. He was 75.
Rihs died Wednesday in Zurich after “a patient and valiantly endured illness,” the BMC team said Thursday in a statement.
“Our grief is indescribable, but we will carry on his values,” the team said, praising Rihs for his “generosity, his sense of humor, and his infectious laugh.”
Rihs’s death comes with Young Boys close to winning its first Swiss league title in 32 years. Young Boys leads by 11 points with six matches left.
“Andy, thank you for everything. We will miss you,” Young Boys said in a statement.
Rihs’s brother, Hans-Ueli, is also an owner of the club and Stade de Suisse in Bern, known locally as Wankdorf. The stadium staged the 1954 World Cup final.
As BMC owner, Rihs secured a Tour de France title five years after his previous team was involved in a doping scandal. Cadel Evans of Australia wore BMC’s black and red colors to victory in the 2011 Tour.
In 2006, the Rihs-backed Phonak team disbanded after American rider Floyd Landis was stripped of the Tour title.
LOS ANGELES (AP) The top men’s and women’s teams will compete next month in the Amgen Tour of California, the premier U.S. cycling race.
The men will cover 645 miles over seven stages from Long Beach to Sacramento from May 13 to May 19. The women will have three of the top five teams for their three-day, 187-mile race that starts May 17 in Elk Grove.
Race owner AEG announced Thursday that Pete Sagan will ride for the BORA-hansgrohe team while Mark Cavendish will go for Team Dimension Data and be joined by Rafal Majka.
Tony Gallopin of AG2R La Mondiale is in the men’s field. So is LottoNL-Jumbo’s Nielson Powless, the race’s best young rider in 2016.
The women feature 2016 champion Megan Guarnier of USA Cycling National Team, Katie Hall of UnitedHealthcare and Kasia Niewiadoma of Canyon/SCRAM.