The cycling season is underway now, there’s no mistaking it - Paris-Nice (otherwise known as “the race to the sun”) began on Sunday. Last year’s winner, American Bobby Julich (Team CSC) - the first American to ever win Paris-Nice - started the race with a bang, winning the opening prologue outside Paris to go into Monday’s stage wearing the leader’s jersey. He squeaked out the victory, finishing one second ahead of Andrey Kashechkin of Team Liberty Seguros and two seconds ahead of 3rd place Aussie Bradley McGee. In fact, the top 18 riders were separated by a mere ten seconds after the prologue.
Stage one (Monday) was a flat stage, so if the pack could stay together it would be a day for the sprinters. And though there were breakaways, no one managed (or wanted) to stay away all day long – with six kilometers to go the gang was all together again, and the sprint went to Belgian Tom Boonen (Team Quick-Step). He’s one of the best sprinters in the professional peloton and he’s also this year’s World Champion. He’s fresh off a fabulous win at the Tour of Qatar, taking the top slot on an impressive five of the six stages there (as well as the overall win, of course). Clearly, the weight of having the rainbow jersey on his back this year isn’t keeping him from excelling like he always does. With the day’s win, Boonen also took over the overall lead from Julich, who slips to second (.07 back).
Stage two (Tuesday) was mostly flat, though there were a couple low-grade hills toward the end of the stage. Still, the pack was together enough at the finish that fast man on campus Tom Boonen managed to sprint to another victory in Belleville (as in "The Triplets of"). Boonen remains in the leader's jersey, increasing his lead to 17 seconds over Bobby Julich. Tomorrow's stage has the race's first category one climb toward the end of the day, so we'll see if Boonen can make it over the hill with the leaders and keep the yellow jersey on his back.