SAINT-CYR-L'ECOLE, France: Ireland's Sam Bennett won the opening stage of the Paris-Nice week-long race with a perfectly-executed sprint on Sunday (Mar 7).
The Deceuninck-Quick Step rider was well positioned in the final stretch to beat French champion Arnaud Demare and former world champion Mads Pedersen of Denmark.
"It's hard all day in the European races. Today was a test to see how the legs were," Bennett, who won two stages in last year's Tour de France, told reporters at the end of a 166-km ride around Saint-Cyr-l'Ecole.
"We couldn't come to the front until two kilometres to go, we started to panic but the whole team did a great job. I was pretty happy with the kick I had, I felt pretty strong."
Australian Richie Porte, third in last year's Tour, abandoned after crashing with some 35 kilometres left.
"Porte was assessed by the team back at the hotel before being taken to hospital for a scan," his Ineos-Grenadiers team said in a statement.
Porte, who won the race twice, in 2013 and 2015, was co-leading the team with Giro d'Italia champion Tao Geoghegan Hart.
Monday's second stage is a 188-km ride from Oinville-sur-Montcient to Amilly.