Bozic 9th, Seeldraeyers taken to hospital after finish for late-race crash
Astana Pro Team rider Borut Bozic sprinted to a top-10 finish in the opening road stage of Paris-Nice on Monday, just missing out on bonus seconds on a sunny, windy day in northern France, while teammate Kevin Seeldraeyers was taken to a local hospital immediately after the finish for cuts and bruises he received in a crash with 20km to go.
Bozic, the Slovenian national road race champion, began Monday's stage one just three seconds behind the overall race leader, and stood to gain much for bonus seconds available at intermediate sprints and at the finish in Nemours.
"At the meeting this morning Borut said he felt it would be best to conserve his firepower for the finish, as it looked likely that a breakaway would take the intermediate time bonuses. At the finish he was in a good position, but drifted right in the final 200m and was across the line in ninth. The team worked to get him there in the last hour, and the finish itself was wide and safe," said Astana Pro Team Director Sportif Dmitriy Fofonov.
French national champion Nacer Bouhanni won Monday's 195km stage and now moves into the overall lead. Bozic remains three seconds back, but slips to 11th in General Classification.
Seeldraeyers, from Belgium, was one of the riders working to control the front of the race and close down the final seconds of a day-long breakaway. In narrow roads with nearly 200 riders, Seeldraeyers was one of many riders who ran into a white, plastic traffic island barrier on a short S-curve.
"This road in the final 20k was very dangerous, and far too narrow for the end of a race. Kevin was knocked down with around 40 riders, and he has deep cuts below his knees on both legs, in some parts where there is flesh and muscle now exposed. He got back on his bike and finished eight minutes back, but went immediately to the hospital to have his wounds cleaned after the finish. We won't know until tomorrow how he feels and if he can start. It's really too bad, because there were around four or five crashes in the last hour of the bike race, and none of them needed to happen," Fofonov said.