Boom, Voigt, Leipheimer dominate Paris-Nice opener

Former cyclocross rider Lars Boom won Sunday’s challenging opening-day time trial at the 68th Paris-Nice. His cyclocross skills must have come in very handy on the tough course.

On a hilly course replete with cobblestones, wind and cold weather, the 2008 world cyclocross champion blasted to victory ahead of Jens Voigt and Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) in the 8km prologue in Monfort-l’Amaury.

“It was quite a thing for me coming from cyclocross to win today. It was much colder and you need to immediately find your rhythm and adapt to the cobblestones,” Boom said after donning the yellow jersey. “I know I probably won’t be able to win the overall, but I’d like to defend the jersey for a few days. I came here to get ready for the classics, my first major goal of the season.”

German veteran Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) narrowly missed victory at three seconds off Boom’s winning time of 10 minutes, 56 seconds. Leipheimer stopped the clock at six seconds off the pace to claim third spot just ahead of Tour de France champion Alberto Contador (Astana).

The 38-year-old Voigt, who bounced back last year from his horrific crash in the Tour de France, was jubilant with his performance. The five-time winner of Critérium International (his next major goal later this month)

“If someone had told me this morning that I was going to finish second, I wouldn’t have believed it!” he said. “I am very happy with my performance. It shows at 38, I still have it.”

Unfortunately, Gert Steegmans from Team Radioshack had another bad fall. Strong winds buffeted the riders and Gert Steegmans was blown off course, breaking his collarbone. Steegmans already survived a hard crash at the Volta ao Algarve two weeks ago and this latest setback will likely take him out of the spring classics.