March 04, 2012

SAINT-REMY-LES-CHEVREUSE, France (AP) -- Gustav Larsson beat British rider Bradley Wiggins by a second to win the first stage of the Paris-Nice race on Sunday.

The Swede completed the 5.8-mile route from Dampierre-en-Yvelines to Saint-Remy-les-Chevreuse on the outskirts of Paris in 11 minutes, 19 seconds. American rider Levi Leipheimer finished 4 seconds behind Larsson in third place.

I wasn't really sure of myself because it was only my second race this season. My legs were very hard, but it was enough," said Larsson, who expects to struggle to retain the yellow jersey when the race reaches the mountains later this week. "We will see, it's very hard when you get to the big mountains, but we will try to hang onto it as long as possible."

Larsson, a silver medalist in the time trial at the Olympics in Beijing four years ago, started in the middle of the field and had better racing conditions than Wiggins, who was the penultimate rider to set off under light rain.

Andy Schleck, one of the favorites for this year's Tour de France, had a poor day and finished 1:01 back in 142nd place.

Monday's second stage is a mostly flat trek over 115 miles from Mantes-la-Jolie to Orleans.

Defending champion Tony Martin of Germany finished 25 seconds off the lead in 28th place. The race ends next Sunday.

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