By Jeff Jones
The second stage was not without incident, with crashes taking out several riders, including CSC's Christian Vandevelde, Bouygues' Pierrick Fedrigo, Gerolsteiner's Sven Montgomery, and Milram's Mirko Celestino. Others like Michael Blaudzun (CSC) and Brad Wiggins (Cofidis) were involved in falls, but made it to the finish.
Vandevelde's crash occurred after 80 km, when the road narrowed and he collided with teammate Michael Blaudzun. "It was just plain bad luck that Michael and Christian crashed into each other and it's too bad we have to do without Christian," said Bjarne Riis on team-csc.com. "He's having his left shoulder x-rayed this evening and hopefully he doesn't have any broken bones. Blaudzun fought hard to get through the stage. He suffered quite a lot of pain in his knee but did manage to complete, which is actually pretty impressive. We'll have a problem sticking to our plan with only six riders because the race will get tougher already from tomorrow.
"Apart from the crash the stage went OK for us. We got through it without using too much energy and we left it to the sprinters' teams to do most of the hard work," added Riis, whose team has won Paris-Nice for the last two years.
Celestino's fall happened after 140 km, when he ran off the road trying to avoid a skid in the peloton. He fell on his right side and head, and broke his right collarbone. That could well put paid to his chances of riding Milan-San Remo, depending on how bad the break is.
Liberty Seguros also lost key man Alberto Contador, although it wasn't due to a crash. Contador punctured on the last descent with 10 km to go and was unable to rejoin the leaders. He ultimately lost 1'13 and with it his chances of winning the race to the sun. Contador experienced similar bad luck in last year's race, when he crashed in the first stage at 7 km to go and lost 58 crucial seconds.