The rain, wind and cold combined with narrow, twisting roads to make it a crash-bang-boom day in the second stage of Paris-Nice on Tuesday.
Worst off was Team CSC, when seven of its eight riders went down in a mass crash, some 60 kilometres before the finish. "Only Karsten Kroon managed to escape and was able to continue with the remainder of the peloton. We had two smashed up bikes and some of the riders were beaten pretty badly," according to Directeur Sportif Kim Anderson.
Team Milram had six riders go down, including Andrey Grivko, who lost his best young rider's jersey as a result. Both Björn Schröder and Markus Eichler had to be taken to the hospital, but there were no serious injuries and all the riders will start today. "That was a terribly unlucky day for us," said DS Raoul Liebregts. "After a stage like that it is up to us directeurs sportifs to build the riders up again."
"On a descent, suddenly half the peloton lay on the ground," said Gerolsteiner's DS Christian Wegmann. Davide Rebellin, Andrea Moletta, Carlo Westphal and Bernhard Kohl were among the victims, but none suffered more than scrapes. It was Moletta's second crash of the race and Kohl's second in two days. After tumbling into a ditch during stage one, he was more acrobatic on Tuesday. "I made a real somersault and at 60 km/h slid a good way on my back over the road." Apart from a few bruises and scrapes, the Austrian was fine, but the same couldn't be said of his bike, which was totaled.
For other teams, High Road's Marcel Sieberg landed on his already injured elbow and was taken to the hospital for further examinations after finishing the stage. Silence-Lotto's Dario Cioni had to leave the race after suffering a deep cut on his face.
Another prominent victim was Slipstream's David Millar, who said, "I had my fastest crash ever, hitting the deck at 60+km/h on a straight descent. People in front of me went down and slid for what seemed like an infinite amount of time." Adding, "I did not have much fun today. The only consolation was that the whole peloton had a horrible day, and most [other riders' were] worse than mine," he cheerfully concluded. "Snow is going to be added to the equation tomorrow in the final which will make it epic. Man, this is a mental race!"