Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) suffered a flat tyre late in stage 2 of Paris-Nice, but luckily the incident didn't jeopardize his chances to win the overall title for the second time. The 27-year-old Spaniard had a fright, however, when he flatted in the finale as the teams of the sprinters had the peloton racing full-bore towards the finish in Amilly.
The Spaniard pulled to the side of the road just inside of three kilometres to go sign where his team car swapped out the rear wheel.
"It was inside three kilometres to go, so it wasn't a problem for me to be given the same time as the stage winner," Sanchez told Cyclingnews. Sanchez finished the stage in 168th place, 1:01 off the time of winner Greg Henderson (Sky), but the race officials credited him with the same time as the main peloton per the rule governing incidents occurring with the final three kilometres of stage races, thus negating any potential time loss on the day.
"He's a good professional," said race commissaire Giuseppe Baldi. "We cannot be inside a bunch of 175 riders to check who punctures where, so what counts for us is the place where a rider signal the incident to us."
With defending champion Alberto Contador absent from Paris-Nice, Sanchez, the 2010 runner-up, has been assigned number one for his bib number and the 2009 Paris-Nice champion is seeking a second overall victory in the UCI WorldTour event.
"I think I have good form, I feel good," Sanchez said in Amilly. "I believe my main adversaries for the overall win to be Tony Martin, Alexandre Vinokourov and Tejay Van Garderen. Pretty much, the riders who were strong at the Tour of Algarve will be strong here as well."
HTC-Highroad teammates Martin and Van Garderen finished first and second respectively at the Volta ao Algarve while Vinokoruov, the winner of Paris--Nice in 2002 and 2003, has the Tour of Oman under his belt, where he finished 12th overall.
Sanchez holds 98th overall after two days of racing at Paris-Nice, but he's one of 125 riders tied on time only 14 seconds behind race leader Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM).
A day of incidents
With 40 kilometres to go the two breakaway riders, Maxime Bouet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Tony Gallopin (Cofidis), found themselves at a closed railway crossing where they were requested to stop by race official François Lemarchand. The closed gates confused ASO director Christian Prudhomme as no train was scheduled at that time and indeed no train actually appeared at the crossing. The race organisation didn't know how the crossing signal was activated and the two breakaway members were sent on their way and allowed to re-establish their 50-second advantage on the peloton. Both, however, were eventually caught by a peloton eager to set up a sprint finish.
Two riders abandoned during stage two, one of whom was Frenchman David Moncoutié (Cofidis) who pulled out after 50 kilometres due to a knee injury. Argentina's Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Saxo Bank SunGard) was the other rider to abandon the race due to a knee injury sustained from a collision with a police motorbike.
There were multiple crashes in the nervous peloton inside the final hour of racing, but all of those involved finished the stage and are expected to start tomorrow.