The second stage of Paris-Nice yielded several triumphs for the Omega Pharma-Quickstep team: not only was it Tom Boonen's 100th career victory, excluding criteriums and team time trials, but also the first WorldTour win for the revamped Belgian squad. In addition, American Levi Leipheimer is now poised for a top result overall, sitting just six seconds behind race leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky Procycling).
Boonen's other victories include a world road race title from 2005, three wins in Paris-Nice, two in Tour of Flanders, two in Gent-Wevelgem, six stages of the Tour de France and one green jersey (2007) and two stages of the Vuelta a España.
"I'm really not interested in stats. But on the other hand I'm happy," Boonen said in a team press release. "Not a lot of riders can reach this goal. The race was also important for the GC. Levi and Sylvain [Chavanel] made a good step ahead and we are really motivated for the next stages."
The team had to go on the defensive when the peloton split in the crosswinds at the feed zone just halfway through the stage, and worked to successfully regain the front of the race as other contenders like Andy Schleck (Radioshack-Nissan), Richie Porte (Sky) and Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) all missed the split. They then had the numbers in the front group, and drove the pace to the finish, putting 2:29 into the next group on the road.
"To be honest we had to suffer to enter in the breakaway. We were a little bit behind because of a roundabout," Boonen said. "I had to pass two groups before entering in the first group. Then the race was really hard. Everybody was interested in riding and taking some time from the GC. It was also cold and windy and in the last kilometers it began raining. I really couldn't feel my hands."
The only downside for the team was the absence of defending Paris-Nice champion Tony Martin from the lead group, but directeur sportif Brian Holm said it won't change the team's tactics.
"It's still a bit of the same," Holm said. "It will be a bit more hilly tomorrow at the finish, but Tom is still pretty good there. Chavanel will be close in the GC without an accident or crash, and Leipheimer is looking pretty confident also. We are a strong team, everybody knows that."
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