The record books will state that Dylan Groenewegen won stage 2 of the 2019 Paris-Nice in a reduced bunch sprint, with the remnants of the main field finishing just a few seconds behind, but that one fact does not do the race justice after another epic day of crosswinds and echelon racing that saw the action never let up for even a single moment of the 165km stage.
By the time Groenewegen made his way to the podium to collect his second bouquet of the race and the yellow jersey, stragglers were still crossing the line in ones and twos, some of them with their jerseys ripped from a day that saw numerous crashes and several abandons, including Mark Cavendish, Louis Meintjes, Rigoberto Uran, Warren Barguil and last year's third-place finisher Gorka Izagirre.
The race has yet to reach a time trial or an uphill finish, yet has seen back-to-back stages full of drama and suspense, with the only constant being Groenewegen's continued dominance of both the sprints and the leader's jersey.
The stage began with the announcement from the race from organisers ASO that the race from Les Bréviaires would be put back by 10 minutes owing to a strong tailwind on the route. However, it was crosswind sections that littered the parcours that would eventually prove the deciding factor.
Several splits were forced in the opening 100km before a lead group of 18 eventually established a semblance of authority. By then, the likes of Cavendish and Barguil had already lost contact, while Groenewegen, a determined AG2R, Team Sky and FDJ had safety in numbers at the front of the race.
Egan Bernal (Team Sky) who impressed during stage 1 when the winds picked up, was once more supported by Luke Rowe and former world champion Michal Kwiatkowski, while Wilco Kelderman, Romain Bardet, Bob Jungels, and Nairo Quintana represented the GC riders still in the fold.
Stage 1 had already seen last year's winner Marc Soler and former winner Sergio Henao fail to make the grade, but stage 2 was arguably more decisive. Even when the lead group was caught by a chase group inside the final 10km, there was still time for further developments.
It was Rowe who almost singlehandedly made the final split, bringing Groenewegen, Bernal, Luis Leon Sanchez and a handful of others with him as Arnaud Demare and Romain Bardet missed the cut. By the time they crossed the line, their time losses were just a few seconds but after two days of racing on the flat, the GC frame has closed for several pre-race favorites.
Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates both lost over six minutes, with both riders now over seven and eight minutes down overall, respectively. Soler and Miguel Angel Lopez are further down – both with a deficit of 9:47 – while Ion Izagirre sits at 11:29. Sergio Henao and Fabio Aru sit either side of 15 minutes off the lead.
Of the GC riders still standing, Kwiatkowski is the best placed, in second, 12 seconds off yellow, while Sanchez, Bernal, Tony Gallopin, and Bardet occupy the top 10.
Nairo Quintana leads a group at 25 seconds that includes Kelderman, Ilnur Zakarin and George Bennett, with Bob Jungels a further 10 seconds in arrears.
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