Stage 2 of Paris-Nice was a day of mixed fortune for Belkin as Lars Boom crashed out of the race with 10km left but there was salvation in victory which came courtesy of Moreno Hofland who bested John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) and race leader Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ). Despite losing Boom in the finale of the 205km stage from Rambouillet to Saint-Georges-sur-Baulche, the Dutch team's lead out was inch perfect in delivering the 22-year-old first across the line.
"It's a great victory. The team rode great today. The stage was hectic again, because there were some crosswinds. We all tried to be in the front at the dangerous points," Hofland said after the podium ceremony.
"I wanted to surprise the bunch, so I made a long sprint. I jumped with 250 metres to go, and no one came around me. I am so happy, because this is a big race. This is Paris-Nice."
Hofland's best result of the season had been second in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne last weekend behind Tom Boonen but he surprised the favourites to confirm his impressive start of just his second pro season and proved he that he doesn't necessarily need a lead out train to win a sprint.
"With 2km to go, I was so far back I thought I had no chance. I found an opening on the left, and then Jos [Van Emden] took me to the front, and did such a great job dropping me off on the wheel of Degenkolb. Then I was able to make my sprint."
"Tomorrow will be a more quiet day, but we will make a plan and try again," Belkin sport director Merijn Zeeman.
"The race later this week will be more difficult. We'll have Wilco [Kelderman] and Lars-Petter [Nordhaug] as GC options. The race is harder than people think. We will see the climbers move to the front. It will be an exciting week."
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