Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) crossed the finish line first after a potentially dangerous stage 2 sprint at Paris-Nice in Commentry but officials quickly relegated the Frenchman to third place for an irregular sprint against race leader Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge). Officials awarded Matthews the stage win and the corresponding 10-second time bonus to move him further ahead in the overall lead.
"The Cofidis train gradually set up Cyril Lemoine, Nacer, who took hold of the wheel of Christophe Laporte, who after a superb job, released them with 200 metres from the line. First through the sprint, he [Nacer Bouhanni] unfortunately deviate from his line, and could not avoid contact with Michael Matthews. He eventually finished third, downgraded, leaving the victory back to the yellow jersey," a report read on the Cofidis team website.
During the final 100 metres of the sprint, Bouhanni deviated from his line, from the right-hand side of the road over to the left where Matthews was positioned. He then leaned into Matthews, who was coming up next to the barriers, as the pair approached the finish line, and very nearly crashed both of them. They both managed to avoid crashing.
Bouhanni crossed the line first, followed by a visibly angry Matthews and then Niccolo Bonifazio (Trek-Segafredo) in third.
"Bouhanni changed his line in the sprint, I almost fell," Matthews said in a report posted on the event's website. "I was back in the sprint, I had a very good speed and I would have won if he had not moved."
It's not the first controversial result surrounding Bouhanni this year. He was accused of being pushed by his Cofidis teammates up the final climb during stage 2 at the Ruta del Sol, before winning the stage.
As for Matthews, the win marked his second this week at Paris-Nice, after winning the prologue on Sunday. With the finish-line time bonus, Matthews has moved further ahead in the overall classification, now 14 seconds ahead of Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) and 19 seconds ahead of Patrick Bevin (Cannondale)
"It's great to win a second stage in three days of racing," Matthews said. "In addition, it is not my favourite kind of sprints, in principle I'm better when they are climbing."
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