World Champion Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) pulled off his second victory in two days, winning the lumpy and cold 200 km stage between Cerilly and Belleville ahead of Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros-Wurth) and Danilo Napolitano (Lampre-Fondital). Despite the strength of the Quick.Step train, it was looking like an unlikely win at one point when early attacker Nicolas Crosbie (Agritubel) had over 27 minutes with 120 km to go. He still had 18 minutes of that intact with 45 km left, but the cold and the climbs got to him and he was caught by a counter attacking Andriy Grivko (Milram) and Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R) with 13 km to go.
Quick.Step then took over and swept up the pair with 2 km left, executing a perfect lead out for Boonen to take his second win in a row and his ninth win of the still very young season. In doing so he extended his lead to 17 seconds over second placed Bobby Julich (CSC), who is still the favourite to win the race on Sunday.
"To be honest, we weren't expecting a win today," said Boonen. "We were the ones controlling the tempo in the first part of the race. Later on a few other teams started to make their moves and it was then that our team worked together guiding me to the finish line.
"Tosatto and Trenti were both fantastic during the final kilometre as were the rest of my teammates during the phase before the sprint. I am extremely happy and hope to go on to win another stage, making it a hat trick! That would be fabulous. The general classification? I'm not bothered about it."
Second placed (for the second time) Allan Davis commented, "Quick.Step worked very well for Boonen, but I took his wheel and was well placed at the end. I tried to pass him and for a moment I believed that I might win, but it was impossible. I'm satisfied because I tried everything and because with this condition, I believe that I can win very soon. On Thursday I will have another opportunity."
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