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Paris - Nice 2012: Stage 2


Stage two of the 2012 Paris-Nice, 185.5km from Mantes-la-Jolie to Orléans.

100km remaining from 185km

As we pick up the action with 100km to go, Olivier Kaisen (Lotto Belisol) is up the road, 1:30 clear of the peloton.

Kaisen is first to the summit of the day's lone climb, the third category Côte des Granges-le-Roi. 2:45 later, Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) leads Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and the rest of the peloton over the top.


It was a low-key beginning to affairs this morning. Faced with a headwind and a pan flat parcours, a bunch sprint seems inevitable today, and few riders were willing to try and tear up the script as the bunch left Mantes-la-Jolie.

The opening section of the stage was on exposed roads, and so it took all of 60km for someone to break the detente, with Kaisen slipping clear at Rambouillet. His comrades in arms in the peloton took a look at the conditions, a glance at the profile, and left him to it, for the time being at least.

The biggest drama in the opening kilometres was the abandon of Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank). The Belgian crashed hip first into a traffic island during yesterday's stage one time trial. Although he technically finished outside the time limit, gingerly crossing the line over six minutes down, the commissaires rightly allowed Nuyens to line up again today. Unfortunately for the 2011 Tour of Flanders winner, he had to give best to his injuries, and climbed off in the neutralised zone.

95km remaining from 185km

Race radio now reports that Kaisen's advantage is back down to 1:30 as the pace picks up in the peloton through the feed zone.

That surge in pace has caused some ructions in the peloton. An 11-rider group has splintered off the front, and is currently 25 seconds clear and in pursuit of Kaisen. Meanwhile, another platoon of riders is dangling the back of the bunch, with Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) among them.

There was a discernible change in direction after the feed zone, and some riders appear to have been caught out as the echelons formed. Kaisen has been caught by the chasers, and there is now a 30-rider lead group 30 seconds clear of the rest of the peloton.

Overall leader Gustav Larsson (Vacansoleil-DCM) is not part of this front echelon, but overall contenders Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) are all present and correct.

Vacansoleil-DCM will need to organise the pursuit behind if they want to keep Larsson in the overall lead tonight. As it stands, Wiggins is yellow jersey on the road.

Omega Pharma-QuickStep are well represented in this front group, and their presence adds significant weight to this move. Chavanel and Leipheimer are the team's form riders, and they're both up here. So far, there is no confirmation on where their teammate and defending champion Tony Martin is out on the road.

77km remaining from 185km

The pace continues to ratchet up in the lead group, and their advantage has stretched out to 50 seconds. Nobody anticipated that today's stage would have any significant impact on the race for the general classification, but such are the perils and attractions of Paris-Nice. The wintry conditions and high-octane racing require riders to be alert every single kilometre of the road down to the Riviera.

A crash in the lead group, and six riders have been caught up - Simon Clarke (GreenEdge), Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Barracuda), Grischa Niermann (Rabobank), Murilo Fischer (Garmin-Barracuda), Daniel Navarro (Saxo Bank) and Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM). They're currently chasing in the no man's land between the yellow jersey group and the leaders.

Incidentally, Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) was a faller earlier in the stage, although the Italian was swiftly back in the main bunch and appeared unhurt.

We're still waiting on full confirmation of all the names in that front group, but it appears that Movistar duo Alejandro Valverde and Jose Joaquin Rojas were on the right end of the split after the feed zone.

Confirmation of some of the names in that front group, which now has 1:25 over the peloton: Tom Boonen, Levi Leipheimer, Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Maxime Monfort (RadioShack-Nissan), Geraint Thomas, Bradley Wiggins (Sky), John Degenkolb (Project 1t4i), Seb Vanmarcke, Andreas Klier (Garmin-Barracuda), Robert Kiserlovski, Francesco Gavazzi, (Astana), Anthony Ravard (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Taylor Phinney (BMC)., Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ-BigMat).

The bunch has been broken into four disparate groups by the crosswinds. A sizeable second group is within sight at least of the 21 leaders, but Gustav Larsson is in the third group 1:40 behind. Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) both appear to be in that second group on the road.

54km remaining from 185km

The 21 leaders are collaborating very smoothly considering the windy conditions. The strong men of the race have forced a natural selection in front, and try as they might, the chasing groups aren't making any significant inroads into their advantage.

Larsson is suffering at the back of the third echelon. They are almost within touching distance of the second group, but the 21 leaders remain 1:35 clear.

Bradley Wiggins (Sky) is looking very comfortable on the front of the lead group, in the distinctive colours of British champion. Like many riders, Wiggins is wearing leg warmers to combat the chilly conditions, but in spite of his winter attire the Briton was clearly ready to race.

Frank Schleck and Jens Voigt  (RadioShack-Nissan) are both in the second group on the road. They're trying to get a chase organised, but Omega Pharma-QuickStep are drilling up the road ahead and they don't look like coming back any time soon.

50km remaining from 185km

Clever riding from Wiggins. The Englishman hit the front just before the sprint at Neuville-aux-Bois and picked up the bonus seconds ahead of Alejandro Valverde.

Maxime Monfort came across in third and picked up a one-second bonus.

A reminder of the names in that front group. No fewer than four Omega Pharma-QuickStep riders up there, and they've not been shy in setting the pace: Tom Boonen, Levi Leipheimer, Sylvain Chavanel, Nikolas Maes (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Maxime Monfort (RadioShack-Nissan), Geraint Thomas, Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM), John Degenkolb (Project 1t4i), Seb Vanmarcke, Andreas Klier (Garmin-Barracuda), Robert Kiserlovski, Francesco Gavazzi, (Astana), Anthony Ravard (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Taylor Phinney (BMC)., Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ-BigMat), Angel Vicioso, Simon Spilak (Katusha).


40km remaining from 185km

The gap to the main bunch is out to 2:15, as Saur-Sojasun attempt to pick up the pursuit in support of their man Jerome Coppel. Lampre-ISD are also contributing to the chase, albeit not quite with the same gusto as the French team.

Taylor Phinney comes through on Tom Boonen's wheel. The young American had a difficult start to life as a professional last season, but he will be encouraged that he has made the potentially decisive break here.

Puncture for Damiano Cunego in the main bunch, a further blow to the chase effort.

Seb Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda) was hugely impressive at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last week, and he's giving a further demonstration of his power at the head of the lead group. Their advantage has stretched out to 2:20.

33km remaining from 185km

In spite of Saur-Sojasun's efforts to bring a little coherence to the chase group, the gap is continuing to expand, pedal stroke by pedal stroke.

There's a visible difference in style between the riders at the front and their pursuers behind. The likes of Wiggins and Chavanel are belying the windy conditions to pedal with remarkable fluidity. In the main bunch, the Saur-Sojasun are grinding their way towards Orleans. 

30km remaining from 185km

With 30km to go, the leaders are still natural allies and their advantage is continuing to grow. It's now at 2:25. In the final kilometres, games of bluff and counter bluff in pursuit of stage victory may stall their progress somewhat, but even so, they should reach Orleans with two minutes in hand over the rest of the bunch.

John Degenkolb had a most untimely puncture and is now chasing alone behind the leaders. He's in among the cars after having more than a little bit of help from his own Project 1t4i mechanic, and that might well help him get back on.

26km remaining from 185km

Degenkolb makes contact with the rear of the lead group. The German sprinter is one of the quickest riders in this break, and he will fancy his chances of going toe to toe with Tom Boonen et al for the win.

24km remaining from 185km

Ravard briefly appeared to be losing contact at the back of that lead group, but he seems simply to be calling for assistance from his team car.

The pace is relentless in this front group, as they pedal on towards the black skies over Orleans.

Puncture for Simon Spilak, and he takes a rather sticky bottle from the Katusha team car as he tries to get back on.

21km remaining from 185km

Like Degenkolb before him, Spilak duly makes contact with his breakaway companions.

20km remaining from 185km

There has been heavy rain in Orleans this afternoon, and while it's not raining now, the leaders will face some treacherous roads in these final 20 kilometres.

A flat-backed Wiggins comes to the front of the break and stretches things out once again. They have 2:20 in hand over the main bunch as they cross the Loire at Jargeau.

The bunch is finally make the slightest dent in the advantage of the lead group, but it seems to be too little, too late. 2:16 the gap.

Arnold Jeannesson has been quietly impressive today, and held his own in some exalted company. The French youngster already looked in decent shape at the Tour of Oman last month, where he was among the strongest performers on the climb of Green Mountain.

16km remaining from 185km

The big shows of strength have come from the collective might of Omega Pharma-QuickStep and the individual force of Bradley Wiggins. The Briton is again very active in the finale, aware that he is driving what could well be the decisive break of this year's Paris-Nice.

After yesterday's opening time trial, Omega Pharma-QuickStep had little doubt but that Leipheimer and Chavanel were their main men for this year's Paris-Nice. They didn't hesitate for a second when 2011 champion Tony Martin was left behind when the race split up at the feed, and their decisiveness has been rewarded so far. That said, Wiggins will move into yellow tonight, and Boonen will have to be sharp to win the stage.

13km remaining from 185km

Seb Vanmarcke took Boonen's scalp in a three-man sprint at the end of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last weekend, and he is disrobing in preparation for the finale here. He exchanges a few words with his team car as he sheds himself of his arm and leg warmers.

A glum Gustav Larsson sits near the back of the second group on the road. He has known for the last two hours that his yellow jersey would pass to Wiggins this evening.

12km remaining from 185km

While Vanmarcke loses a layer or two, Gavazzi tightens his shoes. The little tics of the riders preparing themselves for the sprint. No such concerns for Leipheimer and Wiggins, who are interested only in maintaining their 2:15 lead over the bunch.

10km remaining from 185km

10km to go for the leaders. Wiggins' pace-setting is such that every time he comes to the front, a little gap opens to the second wheel. The Briton is doing next to nothing to hide his form. Leipheimer and Valverde have been somewhat more circumspect.

Once again, Wiggins opens a small gap over his companions and then desists. The Omega Pharma-QuickStep quartet have not been quite as visible over the past 5km, as they prepare themselves to lead out Boonen.

8km remaining from 185km

As if on cue, French champion Sylvain Chavanel hits the front, with Boonen in third wheel. They clearly fancy the Belgian's chances in the sprint, and they don't want to let anyone sneak off the front in the finale.

Saur-Sojasun are continuing their lonely pursuit at the front of the bunch, but they remain 2:10 behind the leaders.

Van Garderen has been a lowkey presence in this lead group, but he takes a turn on the front in the white jersey of best young rider.

5km remaining from 185km

The lead group are finally beginning to look at each other a little, but Omega Pharma-QuickStep seem keen to keep the pace ticking over.

4km remaining from 185km

Lieuwe Westra attacks down the left hand side of the road, but Chavanel is instantly across to shut him down.

3km remaining from 185km

Chavanel strings things out at the front of the lead group, with Kiserlovski on his wheel.

2km remaining from 185km

This has been a mammoth turn on the front from Chavanel, as he tries to discourage any more attacks.

2km remaining from 185km

Boonen sits on Maes' wheel as the break crosses the Loire on its entry into Orleans.

1km remaining from 185km

Inside the final kilometre, Omega Pharma-QuickStep are looking to control things.

Vanmarcke attacks inside the final 800 metres, but Ravard comes across and now it all looks set to come down to the sprint.

Maes leads out the sprint coming through the final bend. It's going to be Boonen versus Degenkolb and Rojas...

Boonen goes early and takes the win, holding off Rojas and Degenkolb.

A powerful effort from Boonen, who swept past Degenkolb, and then had enough in hand to hold off the fast-closing Rojas.


The Saur-Sojasun bunch comes in 2:28 down on the leaders, and the list of possible Paris-Nice winners has shrunk dramatically this afternoon. Wiggins will move into yellow.


1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
2 Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar
3 John Degenkolb (Ger) Project 1t4i
4 Seb Vanmarcke (Bel) Garmin-Barracuda
5 Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana
6 Angel Vicioso (Spa) Katusha
7 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan
8 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC
9 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
10 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling

General classification:


1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky
2 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 00:00:06
3 Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 00:00:07
4 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC 00:00:11
5 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 00:00:14
6 Maxime Monfort (Bel) 00:00:18
7 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC 00:00:21

General classification:

1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling
2 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 00:00:06
3 Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 00:00:07
4 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC 00:00:11
5 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 00:00:14
6 Maxime Monfort (Bel) 00:00:18
7 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC 00:00:21
8 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM 00:00:22
9 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling 00:00:28
10 Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar 00:00:29

Thanks for joining us for today's coverage of Paris-Nice. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for a full report, results and reaction from Orleans, as Wiggins, Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Alejandro Valverde showed their credentials for overall victory. We'll be back tomorrow for live coverage of stage 3 from Vierzon to Lac de Vassivière.

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