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Paris - Nice 2014: Stage 2


Stage 2 of Paris-Nice, 205 kilometres from Rambouillet to Saint-Georges-sur-Baulche.

98km remaining from 205km

Delaplace and the Latvian champion Saramotins broke away after just 2.5 kilometres of racing and the peloton was immediately happy to leave them to it. By kilometre 8, their lead was already at 3:05 and it continued to extend thereafter.

After the tension and crashes of yesterday, there were plenty of riders glad of any kind of respite in the early stages this morning. The pace in the peloton was sedate in the first hour, which meant that Delaplace and Saramotins could build a lead of 9:15 after 19 kilometres.

The two escapees covered 43 kilometres in the first hour of racing, by which point they were fully 11:30 clear of the bunch. That was the cue for the team of Nacer Bouhanni to make their way to the front of the pack, and they gradually began to trim back the leaders' advantage.

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This was the general classification situation this morning:

Delaplace began the day 10 seconds down on Bouhanni and is, of course, the yellow jersey on the road, but Saramotins' IAM Cycling directeur sportif Eddy Seigneur, for one, does not hold out much hope for the break's chances. "We had hoped for a break of five or six men. With only two of them, this is a lost cause," Seigneur cheerfully told

IAM Cycling's primary aim for Paris-Nice, of course, is to try and deliver Sylvain Chavanel to overall victory. This year's open-ended parcours - no time trial and no summit finish, remember - is wide open to interpretation, and in theory a rider as inventive as Chavanel should thrive on this course.

Chavanel certainly enjoyed a better opening stage than some of the other overall contenders, including Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), who was held up by crashes and lost time, as did Andy and Frank Schleck (Trek), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge).

At least Bardet, Voeckler et al are still in the race. Tejay van Garderen (BMC), who arrived in France buoyed by a fine showing at the Tour of Oman last month, was forced to abandon Paris-Nice on stage 1,

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On the corresponding stage two years ago, of course, Omega Pharma-QuickStep shattered the peloton in the crosswinds. Tom Boonen won the sprint from the 21-man leading echelon in Orleans on that occasion, while Bradley Wiggins put a significant deposit on final overall victory.

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There's just one climb on the agenda this afternoon, the category 3 Côte de la Ferté-Loupière with 44 kilometres remaining. Although there are a few undulations on the run-in, it's hard to see past a group finish in Saint-Georges-sur-Baulche.

Overall leader Nacer Bouhanni reckons

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The Race to the Sun is all too often a cruel misnomer for Paris-Nice, but today the peloton are racing under clear blue skies and in temperatures in excess of 16 degrees celsius.

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Andy Schleck (Trek) is at the rear of the peloton after a trip to the team car. The Luxembourger does not seem in any undue distress as he works his way back on.

Saramotins leads Delaplace over the summit of the Côte de la Ferté-Loupière. The peloton, still 5:30 behind, has yet to reach the foot of the climb.

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Word reaching us that Florian Guillou (Bretagne – Séché) was a faller before the approach to the climb, where lead the bunch, but Astana, Sky and Omega Pharma-QuickStep are also moving up.

It's in QuickStep's interests to aid in the chase here - Gianni Meersman has drawn level with Bouhanni in the virtual overall standings, after picking up 3rd place and one bonus second in the bonus sprint at Malesherbes after 62 kilometres.

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There's one more intermediate sprint to come this afternoon, on the first passage through the finish line at Saint-Georges-sur-Baulche, which should provide an interesting dress rehearsal for the finish 20 kilometres later.

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Andy Schleck finds a way through the convoy and is back with the main peloton. He immediately looks to move up into the main body of the bunch, suggesting that his spell off the back was perhaps a question of positioning rather than a lack of legs.

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With 20 kilometres to go, the two leaders have three minutes in hand over the peloton. They will hardly have expected it when they went clear this morning, but it's still all to play for as they approach the final lap.

Delaplace and Saramotins are riding through the final kilometre of the race as they approach the line for the first time. The sprinters will have to close attention as this is quite a technical finale.

18km remaining from 205km

Gianni Meersman takes the bonus second for third place in the intermediate sprint. He moves into the overall lead on the road, helped by a powerful lead-out from Tom Boonen. The two QuickStep men opened a huge gap over the bunch, and Boonen duly swung aside to let Meersman through to pick up the bonus second.

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Orica-GreenEdge are also beginning to contribute to the peloton's chase. The Australian outfit have Michael Matthews and Matt Goss in their ranks, and both men will fancy today's finale.

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Taylor Phinney (BMC) was part of a small group distanced by the bunch, but the American shows impressive force to chase back on to the speeding peloton alone.

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Simon Gerrans leads the bunch, which is still 1:35 down on Saramotins and running out of road in which to bring him back. Saramotins is on the hardest part of the finishing circuit, riding into a headwind and on a false flat, however, and is beginning to suffer.

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Meersman is glued to the rear bumper of his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team car as he chases back on the main peloton.

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Meersman, meanwhile, is caught in the no man's land behind the peloton with Julien Simon (Cofidis) and, of course, the ever-present Omega Pharma team car.

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A crash in the peloton on the final right-hand bend causes some confusion ahead of the bunch finish...

Moreno Hofland (Belkin) leads John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) in to the finishing straight....

Moreno Hofland wins stage 2 of Paris-Nice ahead of John Degenkolb. Nacer Bouhanni ( takes third.

Nacer Bouhanni ( will retain the yellow jersey, two seconds ahead of Degenkolb.

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) took 4th, ahead of Thor Hushovd (BMC) and Bryan Coquard (Europcar).

Hofland was sitting on Degenkolb's wheel as they swung around the final bend, and he swooped clear inside the final 100 metres. After winning a stage of Ruta del Sol and taking second at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, Hofland is enjoying a fine run of form.

"I'm a little surprised because with 1 kilometre to go today I was a little too far behind," Hofland said. "I was in the wheel of John Degenkolb and with 200 metres I went a little early and I managed to surprise him. The last couple of weeks have been going pretty good for me and I hope to hold the form as long as possible."


General classification:

Gianni Meersman had moved into the virtual overall lead but a crash scuppered his chances, and so Nacer Bouhanni lives to fill another day in the yellow jersey. A second successive second place sees Degenkolb cut the gap to two seconds, while the in-form Hofland lurks in third, four seconds down on Bouhanni. "The main goal is to get the yellow jersey with Wilco Kelderman and not with me," Hofland insists.

Thanks for following our live coverage of Paris-Nice today on Cyclingnews. We’ll be back with more on the road to Magny-Cours tomorrow, but in the meantime, you can find a full report, pictures and results from stage 2 here.

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