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Paris - Nice 2015: Stage 2

 Stage two of Paris-Nice looks to be another one for the sprinters.

 With 122km to go, we have one lone leader. Arnaud Gerard of Bretagne-Seche has a lead of 5:35 over the peloton.

The race is traveling southeast again today, 172 km from ZooPark de Beauval – Saint Aignan to Saint-Amand-Montrond.

The stage started with a moment of silence in memory of those who died in the helicoptor crash in Argentina, including three prominent French athletes. Cyclingnews sends its condolences to the family, friends and fans of those who perished. The victims were participants in a reality tv show. Cyclist Jeannie Longo is also taking part in the show, but was apparently not in any way involved in the tragic accident.

Sprinter Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) is wearing a mourning band today in honour of his close friend, boxer Alexis Vastine, who died in that crash.

122km remaining from 172km

After 50 km, Gerard has a lead of 7:15.

 

Today’s stage is just about as flat as it can be. There is one obstacle along the way, the cat 3 climb Cote de la Tour some 29 km before the finish. So yes, we expect another bunch sprint at the end.

112km remaining from 172km

The field is obviously happy to let Gerard go. He now has 8:25 after 60 km. 

 

That climb near the end, by the way, is 2.1 km long with an average gradient of 4.2%. We doubt that much of anyone will have difficulty with that.

To absolutely no one's surprise, Gerard won the first intermediate sprint. We may see some action for the remaining bonus seconds when the peloton hits the line. 

 

Just a reminder that World Champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) continues to lead the race over Rohan Dennis (Cannondale-Garmin) who is in the same time. Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep is third at seven seconds, and Giant-Alpecin’s John Degenkolb is lurking in fourth, ready to take the lead if he can win the stage.

We did indeed have a battle at the sprint and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) once again beat John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin).

 

Kwiatkowski also leads the points competition. The jersey will be worn today by second-ranked Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), who has the same number of points. Dennis is third.

The best team going into today’s stage is BMC, ahead of Etixx-QuickStep and Astana.

Bretagne-Seche’s Jonathan Hivert grabbed the four points available yesterday to wear the polka-dot jersey today. Thomas De Gendt (Astana) and Phillipe Gilbert (BMC) follow him.

Kwiatkowski could also be wearing white today, if he wasn’t in yellow. He leads the young rider ranking, with Dennis in second and Michael Matthews third.

158 riders took to the start at the zoo this morning. We had one DNF yesterday, Tom Boonen, who had to leave after his dramatic crash.

Boonen suffered a dislocated left shoulder in that crash yesterday, a serious injury which will take him out of his beloved Classics. There is in fact speculation that this might even a career-ending injury, and his father has told the Belgian media that his son should now look to the Worlds in September as his season highlight.

The weather is not totally co-operating today. The riders left the zoo under gray skies and rain drops. It has continued to rain lightly throughout the stage, but we are assured that the sun is shining at the finish.

Kristoff now has five wins this season and is definitely a force to be reckoned with. You can read here about how he won yesterday’s stage.

There was a lot of wondering yesterday as to Degenkolb’s action in the finale – he went in the wind much too early. He explained why, on his website. “When I saw the sign, I thought it said the last 200 meters and I went for it. But when I looked again, I saw that it was the 300 meter marker. By the time I registered that, I was already going all out. It was like a real electrical shock. I knew right away, it was not going to work out. With the rival sprinters there, you can’t afford to make a mistake like that. Of course I couldn’t keep up that pace to the finish and had to just roll on in. Oh well. When I am back in Germany, the first thing I will do is to make an appointment to have my eyes examined.”

Two Tinkoff-Saxo riders are leading the peloton. Their rather fluorescent rain jackets are helpful on this misty, rainy day.

 

Gustav Larsson of Cult Energy is the next to try for the hour world record. He decided to do without the media hype and only announced today that he will go for the record this weekend in Manchester.

80km remaining from 172km

The field has just gone through the feed zone. Meanwhile, Gerard still has a lead of 7:20.

 

Yet another inquiry has yet again found that Marco Pantani was not murdered, but that he died of an overdose of anti-depressants, with his use of cocaine to be a contributing factor.

The peloton is on a long straight road. Very long, very straight. We applaud them for staying awake.

 

RT @chrisfroome: @PaulKimmage FYI - my last test. I have ticked it since this was introduced. http://t.co/JZZPk9vhDO

@lukascph Tue, 10th Mar 2015 13:21:44

66km remaining from 172km

66km to go, and nothing has changed. Gerard still has 7:30 on the field.

 

Breaking news: @albertocontador has signed with @tinkoff_saxo for 2016! Best stays with the best! #TirrenoAdriatico http://t.co/8Irynfm45Q

@olegtinkov Tue, 10th Mar 2015 13:39:54

Tirenno-Adriatico is starting tomorrow, and Movistar is sending 2014 Giro winner Nairo Quintana. 

 

60km remaining from 172km

Various teams are taking turns at the head of the peloton. And the gap has dropped slightly, to 5:55.

 

More sad news today. Belgian ‘cross racer Patrick Gaudy died after being hit by a truck while out training. 

Either Gerard is tiring or the peloton has really picked up its speed. The gap has dropped to under four minutes, with 55.7km to go.

 

The Etixx-QuickStep doctor now says that Boonen not only dislocated his shoulder but also broke his elbow in that crash yesterday, and must undergo surgery.

 

50km remaining from 172km

And just like that the gap is two minutes!

 

Discussion of the CIRC report continues, and UCI president Cookson has hard words for his predecessors McQuaid and Verbruggen.

The peloton now faces the awkward situation of catching the escapee too soon. There are still 45 km to go.

 

Gerard won the second intermediate sprint, of course, but this time Degenkolb was able to place second ahead of Michael Matthews. Degenkolb is now only six seconds out of the race lead.

 

Etixx-QuickStep move to the head of the field, as the gap is down to 45 seconds.

Trek's Marco Coledan has punctured and gets a quick change.

 

The day's only ranked climb is rapidly approaching. That is the Cote de la Tour, 2.1 km long with an average gradient of 4.2%.

 

Things seem to be happening here. Philippe Gilbert has moved up to the front of the field, and now an Astana rider has made a move. And Gilbert gives it a go, but naturally no one wants to let him do that. All together. 

Except for Gerard, whose gap has gone back up to 1:05.

 

Gerard has just claimed the four points for the mountain ranking.

 

Quite a sprint from the field for the remaining few points, with Gilbert winning ahead of HIvert and an Astana rider. The three try to stay away from the peloton and have a slight lead.

 

Hivert, of course, wears the polka dot jersey and by securing one point just now, will hold it again tomorrow.

 

38km remaining from 172km

Gerard has started looking back to see where the field is, as well he might, as the gap is only 20 seconds.

 

The Gilbert group has been caught and Gerard will be in about two seconds.

 

Lotto's Tony Gallopin calls for the team car.

 

Looks like he just wanted a chat -- perhaps on the best way to set things up for Andre Greipel?

 

It is no longer raining at the race, but we would hardly call that brilliant sunshine.

 

No real climbing to speak of here today, so go take a look at the course at this year's Tour de Suisse, which includes a visit to a glacier. 

 

Sebastien Chavanel has punctured.

 

Cannondale Garmin has moved to the head of the peloton and picked up the pace significantly.

 

The peloton haw gone from a compact and dense group to strung out in a long line, with 24 km to go.

 

The pace picked up just about the same time Chavanel punctured. He is still dangling back amongst the cars, trying to make it back to the peloton.

 

Cannondale Garmin continues to hammer it at the head of things.

 

17 km to go......

 

Etixx-QuickStep has confirmed that Boonen has a compound fracture of the elbow. Ouch.

 

Rohan Dennis is at the back end of the field. He had better watch out, it is easy to get dropped when the pace is so high.

 

A puncture for Coquard of Europcar and he gets help. Not good for a sprinter though, with only 13 km left.

 

Coquard has a looong way to go to get back.

 

Fortunately for him the pace has slowed again. Which only makes us wonder why Cannondale-Garmin did what they did earlier.

 

Tony Martin takes off! Will he time trial his way 9 km to victory? 

 

Geraint Thomas (Sky) and Lars Boom (Astana) have now joined Martin.

 

Matti Breschel (Tinkoff Saxo) jumps to join them. 

 

More and more riders take off in pursuit.

 

Breschel falls out of the lead group with a puncture -- very bad luck for him. 

 

Martin, Boom and Thomas maintain a slight lead over the peloton.

 

5 km to go, and stll a gap for the three leaders. The chasing field is not really working together  -- every team for itself.

 

Three km to go....maybe 7 seconds lead for the leading trio?

 

2 km, and Martin, Boom and Thomas look around.

 

With 1.6km the three are caught. Lotto takes over the lead work. 

 

The speed is so high that a grow of about 20 has formed in front.

 

lotto is doing all for Greipel,it is between him and Bouhanni, but the German champion thinks he has won the photo finish.

 

Degenkolb was too far back and couldn't get up to the front.

 

Greipel has indeed won, ahead of Demare and Degenkolb.

 

That is Greipel's second win this year, having won a stage at the Volta ao Algarve.

 

Third place gives Degenkolb a few more bonus seconds, but it is still not enough to give him the overall lead. He is third, down by only two seconds.

 

Here the top ten on the stage:

1 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal 4:30:18

2 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ.fr

3 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin

4 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica GreenEdge  

5 Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team

6 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits

7 Moreno Hofland (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo

8 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha

9 Jonas van Genechten (Bel) IAM Cycling

10 Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre-Merida

"I am very proud of my teammates and happy that I could deliver," Greipel said. "This win is for my Mom, don't give up!"

 

The UCI has just announced that Lloyd Mondory (AG2R) tested positive for EPO last month.

 

General classification after stage 2

1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Etixx - Quick-Step 9:53:16

2 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team

3 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:02

4 Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:07

5 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica GreenEdge 0:00:09

6 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team 0:00:10

7 Lars Boom (Ned) Astana Pro Team

8 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling

9 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:13

10 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky

 

That's it for today. We have lots of fun planned for tomorrow, as we have both Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico!

 

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