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Paris - Nice 2016: Stage 2

Live coverage of stage 2 of Paris-Nice, 213.5 kilometres from Contres to Commentry.

135km remaining from 214km

As we pick up the action with 135 kilometres to race, a break of four riders has a lead of 5:35 over the peloton. Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida), Mathias Brandle (IAM Cycling), Anthony Delaplace (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Evaldas Siskevicius (Delko Marseille Provence) attacked as soon as the flag was dropped and quickly established a lead.

After 20 kilometres, the four leaders had an advantage of more than ten minutes, but the Orica-GreenEdge team of race leader Michael Matthews and the Etixx-QuickStep team of the favourite for stage honours today, Marcel Kittel, have since set about snipping the margin back to more manageable dimensions.

 

Delaplace is our maillot jaune virtuel, incidentally. He started the day 53 seconds down on Michael Matthews. After Monday's entertaining finale over the chalk roads of Vendôme, the business end of the general classification was as follows:

1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 4:37:30
2 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:03
3 Patrick Bevin (NZl) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:04
4 Jon Izaguirre (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:08
5 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
6 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana Pro Team 0:00:09
7 Dries Devenyns (Bel) IAM Cycling 0:00:10
8 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:12
9 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ 0:00:14
10 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 0:00:15
11 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 0:00:16
12 Gorka Izaguirre (Spa) Movistar Team
13 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff Team
14 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:17
15 Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team 0:00:18
16 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal
17 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff Team
18 Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:20
19 Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Team Katusha 0:00:21
20 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx - Quick-Step

 

127km remaining from 214km

After yesterday's snowfall, conditions are a little more temperate on the road to Commentry this afternoon, with the temperature hovering around the 8 degree mark. Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) made a cogent point when he queried why the UCI's extreme weather protocol hadn't been implemented during stage 1. "It was freezing. It's just unfortunate that nothing happens and nobody takes the initiative. It is already the 35th time that nothing happens. It was too cold to talk. And we have not yet talked to the organizers," Boonen told Sporza.

 

120km remaining from 214km

The break's advantage has been falling steadily over the past 25 kilometres and now stands at 3:55.

 

Even though there is some rolling terrain in the final 50 kilometres today, including the category 3 Côte d'Estivareilles, it's hard to picture today's stage finishing in anything other than a bunch sprint, particularly given how limited the opportunities are for the fast men later in the week.

 

Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) is the obvious favourite, though the German will be disappointed to have lost contact with the peloton on the final lap over the chalk roads yesterday afternoon. A mechanical problem did for Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) in Vendome, but both men should be to the fore this afternoon.

 

Arnaud Démare's confidence will be on a high after his win in the reduced sprint yesterday, while Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) will be smarting from defeat at the hands of his long-time rival. Yesterday's finale undoubtedly suited Ben Swift (Sky) better than today's, but the Briton ought to be in the mix again as he continues his build-up to Milan-San Remo.

 

112km remaining from 214km

Tsgabu Grmay will hope to be back in France in July - he has been included in Lampre-Merida's long list for the Tour and would become the first Ethiopian to participate in La Grande Boucle if selected. His girlfriend, Hadnet Asmelash, is looking to make the breakthrough on the European scene in 2016, as Pierre Carrey reported from the African Championships in Casablanca last month.

 

Michael Matthews is sitting safely towards the front of the peloton, surrounded by his Orica-GreenEdge teammates. Yesterday's punchy finale seemed well-suited to his characteristics, but he had to settle for 5th place, though as the Australian explained afterwards, preserving his overall lead was the priority.

 

100km remaining from 214km

Into the final hundred kilometres for our four escapees, and their lead has stabilised at around 3:30 for now.

 

91km remaining from 214km

The pace has yet to ratchet up in earnest in the peloton, but the tempo set by Orica-GreenEdge and Etixx-QuickStep continues to make gradual inroads into the four escapees' lead. The gap now stands at three minutes.

 

Paris-Nice organiser ASO has today announced that it will re-launch the Deutschland Tour within the next two years, after penning an agreement with the German Cycling Federation. The Deutschland Tour has been off the calendar since 2008. ASO's foray into Germany is particularly interesting, of course, in light of the ongoing impasse with the UCI over the proposed WorldTour reforms.

 

80km remaining from 214km

There has been a discernible injection of pace over the past ten kilometres or so, but Delaplace, Grmay, Brandle and Siskevicius remain a shade over three minutes clear of the peloton.

 

There was one non-starter today, incidentally. Jerome Coppel (IAM Cycling) placed 10th in Sunday's prologue but pulled out of Paris-Nice this morning due to sinusitis. 

 

Movistar's Juan Jose Lobato, meanwhile, abandoned a little more than 40 kilometres into today's stage, which is far from ideal preparation for Milan-San Remo for one of the dark horses for La Classicissima.

 

70km remaining from 214km

A brief slackening of the tempo in the peloton has allowed our four escapees to stretch out their advantage ever so slightly. The gap now stands at 3:25.

 

64km remaining from 214km

While Paris-Nice is already in full swing, the other major stage racing action this week gets underway at Lido di Camaiore tomorrow. You can read our man in Tuscany Stephen Farrand's preview here.

 

60km remaining from 214km

Our four leaders - Delaplace, Grmay, Brandle and Siskevicius - enter the final 60 kilometres of racing clutching a lead of 3:15. We can expect the sprinters' teams to set about the business of stripping it from them shortly.

 

55km remaining from 214km

The speed is ratcheting upwards in the main peloton as Etixx-QuickStep take up the reins at the front. The break's lead slips below three minutes.

 

Delegations from Katusha and Lotto-Soudal are also moving towards the head of the bunch. The sprinters' teams won't want to let this opportunity slip away from them.

 

51km remaining from 214km

The break tackles the category 3 Côte d'Estivareilles with a lead of 2:32 in hand on the peloton.

 

Anthony Delaplace (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) wins the sprint atop the Côte d'Estivareilles, which will put the Frenchman in the polka dot jersey this evening.

 

47km remaining from 214km

Orica-GreenEdge, Etixx-QuickStep and Katusha have formed a decent working coalition at the front, and they're have the break's lead pegged at 2:30 for now.

 

43km remaining from 214km

The four escapees are still collaborating well out in front, with Matthias Brandle pedalling particularly smoothly on the front, but they know they are fighting a losing battle at this point. 2:12 the gap.

 

Stijn Vandenbergh puts in a mammoth turn at the head of the peloton. Marcel Kittel won't want for support - he has the core of Etixx-QuickStep's Classics unit at his disposal this afternoon.

 

40km remaining from 214km

A delegation from FDJ has joined the pace-setting at the head of the peloton, and the break's lead drops to 1:50.

 

It's not a day that should trouble the overall contenders but it's interesting to note that Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) is a vigilant presence towards the head of the peloton as we approach the finale.

 

35km remaining from 214km

Tom Boonen drops back to his team car to deposit a jacket and then quickly makes his way back up to the peloton.

 

Katusha, Etixx-QuickStep and Orica-GreenEdge are maintaining their working alliance on the head of the peloton, though it's notable that Andre Greipel's Lotto-Soudal team haven't been forced to contribute too much thus far.

 

33km remaining from 214km

Brändle puts in another long turn on the front of the break, but they continue to haemorrhage time. The gap has been pared back to just over a minute.

 

30km remaining from 214km

Philippe Gilbert (BMC) suffered a back injury when he crashed at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last week, and he insisted that he is at Paris-Nice simply to prepare for Milan-San Remo. The Belgian is at the rear of the peloton here, but seems about as comfortable as one can be in the circumstances, as Etixx-QuickStep continue to wind up the pace at the front.

 

28km remaining from 214km

And then there were three... Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida) sits up and leaves Delaplace, Brandle and Siskevicius to their mission impossible out in front.

 

26km remaining from 214km

Brandle, Siskevicius and Delaplace have a lead of 55 seconds over the peloton, which continues to be paced by Etixx-QuickStep.

 

Defending Paris-Nice champion Richie Porte is well-positioned a couple of rows back from the front of the peloton, surrounded by a phalanx of BMC teammates.

 

24km remaining from 214km

Michael Matthews lost his lead-out man Daryl Impey to a puncture at a particularly critical juncture yesterday, but the yellow jersey has plenty of teammates around him this afternoon.

 

23km remaining from 214km

The peloton enters the finishing circuit around Commentry and will pace the finish line for the first time with 17 kilometres remaining. This sighter of the final 6 kilometres will be particularly useful for the fast men, given some of its technicalities. 

 

Alberto Contador and his praetorian guard from Tinkoff have marshalled towards the front of the peloton. Porte and his BMC teammates are up there, too, along with a Sky delegation riding in support of Geraint Thomas.

 

20km remaining from 214km

Arndaud Demare's FDJ teammates lead the peloton under the 20km to go banner. Their deficit to the three remaining escapees is just 40 seconds.

 

As befits his status as a former UCI Hour Record holder, Brandle is doing the lion's share of the pace-setting in the break. 

 

18km remaining from 214km

The break passes the flame rouge and approaches the finish for the first time. It's a relatively complicated finale - the roads are quite narrow and there's a left-hand corner with a shade over 150 metres to go.

 

17km remaining from 214km

The bunch takes the bell some 40 seconds down on the break. Everybody appears to have come unscathed through the first passage of the finish in Commentry.

 

16km remaining from 214km

And now there are two... Siskevicius attacks and while Brandle follows with ease, Delaplace is distanced.

 

14km remaining from 214km

Contador and his Tinkoff guard remain massed at the head of the peloton, with Matteo Tosatto prominent. Dimension Data and Astana are also muscling their way to the front.

 

13km remaining from 214km

The bunch is bearing down on the leading pairing of Brandle and Siskevicius, and their lead is down to just 12 seconds.

 

12km remaining from 214km

Siskevicius and Brandle sit up and share a handshake. Their day is done. Gruppo compatto with a shade over 12 kilometres remaining.

 

Brandle and Siskevicius continue their amiable conversation as they are swiftly deposited out the back of the peloton. Grmay and Delaplace, their erstwhile companions, have already made the same swift journey back through the bunch.

 

10km remaining from 214km

No one team has as yet managed to grab this finale by the scruff of the neck, with Kittel's Etixx-QuickStep team content to maintain a watching brief for now. Trek-Segafredo move up with Niccolo Bonifazio in mind.

 

9km remaining from 214km

It's set to be a fraught battle for positions in this final kilometres around Commentry. Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) is poised with intent towards the front.

 

7km remaining from 214km

Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) rider has gone off the road and crashed. We haven't seen a replay of the incident, but it appears as though he hit a spectator on the roadside.

 

5km remaining from 214km

Etixx-QuickStep, Lotto-Soudal and Giant-Alpecin move up, but it is Alberto Contador's Tinkoff team pulling the peloton for the time being.

 

4km remaining from 214km

Michael Valgren (Tinkoff) drills on the front of the peloton as the sprinters' teams continue to scramble for position behind.

 

3km remaining from 214km

Delegations from Cofidis, Katusha, Sky and IAM Cycling are all visible near the front. Bouhanni, in particular, seems well placed.

 

2km remaining from 214km

IAM Cycling take up the reins as the bunch separates around a nasty traffic island and roundabout combination.

 

2km remaining from 214km

IAM Cycling lead into the final two kilometres. Contador's Tinkoff guard have dropped back.

 

1km remaining from 214km

Cofidis and Orica-GreenEdge take over at the head of the peloton on the final approach to the line.

 

1km remaining from 214km

Marcel Kittel's Etixx-QuickStep guard is nowhere to be seen under the red kite.

 

Cofidis lead into the final 300 metres, but Matthews is tucked onto Bouhanni's wheel...

 

Bouhanni leads into the final corner...

 

There's contact between Matthews and Bouhanni in the finishing straight...

 

Bouhanni crosses the line first but Matthews raises an arm in protest. The commissaires may well reverse this result.

 

The overhead shot shows Nacer Bouhanni didn't deviate from his line in his sprint, but he did poke out an elbow and lean on Matthews, and they almost both came a cropper against the barriers.

 

Niccolo Bonifizaio (Trek-Segafredo) took third in that sprint, incidentally, but it's all about how the judges decide to interpret that Bouhanni-Matthews incident in the finishing straight.

 

Matthews feels Bouhanni stuck his elbow out and impeded him. Bouhanni, judging from how he waved off Matthews' protests, will claim that Matthews went for a gap that didn't exist.

 

Provisional result:

1 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
2 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
3 Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
4 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
5 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
6 Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky
7 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
8 Wouter Wippert (Ned) Cannondale Pro Cycling
9 Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie
10 Jonas Vangenechten (Bel) IAM Cycling

 

Bouhanni has done a brief flash interview - "It was very hard, I went from 200 metres out and it was tricky. The train worked well" - but, perhaps tellingly, he has yet to be feted on the podium as the commissaires review the tape of the sprint.

 

It seems Bouhanni has been stripped of the win. His expression suggests as much as he waits by the finish area, but we await official confirmation.

 

Nacer Bouhanni has been relegated to third on the stage. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) is the stage winner and retains his overall lead.

 

Bouhanni, Bonifazio and Matthews had a one-second lead over the fourth-placed Kristoff, which means that Bouhanni is relegated to third on the stage rather than the back of the peloton, but that will be of scant consolation to the Frenchman right now.

 

Result:

1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
2 Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
3 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
4 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha 00:00:01
5 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
6 Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky
7 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
8 Wouter Wippert (Ned) Cannondale Pro Cycling
9 Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie
10 Jonas Vangenechten (Bel) IAM Cycling
 

 

Matthews, incidentally, also picks up a ten-second time bonus for winning the stage. A man who can win as he did at Montecassino at the 2014 Giro d'Italia might well have the wherewithal to defend that sort of cushion at Mont Brouilly at the end of tomorrow's potentially explosive stage.

 

General classification:

1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica GreenEdge 09:41:50
2 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 00:00:14
3 Patrick Bevin (NZl) Cannondale 00:00:19
4 Ion Izaguirre (Spa) Movistar Team
5 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
 

 

General classification:

1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica GreenEdge 09:41:50
2 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 00:00:14
3 Patrick Bevin (NZl) Cannondale 00:00:19
4 Ion Izaguirre (Spa) Movistar Team
5 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
6 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana Pro Team 00:00:24
7 Dries Denenyns (Bel) IAM Cycling 00:00:25
8 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
9 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff 00:00:27
10 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team

Thanks for joining our live coverage this afternoon on Cyclingnews. A full report, results and pictures will follow here, and we'll have all the news and reaction from that fraught finish. We'll be back tomorrow with more live coverage from both Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico.

 

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