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After a perfect lead-out by Henderson, Greipel narrowly held off Demare and Degenkolb to win stage 2 of Paris-Nice; Kwiatkowski finished near the front and defended his overall lead

Photo: Lotto Soudal

ANDRÉ GREIPEL

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ARNAUD DEMARE

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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JOHN DEGENKOLB

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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MICHAL KWIATKOWSKI

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PARIS - NICE

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10.03.2015 @ 16:49 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

One day after a big disappointment, André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) got his revenge when he won stage 2 of Paris-Nice after a tough drag race against Arnaud Demare (FDJ). The German was given the perfect lead-out by Greg Henderson and  narrowly held off the Frenchman and a fast-finishing John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) while Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) defended his overall lead.

 

Yesterday André Greipel and Lotto Soudal were left hugely frustrated when the Belgian team had done most of the work to catch the early break, just to see Greipel lose the wheel of his teammates in the hectic finale. Having finished a disappointing 19th, the German was intent on making amends in today’s second stage of the race and with a deserved victory, he delivered on his promises.

 

This year Greipel has had a slower start to the season to be stronger and fresher for the classics and so he went into the French race with just a single victory from the Volta ao Algarve on his account. Furthermore, he had been set back by illness just before Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne but his riding in Portugal indicated that he is in great condition.

 

Today he confirmed that assessment by doing an excellent sprint at the end of the flat stage to Saint-Armand-Montrond and like yesterday he was greatly supported by his teammates who put him in the perfect position,

 

However, it nearly seemed as if the sprinters would be denied. With 9km to go, Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) attacked and he was joined first by Lars Boom (Astana), then Geraint Thomas (Sky) and finally Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) to form a very strong quartet. As the peloton didn’t react, they quickly got a nice gap, with just a single Lampre-Merida rider working on the front.

 

The lack of reaction opened the doors for new attacks. Jerome Pineau (IAM) was the first to make a move and he was joined by Tony Gallopin, Tim Wellens (both Lotto Dousal), Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), William Bonnet (FDJ) and Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r) to form another very strong group. However, Cofidis now started to chase and they brought that group back.

 

Disaster struck for Breschel who punctured out of the leader group. Meanwhile, a single Cofidis rider was doing all the work and so the front trio extended their advantage.

 

With 6km to go, Orica-GreenEDGE committed Michael Albasini, Simon Clarke and Daryl Impey to the chase and they started to get closer to the leaders. When they blew up, Gallopin and Wellesn took over for Lotto Soudal and Clarke even managed to recover enough to lend a hand.

 

Behind the working trio, the sprint teams were starting to get organized and with 2km to go, Lotto Soudal closed the final bit of the gap. The famous train of Adam Hansen, Marcel Sieberg, Greg Henderson and Greipel now hit the front and were in the perfect position.

 

Sieberg took over but as they passed the flamme rouge, Impey, Mitchell Docker and Michael Matthews overtook them for Orica-GreenEDGE. However, Henderson and Greipel were quick to move onto the wheel of Matthews and moments later Henderson passed them all when he started his lead-out.

 

With Arnaud Demare, Matthews and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) on his wheel, Greipel started his sprint and it turned into an exciting drag race between the German and the French champion. The Lotto Soudal rider came out on top as he narrowly held off the FDJ rival while John Degenkolb came fast at the end to complete the podium.

 

Michal Kwiatkowski stayed attentively near the front and so he defended his overall lead. He goes into the third stage equal on time with Rohan Dennis (BMC) but with bonus seconds Degenkolb has moved into third, just 2 seconds behind. The German has a chance to take the lead tomorrow which should be another day for the sprinters as the only challenges are three small category 3 climbs at the midpoint of the stage.

 

Another one for the sprinters

After the flat stage 1, the sprinters were again expected to shine in stage 2 which brought the riders over 172km from Zooparc de Beauval to Saint-Armand-Montrond. Like the opening road stage, it was an almost completely flat affair that finished with a 45km circuit around the finishing city. The circuit included the only KOM sprint of the day, with the small category 3 Cote de la Tour coming with 41km to go.

 

All riders who finished yesterday’s stage took the start under a cloudy sky, with a light drizzle making the roads slippery. However, there was no wind at all, making a repeat of the dramatic 2013 Tour de France stage to Saint-Armand-Montrond very unlikely.

 

Gerard takes off

The Paris-Nice peloton held a minute of silence at the start of today's stage in memory of the ten persons, including  three French athletes, killed during the filming of a television show in Argentina on Monday. Olympic swimming champion Camille Muffat, boxing Olympic bronze-medallist Alexis Vastine and popular yachtswoman Florence Arthaud died when their helicopter crashed in remote Argentina. Seven other persons working on the show were also killed in the crash.

 

Everybody expected the stage to be decided in a bunch sprint and so there was no real desire to go on the attack. Arnaud Gerard (Bretagne) attacked straight from the gun and no one wanted to join him.

 

No organized chase

The scenario was perfect for the sprinters and so the peloton slowed completely down. After 4km of racing, the lone Frenchman was already 1.50 ahead and 4km later, he had extended it to 2.30.

 

The gap reached 3.20 at the 14.5km mark and after the first hour, Gerard had extended his advantage to 5.35. At this point, a few Trek riders led the peloton but they showed no interest in reeling the Bretagne rider in and as he approached the first intermediate sprint at the 57.5km mark, the gap had reached 8.25.

 

Bonus seconds for Kristoff and Degenkolb

While Gerard of course won the sprint, the big sprinters battled it out for the remaining points and seconds. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) beat John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and so picked up to seconds to move into 11th on GC. At this point, the gap was 7.25.

 

The chase was still not organized as it was just the Tinkoff-Saxo duo of Michael Valgren and Matti Breschel who rode on the front. Later they were replaced by most of the Movistar team but with neither Gerard nor the peloton riding fast, the gap just stayed at around 7.30 for a very long time.

 

Mate starts to chase

Martin decided to make a bit of a workout by briefly starting to chase before he again disappeared, leaving it to Cofidis to be on the front. The French team decided that it was time to kick into action and they started to chase with Luis Angel Mate.

 

The Spaniard was not riding very fast but it was enough to quickly bring the gap down. With 60km to go it was 5.40 and 3km later, it was already down to just 3.50.

 

More seconds for Degenkolb

The peloton was now approaching the final intermediate sprint and this made things more nervous as more teams started to move into position. However, Mate was still doing all the work before Gerard reached the line to win the sprint.

 

Giant-Alpecin decided to do a full lead-out for Degenkolb who narrowly held of Matthews in the sprint for the bonus seconds, moving into third in the overall standings. The pace went down again as Stijn Vandenbergh rode slowly on the front for Etixx-QuickStep and this allowed the gap to grow from 45 seconds to 1.10 as they hit the only climb of the day.

 

Hivert and Gilbert battle for KOM points

Boom, Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Michal Golas (Etixx-QuickStep), Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Pierrick Fedrigo (Bretagne) and Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida) all attacked on the lower slopes and when they were brought back, Boom took off again. He was joined by Fedrigo and later also Gilbert but they were soon brought back.

 

Mate briefly went back to work while Gerard crested the summit as the first rider. Then Fedrigo led Jonathan Hivert out for the sprint but Gilbert easily beat the Frenchman who took third and so defended his mountains jersey.

 

Cannondale-Garmin attack

Gilbert, Hivert and Laurens De Vreese (Astana) had a gap and while Gerard waited for them, De Vreese tried to keep it going. As he didn’t get any help, however, it all came back together with 37km to go.

 

Astana, Ag2r, Etixx-QuicksStep and Cannondale-Garmin lined out their teams on the front, with De Vreese, Johan Vansummeren, Vandenbergh and Johan Vansummeren riding in the wind. No one showed any interest in upping the pace until Cannondale suddenly accelerated with 27km to go.

 

Mechanical for Coquard

With Ted King, Ben King, Tom-Jelte Slagter, Dylan van Baarle, Sebastian Langeveld and Jack Bauer all working on the front, they set a brutal pace while the other teams tried to stay well-positioned further back. Meanwhile, Sebastien Chavanel (FDJ) had to work hard to get back after a puncture.

 

With 13km to go, Bryan Coquard (Europcar) suffered a mechanical but he was lucky that Cannondale stopped their acceleration just at that time. While De Vreese, Mario Costa (Lampre-Merida), Christian Knees (Sky), Vandenbergh and van Baarle were lined out on the front, the Frenchman rejoined the peloton. Just as that happened, however, Martin made his attack which started the hectic finale.

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