HAUSSLER Heinrich (CTT)Â© Presse Sports
German prospect Heinrich Haussler won the 195.5-kms second stage of Paris-Nice, confirming his finishing talent. Winner of two stages this year in the Tour of Algarve, the Cervelo rider surged in the last 200 metres and stormed to his first stage victory in the Race to the Sun ahead of Australiaâ€™s Mark Renshaw (Columbia-High Road) and Italyâ€™s Mirco Lorenzetto (Lampre).
Alberto Contador (Astana) retained his yellow jersey despite a big scare in the last two kilometres, when the first stage winner was held by a crash.
Thanks to his stage win, Hassler, 25, who has also won stages in the Vuelta and Dauphine Libere in the past, took over the points classification green jersey.
Four man break
The start was given to 159 riders at 1:55. Dutchman Piet Rooijakkers (Skil Shimano) attacked on the gun. He was joined by Spainâ€™s Aitor Hernandez (Euskaltel), Belarus Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas) and Franceâ€™s Christophe Laurent (Agritubel). The four led the bunch by 1:15 after five kilometres and the gap increased steadily as the peloton were obviously happy to let them go (5:15 at km 25, 7:35 at most after 60 kms).
The first intermediate sprint in Sury-pres-Lere (km 59) went to Laurent, ahead of Kuschynski and Hernandez.
The Astana team of race leader Alberto Contador maintained the lead at around seven minutes on a steady tempo (42.2 kph in the first hour, 40.8 kph in the second, 36.4 kph in the third).
Hernandez takes polka-dot jersey
In the first climb of this Paris-Nice, the Cote de Sancerre (km 81), Hernandez crossed the line first ahead of Rooijakkers and Kuschynski. Five kilometres later, on the Cote de Crezancy-en-Sancerre, Kuschynski was first ahead of Hernandez, who seized the best climberâ€™s polka-dot jersey with six points.
While Astana looked content to maintain the gap under seven minutes, the break regained momentum with 60 kms to go.
Crash and split
La Francaise des Jeux, working for Sebastien Chavanel, took over from Astana in the pelotonâ€™s chase, followed by Cervelo, working for Jeremy Hunt, and then Quick Step.
A crash took place with 55 kms to go, involving Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R), Kevin de Weert (Quick Step), Gustav Larsson (Team Saxo Bank), Jose Luis Arrieta (AG2R) and Jose Angel Gomez-Marchante (Cervelo). The pile-up led to a split in the main pack, and a group of some 20 riders, including Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto), David Moncoutie (Cofidis), Vladimir Karpets (Katusha) and Oscar Pereiro (Caisse dâ€™Epargne) lost touch and found themselves some 30 seconds behind.
The Quick Step seized the reins and the breakâ€™s lead went down again (four minutes at km 158, two minutes at km 168), while the Evans group fought their way back into the peloton.
Break reined in
As the breakâ€™s lead was reduced to 30 seconds with 25 kms to go, another split took place in the peloton, again dropping Moncoutie, but also Sandy Casar (FDJ), Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) and green jersey holder Bradley Wiggins (Garmin).
The breakaway was reined in 23 kms from the finish line, Laurent trying to fight on before bowing in turn at the end of a 172-kms break.
The peloton regrouped 20 kms from the line, paving the way to a mass sprint finish. But Franceâ€™s Pierre Rolland (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) tried to fight the odds by attacking on his own. The move was over with 15 kms to go.
Scare for Contador
FDJ, Skil Shimano, Cervelo, Columbia and Lampre worked hard to prepare the final sprint when some 20 riders, including Alberto Contador, were held in a pile-up at the back with two kilometres to go. The crash had no consequence on the overall standings, having occurred within three kilometres of the finish.
Some 200 metres from the line, Haussler surged to snatch his third win of the season ahead of Renshaw and Lorenzetto. Contador retained is yello jersey.
HAUSSLER Heinrich (CTT)Â© Presse Sports
Itâ€™s pretty much a dream come true. We knew there were going to be crosswinds and there were split-ups but the boys did a great job. This is definitely a great season even if it stopped now, itâ€™s already unbelievable. But there are so many great races coming up like Flanders and Roubaix which are my main goals this season.
His crash having taken place in the last three kilometres, ALberto Contador retained his yellow jersey.
Australia’s Mark Renshaw (Columbia High Road) was second ahead of Italy’s Mirco Lorenzetto (Lampre).
Young German Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo) wins the second stage.
Yellow jersey holder Alberto Contador was held in a crash which took place at the back of the peloton. Nothing serious for the Paris-Nice favourite.
The peloton is gearing up for the mass sprint. FDJ, Skil Shimano, Columbia and Lampre are in the front.
Every morning, before the start, Bernard Hinault gives his views about the dayâ€™s stage and the riders to keep an eye on:
Iâ€™m surprised that Contador gave himself away so much in a time trial. In my opinion, he must have felt very strong and he told himself â€˜letâ€™s go for itâ€™. In any case he looks happy, relaxed, and I have the impression heâ€™s enjoying himself on the bike. Which means that he and his team can easily let a break take place tomorrow, while controlling the gap.
In his place, I would not mind handing the yellow jersey to another rider, on the condition that itâ€™s not a climber.
For even with a three or four minutes gap, Contador will be able to make it up in the end of the week, especially in the Montagne de Lure. He proved today he had the means to do it.
I was surprised by Tony Martin, a rider I didnâ€™t know and who took the young riderâ€™s white jersey. He has an impressive build, like a track specialist. When you see a rider like him, you canâ€™t help wondering what he will be up to when the road goes up.