Gregory Henderson clinched a carbon copy of his victory in Contres a year ago, outsprinting the rest of the field to win the second stage of Paris-Nice in Amilly. Ideally set by team-mate Geraint Thomas, the New Zealander surged with 200 metres to go to upstage young Austalia’ Matthew Goss (THR) and Russia’s Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha), who celebrated his 24th birthday with a podium place.The yellow jersey stayed on the shoulders of Belgiums Thomas de Gendt (Vancansoleil) who even attacked two kilometres from the line, showing tremendous character.The stage was nervous all day and marred by several crashes which involved several favourites like Frank Schleck, Tony Martin or Heinrich Haussler, who still managed to finish fourth.
Three French riders attacked from the gun: Yoann Offredo (FDJ), Maxime Bouet (AG2R) and Tony Gallopin (Cofidis). Their lead rapidly increased and reached five minutes at kilometre 23 in Rambouillet. The three saw their lead checked by the Vacansoleil team-mates of overall leader Thomas de Gendt and remained stable at around five minutes as they crossed Gallopin’s birthplace of Dourdan (km 41.5). Gallopin also won the sprint held in Pussay (km 66), close to his family’s home.
The pace was faster than in the first stage and too fast for Cofidis leader David Moncoutie, who gave up after 50 kms with a knee injury.
Two is better…
The gap decreased until Offredo was asked by his team chiefs to wait for the peloton (km 81), leaving Gallopin and Bouet to continue their move. The gap, which had gone down to three minutes, went up again ( a maximum of 6:15 at the feeding zone at km 93.5).
But after 100 kms, the peloton, led by Team Sky, decided to raise the tempo. The gap went down to 1:30 (km 118). While several riders were dropped, Argentina’s Lucas Haedo (Saxo Bank) crashed into a motorbike and gave up. Hampered by headwind, the peloton ceased to chase too hard and the break regained momentum (4:00 after 129 kms).
The gap continued to go up and down as the pack, mainly controlled by De Gendt’s Vacansoleil team, played hide and seek. A few crashes took place, the most notable involving Luxembourg’s Frank Schleck (km 156), who was escorted by four team-mates back into the peloton. The second sprint (km 153.5) was won by Gallopin ahead of Bouet but De Gendt did not miss his chance to take third place and bag a one-second bonus.
At kilometre 160, Bouet and Gallopin were halted by a railway crossing, which also stopped the main pack. The two were allowed to start again with their 45 seconds lead over the peloton at the time of the interruption.
Six kilometres later, Gallopin decided to call it a day, leaving Bouet alone in the front.
The AG2R rider was caught with 30 kms to go, as the bunch was again hit by several pile-ups. Heinrich Haussler (Garmin) fell into a roadside ditch (km 167) shortly before Tony Martin (THR) was also stopped by a collective crash also involving Vladimir Gusev (Katusha).
As the peloton regrouped, Astana took it in their own hands to toughen the race in the last 15 kms, causing more splits. Several riders were dropped but the mass sprint was unavoidable. HTC-Highroad riders led the way for Goss but were unable to react when Geraint Thomas surged and led out for Henderson.
I was really motivated today I wanted to stay close each day so I can take the yellow jersey. It’s always fantastic here, it’s an amazing race, it’s the biggest race for me, it’s the Everest. I won twice in it, the second year… But I owe it to a great lead-out by team-mate Geraint Thomas, I was just sitting there waiting. It was a really long sprint and I was lucky to hold the speed to the line.
It was crazy today, so nervous. Everyone was scared of the wind breaking the peloton to pieces. There were so many crashes, like ten crashes in the finish, it was just crazy. In the finale, it was just a matter of staying at the front as much as possible.
Now I’ll switch to helping. I’m not too sure I’ll have a go tomorrow. It will be full support for Brad Wiggins and Mick Rogers from now on.
1. Gregory Henderson (New Zealand) Team Sky
2. Matthew Goss (Australia) HTC-Highroad
3. Denis Galimzyanov (Russia) Katusha
4. Romain Feillu (France) Vacansoleil
5. Peter Sagan (Slovakia) Liquigas.
New Zealand’s Gregory Henderson wins the 199-kms 2nd stage of Paris-Nice.
The HTC-Columbia riders lead the sprint.
Race leader De Gendt attacks! He is quickly reined in but that was bold...
Luis-Leon Sanchez punctured with 2.5 kms to go.