Bradley Wiggins (SKY) made his ambitions clear in this Paris-Nice when he seized the reins in the rain after the 185.5-kms second stage won by Tom Boonen (OPQ) in Orleans. Frustrated after missing top spot by a second in Sunday’s opener, mostly because of the rain, the Briton made the best of the weather this time, using crosswinds to his advantage to join the winning echelon and take more time over most of his rivals for final victory. The former pursuit Olympic champion even grabbed three bonus seconds in the only intermediate sprint of the day for good measure. He now leads Levi Leipheimer (OPQ) by six seconds overall and Boonen by seven. In the finale, his job done, the Team Sky leader left the sprinters in the 21-man break have the final say. The Omega Pharma-Quick Step were justly rewarded for their efforts all day when Boonen surged to beat Jose Joaquin Rojas (MOV) and John Degenkolb (PRO) on the line.
Kaisen first in action
Bruised in a hard crash in the first stage, Nick Nuyens tried to start but was forced to call it quits before the gun. With strong headwind and crosswinds, the pace was rather slow at first (30 kph in the first hour).
The pace increased a bit and a first attempt took place at kilometre 60.5 in Rambouillet when Olivier Kaisen (LTB) broke clear. The Namur-born rider, who held a maximum lead of 2:50 (km 84), was first on top of the only climb of the day (Côte des Granges-le-Roi, 3rd cat) ahead of Thomas De Gendt (VCD), who retained his polka-dot jersey.
Ivan Basso (LIQ) crashed at km 72 but was quickly back on his bike. The tempo went up a gear again after the feeding zone (km 93.5) and echelons took shape at the initiative of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team. A first group of eleven riders caught Kaisen at km 99 and a group of 30 emerged at kilometre 100.
Among the first riders to be dropped was Andy Schleck (RNT), who had lost 1:02 in Sunday’s opening time trial. As for yellow jersey holder Gustav Larsson, he was trapped in the second part of the peloton. The leading group, cut down to 21 after a crash at km 108, included most of the other favourites – Bradley Wiggins, Tejay Van Garderen, Levi Leipheimer, Sylvain Chavanel, Tom Boonen or Alejandro Valverde.
100th for Boonen
The field was spread all over the course and the yellow jersey group, led by Saur-Sojasun riders chased in vain, some two minutes adrift (2:17 with 25 kms to go). The gap remained stable until the finish line. In the last two kilometres, Sylvain Chavanel took the reins of the leading group to avoid any late attempts, paving the way for Boonen to crown a brilliant day.
The Belgian surged to hold Rojas at bay and win his 6th victory on Paris-Nice, six years before the last.
"It was a hard day with the crosswind. We fought a hard battle all day because there were GC contenders in the leading group. And I’m glad to finish a day like this with my 100th victory.
To win races is always a good sign. I went to Tirreno-Adriatico these last four years but I wanted to change a bit. I know I always had good seasons when I rode Paris-Nice. Usually I’m at my best in the following classics. I won good races this season, including bunch sprints, which confirms that the form is here.
Sylvain (Chavanel) worked well today. He’s a friend, I’m glad to spend these last seasons with him. Today he helped me but I know my time will come to help him or Levi Leipheimer, who will race for the GC in the next stages."
Top five placings in the 185.5-kms second stage of Paris-Nice between Mantes-la-Jolie and Orleans:
1. Tom Boonen (OPQ)
2. Jose Joaquin Rojas (MOV)
3. John Degenkolb (PRO)
4. Sep Vanmarcke (GRM)
5. Francesco Gavazzi (AST)
Belgian Tom Boonen (OPQ) wins the 185.5-kms 2nd stage to Orleans.
Sep Vanmarcke (GRM) attacks but is reined in.
and Chavanel still leads the way for Tom Boonen.
Chavanel leads the way into the last 2 kms. A team effort by the Omega Pharma-Quick Step?
Every day, Bernard Hinault gives us his views on the day’s stage and the riders to watch:
For the time being, nobody can be ruled out. Even if a few favourites like Valverde lost a little bit of time, they can always make it back into the game. Especially as with a 20 or 30 seconds gap, they will be less under watch, which can give them opportunities.
Today, there is a good chance of a mass sprint and I’ll be curious to see what Tom Boonen is going to do. He impressed me in yesterday’s time-trial for I followed him and he was extremely fast, even in a climb that did not suit him. There are a lot of up and coming young sprinters but Boonen is winning again this year. He may have known a couple of average seasons before working hard again. He means to play leading roles in the cobbled classics in Spring and on his current form, he can pick a couple of races along the way. If he has a chance, he won’t miss it. He is a competitor.