Marcel Kittel of Argos Shimano has won Stage 2 of Paris-Nice following a tough day on which the peloton rode 200 kilometres into a headwind, the German holding off Cannondale’s Elia Viviani and Leigh Howard of Orica-GreenEdge to take the victory. Earlier crashes saw a number of riders hit the deck, including race leader Nacer Bouhanni of FDJ who abandoned, and Viviani, who won the day’s intermediate sprint and also picked up bonus seconds on the finish line, takes over the maillot jaune.
French champion Bouhanni, winner of yesterday’s opening road stage, was taken away in an ambulance after his crash, which happened with 57km still to go, although initial reports are that nothing was broken.
He was one of a number of riders to struggle to stay upright today, with the wind as well as roads made slippery by rain and occasional hail making conditions treacherous.
The rain and hail aside, it was a tough day all round for the peloton as they headed south into a strong headwind on the 200.5km stage from Vimory to Cérilly, which lies in the Alliers department and is located pretty much slap bang in the middle of France.
An early two-man breakaway had been brought back by the time the day’s main escape formed, comprising the Vacansoleil-DCM pair of Thomas De Gendt and Romain Feillu, plus AG2R’s Maxime Bouet and the Euskaltel rider, Mikel Astarloza.
They would be caught with 45km left to ride, and with the maillot jaune up for grabs following Bouhanni’s exit, Viviani and Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider Sylvain Chavanel made their intentions clear by going head to head for the intermediate sprint, which came on the first passage of the finish line, 18km from the actual end of the stage.
It was the 24-year-old Italian Viviani who prevailed, and the three seconds he picked up there plus the six he got for finishing behind Kittel means he now has a seven-second cushion over Chavanel at the top of the GC.
Paris-Nice Stage 2 result 1 Marcel KITTEL TEAM ARGOS-SHIMANO 5:42:18 2 Elia VIVIANI CANNONDALE All at same time 3 Leigh HOWARD ORICA GREENEDGE 4 Borut BOZIC ASTANA PRO TEAM 5 Samuel DUMOULIN AG2R LA MONDIALE 6 Gianni MEERSMAN OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 7 Romain FEILLU VACANSOLEIL-DCM 8 Jens DEBUSSCHERE LOTTO-BELISOL 9 Jose Joaquin ROJAS MOVISTAR TEAM 10 Tony GALLOPIN RADIOSHACK LEOPARD 11 Gregory RAST RADIOSHACK LEOPARD 12 Alessandro PETACCHI LAMPRE - MERIDA 13 Sébastien TURGOT TEAM EUROPCAR 14 Geoffrey SOUPE FDJ 15 Kris BOECKMANS VACANSOLEIL-DCM 16 Sylvain CHAVANEL OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 17 Yauheni HUTAROVICH AG2R LA MONDIALE 18 Ion IZAGIRRE EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 19 Alexander KRISTOFF KATUSHA TEAM 20 Andrew TALANSKY GARMIN - SHARP Overall standings after Stage 2 1 Elia VIVIANI CANNONDALE 10:33:11 2 Sylvain CHAVANEL OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 0:00:07 3 Damien GAUDIN TEAM EUROPCAR 0:00:08 4 Lieuwe WESTRA VACANSOLEIL-DCM 0:00:09 5 Alessandro PETACCHI LAMPRE - MERIDA 0:00:10 6 Wilco KELDERMAN BLANCO PRO CYCLING TEAM 0:00:10 7 Geoffrey SOUPE FDJ 0:00:10 8 Peter VELITS OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 0:00:11 9 Tony GALLOPIN RADIOSHACK LEOPARD 0:00:11 10 Borut BOZIC ASTANA PRO TEAM 0:00:11