Tom Boonen of Omega Pharma-Quick Step continued his terrific early season form today by winning a very select sprint in Stage 2 of Paris-Nice in Orleans from Movistar's Jose Joaquin Rodriguez and 1t4i's John Degenkolb. With a small group of riders managing to get away midway through the stage as crosswinds split the peloton, Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins, who was in the leading group that contested the finale, is the new race leader.
With the opening part of the stage ridden into a headwind, there was little opportunity of inclination for a breakaway to form, but with crosswinds blowing across the Beauce plain as the race headed towards its finish in Orleans, there was always a chance of a split in the peloton.
That’s exactly what happened just after the halfway point into the 185km stage when a dozen or so riders got away just after the feed zone. Other riders managed to get across, and the group quickly swelled to 30, including several who had finished towards the top of the standings in yesterday’s time trial.
A crash that held up riders including Garmin-Barracuda’s Heinrich Haussler subsequently reduced the number of men in the leading group to 21, and with a gap of more than two minutes as they headed into the final 10 kilometres there was no chance of the leaders being caught by a disorganised peloton.
Besides Wiggins, who had team mate Geraint Thomas for company, also making the front group were Omega Pharma Quick Step’s Levi Leipheimer, third overnight, plus two of his team mates, Sylvain Chavanel and Tom Boonen, who lay sixth and eleventh respectively. Also present was BMC Racing’s Tejay Van Garderen, fourth this morning.
Missing, however, were race leader Gustav Larsson of Vacansoleil-DCM as well as defending champion Tony Martin, who had a disappointing time trial yesterday, and the focus of his Omega Pharma-Quick Step will now switch to Leipheimer for the overall.
Yesterday, Wiggins had put in a storming time trial, shrugging off the rain that caused other late starters to take it cautiously and finishing just one second behind Larsson.
Today, he signalled his intention to win the Race to the Sun – he finished third last year – by taking the maximum bonus seconds on offer at the intermediate sprint from fellow escapees Alejandro Valverde of Movistar and RadioShack-Nissan’s Maxime Montfort, making the Team Sky man the virtual leader on the road and setting him up to be presented with the race leader’s yellow jersey following the stage.
Afterwards, Wiggins said:“They were pretty horrible conditions out there; it was cold, there was some sleet and rain around too but most importantly Geraint and myself stayed safe in that front group and managed to take the jersey.
"It’s probably going to be much the same tomorrow – it will be a bit of a free-for-all but it does help having the jersey and we can hopefully control the race a bit more. We’re in a good position to do that and looking forward to the rest of the race.
"I’m in the shape of my life at the moment and that’s thanks to the coaching team behind me who have pushed me hard all winter. They’ve never let up and the goal is the Tour in July which is what we are working towards. But this is a big early-season target, it's a big race in its own right and we're here to win it."
Sean Yates, Team Sky Sports Director, added: "The way Bradley rode reinforced our belief that he is capable of winning this race.
"The danger on days like this is throwing away the GC if you get caught out and that is what we really wanted to avoid happening.
"This obviously gives a lot of confidence now to the rest of the team to try and defend that jersey all the way to Nice and the Col d’Eze. It gives added purpose and direction to every individual. Obviously the goal was to help Bradley win and now he’s leading so the job is even more obvious."
Last year’s Tour of Flanders winner, Nick Nuyens of Saxo Bank, missed the start this morning, having crashed heavily during yesterday’s stage.
Paris-Nice Stage 2 result 1 BOONEN Tom OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 4h 22' 15" 2 ROJAS Jose Joaquin MOVISTAR TEAM + 00' 00" 3 DEGENKOLB John PROJECT 1T4I + 00' 00" 4 VANMARCKE Sep GARMIN-BARRACUDA + 00' 00" 5 GAVAZZI Francesco ASTANA PRO TEAM + 00' 00" 6 VICIOSO Angel KATUSHA TEAM + 00' 00" 7 MONFORT Maxime RADIOSHACK-NISSAN + 00' 00" 8 PHINNEY Taylor BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 00" 9 VALVERDE Alejandro MOVISTAR TEAM + 00' 00" 10 THOMAS Geraint SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 00" 11 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 00" 12 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 00" 13 RAVARD Anthony AG2R LA MONDIALE + 00' 00" 14 CHAVANEL Sylvain OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 00" 15 LEIPHEIMER Levi OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 00" 16 WESTRA Lieuwe VACANSOLEIL-DCM + 00' 00" 17 SPILAK Simon KATUSHA TEAM + 00' 00" 18 MAES Nikolas OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 00" 19 JEANNESSON Arnold FDJ-BIGMAT + 00' 00" 20 KISERLOVSKI Robert ASTANA PRO TEAM + 00' 00" 21 KLIER Andreas GARMIN-BARRACUDA + 00' 09" 22 MORKOV Michael TEAM SAXO BANK + 02' 29" 23 VANDENBERGH Stijn OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 02' 29" 24 LEVARLET Guillaume SAUR-SOJASUN + 02' 29" 25 ISAICHEV Vladimir KATUSHA TEAM + 02' 29" Paris-Nice Overall Standings after Stage 2 1 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING 4h 33' 32" 2 LEIPHEIMER Levi OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 06" 3 BOONEN Tom OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 07" 4 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 11" 5 CHAVANEL Sylvain OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 14" 6 MONFORT Maxime RADIOSHACK-NISSAN + 00' 18" 7 PHINNEY Taylor BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 21" 8 WESTRA Lieuwe VACANSOLEIL-DCM + 00' 22" 9 THOMAS Geraint SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 28" 10 ROJAS Jose Joaquin MOVISTAR TEAM + 00' 29"
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.