Another savage day impacted heavily on the general classification at the “Race to the Sun”.
The strong and merciless crosswinds of north-central France battered again the peloton on the second day of the French World Tour race, leading to crashes, mechanicals, abandons, turnarounds and significant losses in the general classification for many of the pre-race contenders, who are out of the equation even if the race is yet to hit the mountains following this tense-filled stage ridden at an average speed of 51.2km/h.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step was the first team to shred the bunch just 30 kilometers into stage 2, which journeyed from Les Bréviaires to Bellegarde, a small town in the Loiret department that got to feature for the first time in Paris-Nice. Despite a regrouping, chaos ensued once again, leaving riders scattered all over the road and turning the stage into a cat and mouse game between the leaders and the chasing groups. At one point, Philippe Gilbert and Bob Jungels found themselves caught out the back, but put in a cohesive effort, chased hard and jumped from group to group, joining the leaders inside the last 25 kilometers.
Twenty men entered the closing ten kilometres of the stage, but only seven of them contested the victory, after another acceleration in the sidewinds blew the group to small pieces with just three kilometres to go. Gilbert, who is making his second appearance of the season at Paris-Nice, kicked out 200 meters from the line and battled for stage honours, finishing third, behind Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and Ivan Cortina (Bahrain-Merida) for Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s 28th podium of the season, a result which catapulted him to fourth overall.
“It was another day affected by the wind, and because of a crash, Bob and Phil were caught behind in the echelons, but thanks to an incredible effort they made it back. We lost some riders also due to mechanicals, so it wasn’t a perfect stage for us”, said sports director Tom Steels. “Phil did a great race, surviving in those brutal last six kilometres and had a strong sprint, taking a well-deserved podium. He is getting ready for the Classics, is in good form and I’m sure he won’t stop here this week.”
Photo credit: ©Justin Setterfield/ Getty Images