Hofland Takes Stage 2 of Paris-Nice
Moreno Hofland (Belkin) is the surprise winner of Stage 2 of Paris-Nice. The former under-23 Dutch champion jumped John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) in the last 200 m to win the flattish, 205-km run from Rambouillet to Saint-Georges-sur-Baulche in 4:53:46. For the second consecutive day, Degenkolb settled for second, while Stage 1 winner Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) took third to keep his yellow jersey.
As was the case in Stage 1, a long break dominated the action. Today, Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) and Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM Cycling) got clear at 2.5 km. Their lead ballooned to 11:40 at 33 km. Eventually, FDJ.fr went to the front and led the peloton in trimming the escapees’ advantage.
On the Category 3 Cote de la Ferte-Loupiere (160.5 km), the break led the bunch by 5:40. Omega Pharma-Quick Step joined FDJ.fr at the front. With 32 km remaining, the peloton was at 4:00.
Twelve km later, the fugitives led the field by 2:55. On the first traversal of the finish line circuit with 17 km to go, Saramotins dropped Delaplace on the gentle climb. The Frenchman rejoined the Latvian, but with 12 km left, he was dropped for good. At this point, Saramotins led the bunch by 1:35.
As the chase began in earnest with about 30 km left, Andy Schleck (Trek), who lost time in a crash yesterday, was dropped. At about the time that Saramotins left Delaplace in his wake, Meersman, who was positioned to take the overall lead from Bouhanni, was involved in a crash that took down Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky Pro Cycling), Lars Boom (Belkin), and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp-POC). None of these riders rejoined the peloton.
The sprinters’ teams went to the front and accelerated. With four km to go, Saramotins was reeled in. Giant-Shimano, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Belkin, and FDJ.fr lurked at the front. Hofland made his way to Degenkolb’s wheel and jumped the German with 200 m left.
In the overall, Bouhanni leads Degenkolb by 0:02 and Hofland by 0:04. Stage 3 will not change this state of affairs. The flat, 180-km ride from Toucy to Circuit Nevers Magny-Cours will, like Stages 1 and 2, end in a cavalry charge. Who will win it? Bouhanni? Degenkolb? Meersman? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!