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ORLÉANS, France (VN) — Tom Boonen continued his resurgent early season Monday, winning a gritty sprint from a 20-rider group in stage 2 at Paris-Nice. Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) topped José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar) and John Degenkolb (Project 1T4I).
“I’m happy with the win today. It was brutal out there today. Everyone suffered today. Only the strongest guys were in that front group,” Boonen said. “There was a headwind in the final kilometers, so it wasn’t so hard to control the group to set up the sprint. I felt confident in the sprint. It was hard and I’m happy to get the win.”
The victory was Boonen’s 100th career UCI win (not counting criteriums or TTTs) and confirmed that “Tommeke” is back after a few seasons struggling with injuries and other setbacks.
Bradley Wiggins (Sky), second in Sunday’s opening time trial, made the decisive split with 80km remaining in the windswept 185km stage and assumed control in the general classification. Overnight leader Gustav Larsson (Vacansoleil-DCM) missed the group and lost more than two minutes on the day.
“Today was the most dangerous stage of the race and I am glad to get through it in one piece,” Wiggins said, who also won a three-second time bonus in the second half of the stage. “It’s a day like today, with wind, rain, wet corners, that you can lose everything. In a climbing stage, you go full-bloc and that’s it. Today was one of the hardest days of racing I’ve ever done.”
American Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma), already a winner this season at the Tour de San Luis, now sits second overall and trails Wiggins by six seconds. His Omega Pharma teammate Boonen is third, at seven seconds. Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) retained his fourth overall and his lead in the best young rider competition.
“I had Tayler (Phinney) up there pulling me in the front group. He’s like riding behind a truck,” van Garderen said. “We looked around and saw a lot of big names were not there. Everyone started pulling together. We’re in good position in the GC. Let’s see what happens on Mende.”
Paris-Nice continues Tuesday with the 185.5km third stage from Vierzon to Le Lac de Vassivière on a hilly course that dips into the northern edge of the Massif Central. Two third-category climbs are packed into the final 50km, with an uphill finish atop the 5.2km Cat. 3 Vassivière summit.
1. Tom Boonen, Omega Pharma-Quick Step in 4:22:15
2. Jose Joaquin Rojas, Movistar at S.T.
3. John Degenkolb, Project 1T4I at S.T.
4. Sep Vanmarcke, Garmin-Barracuda at S.T.
5. Francesco Gavazzi, Astana at S.T.
6. Angel Vicioso, Katusha at S.T.
7. Maxime Monfort, Radioshack-Nissan at S.T.
8. Taylor Phinney, BMC Racing at S.T.
9. Alejandro Valverde, Movistar at S.T.
10. Geraint Thomas, Team Sky at S.T.