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‘It went from calm to chaos in an instant,’ says Ben O’Connor of wind-hit Paris-Nice stage

Wout van Aert and Australians Jack Haig and Ben O’Connor emerged from the windy mayhem on the road to Orléans relatively unscathed, but GC favorites Matteo Jorgenson and Guillaume Martin weren’t as lucky.

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ORLÉANS, France (VN) – When the wind blows at Paris-Nice, as it so often does in the opening days of “The Race to the Sun,” it produces a spectacle that’s enthralling to watch but nerve-shredding to be part of, a day when some riders emerge with smiles of relief, as was the case with Australians Jack Haig and Ben O’Connor, while others are left ruing their ill-fortune, among them Guillaume Martin and Matteo Jorgenson.

As was the case on day one, Jumbo-Visma were the main instigators of the frenzied action that erupted when the northeasterly wind blowing across the plains and cabbage fields of the Beauce region, just to the south of Paris, hit the peloton almost side-on.

“I was just sitting with the boys on the team when it went from calm into chaos in an instant,” AG2R-Citroën leader Ben O’Connor told VeloNews.

Also read: Jakobsen wins stage 2 at Paris-Nice

The Australian came through the test unscathed. His overriding feeling?

“I’m relieved, very happy with how today went. Tomorrow should be OK, even though it’s a tricky finish. But the really shitty days of Paris-Nice are hopefully over,” said the Australian.

His compatriot Jack Haig was another smiling as he warmed down on the rollers in the center of Orléans.

“I somewhat like the crosswinds, but also don’t,” said the Bahrain Victorious leader with a smile. “Obviously, I’d love it if there weren’t any crosswinds, but then it wouldn’t be Paris-Nice.”

Haig said it was no surprise to anyone that the race blew apart in the way it did.

“Everyone saw the forecast. Everyone knew the roads. It was always gonna be like it was today,” said Haig. “It’s definitely not very fun, I’ll tell you that. It’s incredibly stressful. There’s a lot of touching of brakes, there’s a lot of moving, there’s a lot of almost crashes, and I’m always blown away that there aren’t more.”

Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert went down in one of the early crashes, but the Belgian champion escaped his grounding unhurt.

“I couldn’t brake when there was a pile-up in front of me. It was just a stupid crash, like every crash actually, but not too much damage was done,” he explained.

As on stage one, he then spent most of the rest of the day at or near the front, piling on the pressure.

“I actually expected there to be bigger splits, but a lot of guys came back,” said van Aert after finishing second to QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl’s Fabio Jakobsen in the reduced bunch finish.

“We had a lot of guys at the front, and it was a good show for GC for Primož [Roglič]. Christophe Laporte gave me a perfect lead-out towards the finish, but I just didn’t have it. Jakobsen was stronger,” said the Belgian.

Cofidis leader Guillaume Martin was one of those caught out in the mayhem, a mechanical issue triggering a series of problems that meant that he lost a minute and 29 seconds at the finish.

“It started off as a good day. I was in the first echelon being vigilant and very well protected by Max Walscheid and then I had a mechanical issue that turned it into a bad day,” he explained.

“It was at the worst moment. The group had just split again and there weren’t any cars behind. I took Tom Bohli’s bike, but he’s at least 10cm taller than me and I could barely touch the pedals. Eventually the car did manage to come up with a new bike, but I was already a long way behind by then. Tom and Max managed to help me limit my losses, but it was a difficult day. It was frustrating because I wanted to finish in the front group and the fact I didn’t wasn’t down to a physical issue.”

Movistar leader Matteo Jorgenson also finished in that group with Martin, and this after almost working his way back up to the front group.

“We got ourselves to within about 10 seconds or so of them, and then a BikeExchange guy just swerved a long way to the left and I was on the outside of him and lost my front wheel. I went down, that was it,” said the American.

“It was a super sh*t day. I was caught behind three crashes. Our whole team fought the entire stage to get back and got to within 10 seconds of making it, then I crashed just outside 3k to go. Not a good day. I can’t feel anything at the moment,” he said.