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While Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) was busy putting a host of sprinters to the sword on stage 2 of Paris-Nice several other riders were left licking their wounds and contemplating the end of their GC challenges after a day of almost non-stop action.
Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar), and Neilson Powless (EF-Education EasyPost) all lost time in the crosswinds that battered the peloton at various points, and after only two days of racing the American trio have seen the GC aspirations take significant hits. The rest of the race could see their focus tip towards stage hunting.
The road from Auffargis to Orléans on Monday was always going to be decisive in the overall complexion of the race. There were no mountain passes or significant climbs to speak of but once the wind picked up and the direction of the gusts became favorable Jumbo-Visma – the team that decimated the race on stage 1 – put the hammer down and sent the race into an echelon frenzy.
There was barely any let-up as the race regrouped and then split several times before Jumbo-Visma and Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl once more took charge and divided the race for a final time.
Race favorite Primož Roglič made it safely in the lead group along with Ben O’Connor, Nairo Quintana, Adam Yates, Alexandr Vlasov, Jack Haig and Simon Yates – although even some of those riders were briefly caught in a second group.
— Johan Jacobs (@johanjacbs) March 7, 2022
However, a number of riders were cut adrift during the stage. UAE Team Emirates saw their GC hopes for the race evaporate when both McNulty and João Almeida were distanced.
McNulty came into the race with his tail up after a fantastic start to the season which included two wins and second overall at the Volta ao Algarve. However, the American lost 1:29 on the stage and now sits 2:08 down on current race leader Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma).
There is still time for McNulty to rescue his race with the individual time trial and the mountainous stages to come but two days on the back foot have already taken a toll. Almeida suffered too, and the new UAE Team Emirates signing is now 2:32 down in the overall standings.
Jorgenson and Powless finished in the same group as McNulty and also sit at 2:08 in the overall standings. Both riders had aspirations of finishing in the top-10 overall coming into the race. Jorgenson was recently fourth in the Tour de la Provence, and the 22-year-old finished eighth in last year’s Paris-Nice but his GC hopes took a huge hit when he crashed just six kilometers from the finish.
Powless finished a creditable 11th overall at the UAE Tour in February, but as with his compatriots, the focus may change to stage hunting over the coming days.
It was a day to forget for last year’s winner Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), too. The German finished in the same time as McNulty and it looks impossible for two-time winner to add to his Paris-Nice tally.
French hope David Gaudu was among several riders to crash during the stage. The Groupama-FDJ rider lost over nine minutes.
“If David had been able to get up immediately, we would have made them wait for him”, said sports director Philippe Mauduit.
“But by the time he got back on his bike, Stefan and Kevin’s group was already several minutes ahead. It was a waste of time, and there was not much more to do.”