Greg Henderson wins Paris-Nice second stage bunch sprint
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Monday, March 7, 2011

Greg Henderson wins Paris-Nice second stage bunch sprint

by Ben Atkins at 11:44 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Paris-Nice
Low speed crashes dominate a windy, flat stage as the race heads south

greg hendersonGreg Henderson (Team Sky) won the second stage of Paris-Nice between Montfort-l’Amaury and Amilly in a bunch sprint. The New Zealander outsprinted Australian Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad) and Russian Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) at the end of the windy, crash strewn 198.5km stage.

"It's always special to win at such an amazing race. I had a great lead-out from Geraint [Thomas]," said Henderson after the stage. "He was just fantastic. He was just sitting there waiting and then away he went with 500 metres to go and then I just took off around 250 metres out.

"It was a really long sprint," he added, "but I was lucky to hold the field all the way to the line."

The two rabbits of the day were Maxime Bouet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Tony Gallopin (Cofidis), who escaped almost immediately after the stage start. They originally had Joan Offredo (FDJ) for company, but he dropped back to the peloton after 80km of the stage.

The slow pace in the peloton saw it spread right across the road in the crosswinds, which saw a number of riders crashing at the sides of the road. Notable riders to hit the deck included Fränk Schleck (Leopard Trek), Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) and Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervélo).

"I think everyone was a bit scared of the wind breaking the peloton to pieces," explained Henderson. "There were so many crashes in the space of about 10 kilometres, it was crazy. We just tried to stay near the front and out of trouble in the closing stages."

Although there was no great urgency in the peloton, the breakaway’s maximum lead of 6’15” began to tumble in the second half of the stage. With 50km to go the gap was down to less than a minute and so the peloton eased up so as not to catch the fugitives too soon.

With under 40km remaining Bouet and Gallopin were stopped by a railway crossing and, as the peloton was at just 45 seconds, the main group caught them up before the barrier was raised. Once the train had passed though, the commissaires allowed the duo to ride off, delaying the peloton for 45 seconds before releasing it.

With just under 35km to go Bouet accelerated and tried to make it to the finish alone, while Gallopin drifted slowly back to the Astana-led peloton, which was still easing along at no great pace.

Riding alone, after so much time ahead of the race, meant that Bouet was unable to hold the peloton at bay for very long though; he was finally caught at just over 30km from the finish as Liquigas-Cannondale came forward to set the pace.

Although there were a number of teams moving to the front of the peloton, including Movistar, Liquigas-Cannondale and OmegaPharma-Lotto, the pace was still little more than pedestrian. The peloton continued to be spread from kerb to kerb, with the riders at the back able to freewheel along.

With 15km to go the Astana team decided to wake up the peloton with Tomas Vaitkus leading team leader Alexandre Vinokourov. Movistar refused to let the two turquoise and yellow men pull away though, causing the peloton to string out for the first time in the stage; a number of riders found themselves caught out by the pace and a group lost contact with the tail of the peloton.

With Vinokourov’s teammate Remi Di Gregorio on the front, the Kazakh tried once more to sneak past but he was marked by Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Movistar) and the dark blue and green team took over on the front.

Apparently bearing no ill effects from his earlier crash, Leipheimer was cruising two or three metres behind the last wheel of the peloton, where he was later joined by Fränk Schleck.

Inside the final 3km the HTC-Highroad team moved forward and began to ramp the pace up even further. Just at that point Luis León Sanchez (Rabobank) punctured, but as he was inside 3km he would not lose any time overall.

At 1.6km from the finish race leader Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) flew off the front but was quickly overtaken by the HTC-Highroad train, which went back to the business of leading out Goss.

With a little over 500m Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) blasted forward from the peloton with Henderson on his wheel. The two Sky riders overtook the HTC train and the New Zealander made his burst for the line.

The rest of the sprinters all spread out across the road and launched their sprints but no one was able to pull alongside Henderson and the New Zealander took the win clearly ahead of a very close battle for second.

Finishing safely in the peloton De Gendt hangs on to his yellow jersey but Henderson’s time bonuses on the line mean that he moves to within 4 seconds of the Belgian.

"I'll have a go tomorrow over that final climb and if I can make it then great but otherwise I'm in full support of Bradley Wiggins and Mick Rogers on the GC," said Henderson.

Result stage 2
1. Gregory Henderson (NZl) Team Sky
2. Matt Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad
3. Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha
4. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin-Cervelo
5. Peter Sagan (Slo) Liquigas-Cannondale
6. Roman Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM
7. Jürgen Roelandts (Bel) OmegaPharma-Lotto
8. José Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar
9. Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Astana
10. Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team

Standings after stage 2
1. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM
2. Gregory Henderson (NZl) Team Sky @ 4s
3. Jérémy Roy (Fra) FDJ @ 7s
4. Matt Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad @ 8s
5. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Cofidis


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