Paris-Nice stage 2: Arvid de Kleijn upsets the big-name sprinters

Laurence Pithie the new yellow jersey as crosswinds fail to materialise but sprint produces a surprise

Clock16:29, Monday 4th March 2024
Arvid de Kleijn wins stage 2 of Paris-Nice

© Getty Images

Arvid de Kleijn wins stage 2 of Paris-Nice

Arvid de Kleijn (Tudor Pro Cycling) claimed the biggest victory of his career on stage 2 of Paris-Nice, landing his team’s first win of the season in a sprint finish in Montargis.

Many of the big-name sprinters were out of position and out of contention, but take nothing away from De Kleijn, who has been steadily improving in recent years and coming close to a big victory in recent races.

Read more: Arvid de Kleijn forced to unclip in UAE Tour finale, but still manages second

De Kleijn won by a handy margin over Laurence Pithie (Groupama-FDJ), who moved into the yellow jersey as the new overall leader thanks to bonus seconds on the line.

Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco AlUla) rounded out the podium, but many of the pre-stage favourites found themselves unable to open the taps after a finale that saw the bunch strung out through the narrow final kilometre.

"It means a lot," said De Kleijn, the 29-year-old Dutchman who won Milan-Torino last year and was knocking on the WorldTour door with three runner-up finishes at the recent UAE Tour.

"I've been close a couple of times, and was chasing a WorldTour victory, so it's nice to grab it like this."

No crosswinds spells little action for the peloton

Paris-Nice is notorious for crosswinds, and this stage, cutting through exposed countryside, was very much designed with echelons in mind, but the breeze was neither strong enough nor in the right direction to do any damage.

As such, it was a relatively uneventful trundle south to Montargis, and the finale itself was a slow build, with things only really sparking to life inside the final few kilometres.

After crossing a small bridge with 4km to go, it was onto a wide main road for much of the run-in, where lead-out trains assembled, fought to keep pace at the front, and pondered which side of the road to make use of.

Fabio Jakobsen's dsm-firmenich PostNL held firm on the left, with Sam Bennett's Decathlon-AG2R teammates also taking charge, but Tudor burst to the front through the experienced new signing Matteo Trentin with 2km to go.

That gave them pole position through the bottleneck that saw the road narrow with 1300 metres to go, and which effectively left a host of big names too far back to even consider sprinting. The most conspicuous absentee was Olav Kooij, and not just because he'd won the opening stage, but because his Visma-Lease a Bike teammate Edoardo Affini came through to lead out the sprint, unaware his main man wasn't anywhere near.

Affini eventually swung over, and De Kleijn still had one teammate left but chose to jump instead onto the wheel of the early-opening Danny van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe), slotting into the slipstream before opening up to move comfortably ahead in the middle of the road.

"I saw the last 200 metres and was a little bit boxed in by my own teammate, and I screamed to go left and he opened up so I could go to the wheel of Van Poppel," De Kleijn explained. "I could then come with speed and keep it to the line, so that was nice."

The GC picture: A new leader and some sneaky bonus seconds

The route for the second stage of Paris-Nice measured 179km from Thoiry down to Montargis, beginning the slog south through the exposed countryside that has often seen the race blown apart by crosswinds. However, to the race organisers' frustration, there was barely a whiff of wind all day, and it was far from the liveliest of stages, run off at barely 38km/h.

There was barely even a breakaway, with Jonas Rutsch (EF Education-EasyPost) and Mathieu Burgaudeau (TotalEnergies) going clear to contest KOM points on the early minor climb of Côte des Mesnuls but sitting up thereafter. Pascal Eenkhoorn (Lotto Dstny) then launched a solo break but that was similarly short-lived.

Burgaudeau kicked again on the Côte de Villeconin to take the polka-dot jersey off Rutsch, and the only other frisson of mid-stage activity would be the intermediate sprint in Puiseaux just inside the 50km-to-go mark.

With bonus seconds of 6-2-4 for the top three, Primož Roglič's Bora-Hansgrohe and Mattias Skjelmose's Lidl-Trek set up lead-out trains, although Roglič ended up sending a spoiler in Van Poppel. As Mads Pedersen led out Skjelmose, the Dutch sprinter rounded them both to take away the maximum points, while a secondary-kick and a failure to brake in time saw Pedersen take second place and leave his GC leader with just the two-second gain.

Still, that was two seconds more than all of his GC rivals, and Skjelmose now finds himself seventh, tied on time with Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), two seconds down on Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) and four seconds down on Matteo Jorgenson (Visma-Lease a Bike), all of whom collected bonuses on stage 1.

The bonus seconds also saw the yellow jersey change hands, as Pithie, who was third on the opening stage, launched another impressive sprint for second place at the finish. He is tied for time overall with Pedersen and Kooij but takes yellow by virtue of his superior cumulative stage placings.

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