Greg Henderson (Team Sky) sprinted to victory in the second stage of Paris-Nice in Amilly this afternoon.
The New Zealander benefited from a superb lead-out from team-mate Geraint Thomas in the final kilometre, and was able to hold off Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad) and Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) in the race for the line.
The win moves Henderson up to second in the overall standings, four seconds behind Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) who retained the race lead.
De Gendt even surprised the peloton by attempting an audacious breakaway attempt with two kilometres remaining, but the Belgian was unable to take a second win in a row.
Yoann Offredo (FDJ), Maxime Bouet (Ag2r) and Tony Gallopin (Cofidis) formed the day’s breakaway and, having attacked from the gun, soon found themselves ahead by five minutes.
Even so, the pace in the main field was surprisingly high and it was no surprise when Cofidis leader David Moncoutie climbed off his bike 50km into the stage.
The Frenchman, who won February’s Tour of the Mediterranean, has been suffering with a knee injury and lost over eight minutes on yesterday’s opening stage.
Offredo was dropped by Bouet and Gallopin, leaving the French pair alone upfront to deal with some strong headwinds.
Early season nerves
The conditions, along with the early season nervousness, contributed to a number of crashes throughout the stage.
Frank Schleck (Leopard- Trek) fell with 45km to go, but the Luxembourg rider soon rejoined the peloton, having benefited from the main field being delayed at a level crossing.
Another race favourite, Tony Martin (HTC- Highroad) also fell off, but also finished in the peloton.
Gallopin couldn’t handle the pace and was reeled in by the peloton. Last remaining breakaway Bouet was caught 31km from Amilly.
Movistar, Liquigas and Rabobank all took turns setting the pace, before Astana’s Alexandre Vinokorouv increased the pace with 15km to go.
His aggressive turn of speed caused chaos in the peloton, causing several groups to form off the back of the race.
Despite this, the peloton remained as one until race leader De Gendt tried to break clear to another shock victory, but he was soon caught by the HTC-Highroad-led peloton.
Welshman Thomas then began his impressive lead-out for Henderson, and the Team Sky rider was able to take an easy win.
Paris-Nice, stage two: Monfort l’Amaury-Amilly, 199km
1. Greg Henderson (NZl) Team Sky in 5-00-56
2. Matt Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad
3. Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha
4. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Team Garmin-Cervelo
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas
6. Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM
7. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
8. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar
9. Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Astana
10. Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC all same time
33 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
58 Daniel Lloyd (GBr) Garmin-Cervelo
90 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Team Sky
118 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky
Overall classification after stage two
1. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM 9-05.48
2. Greg Henderson (NZl) Team Sky at 4 secs
3. Jérémy Roy (Fra) FDJ at 7 secs
Greg Henderson celebrates his win
Stage two photo gallery
Thomas De Gendt spoils sprinters’ party to win Paris-Nice opener
Paris-Nice 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index