The 2nd stage of Paris-Nice saw a big bunch sprint, which Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) won ahead of Elia Viviani (Quickstep-Floors) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal). Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) had no trouble retaining the overall race lead.
The flat stage from Orsonville to Vierzon, stretching over 187km, began with pleasant weather greeting the World Tour peloton. The bunch was happy to start the day on a relaxed note with no riders looking to make an early breakaway. The first hour of racing produced an average speed of just 33km/h and the main group remained in tact for the opening 100km of the stage.
It was only just after the feedzone that a break of six riders went clear, with 87km to go. Two former Paris-Nice stage winners made it into the breakaway, Lars Boom (Lotto Jumbo) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal). The peloton quickly reeled in the two danger men and two of the their accomplices, leaving just Tiago Machado (Katusha – Alpecin) and Manuele Boaro (Bahrain Merida) to ride out front. They duo managed to stay clear until 4km’s to go, before the sprint teams swallowed them up.
For our African team, the goal for the day was to get Ryan Gibbons in a good position for the final sprint. Unfortunately the technical finish on tight roads saw our smaller climbers, who were trying to position Gibbons, get muscled out of the way with 15km to go. Jay Thomson tried to bring our young sprinter back to the front of the race but there was just no getting through the tightly packed peloton.
Gibbons was never given the chance to sprint while the big sprint teams dueled it out between themselves up the road. Groenewegen proved to be the best on the day, taking a good victory on the uphill drag to the line. Gibbons crossing the line in 50th, as our first rider home.
Ryan Gibbons – Rider
It was a rather peculiar stage, something I’ve never experienced before, with nobody wanting to go in the break as we rode along easily at 30km/h for the first 3 hours of the stage. It was a pretty straight forward stage, flat, no real wind or bad weather to speak of either. It only kind of picked up over the final 90km when a break went away. The team was good for the better part of the stage, always riding together but we made a critical error in the final kilometers. We lost each other when the roads got really narrow and it was impossible to move up. So the team, but also myself as the designated sprinter, made an error by not being assertive enough in the final. When you look ahead and see guys sprinting out of a roundabout and you haven’t even started braking for it yet, you know you are too far back and it’s game over. I know I am not 100% yet, coming back from concussion to race opening weekend after just 3 road rides. but as a sprinter you are still disappointed to miss out on a chance. We have the rest week still and I’ll be giving my all to help us get a good result.