Dutch rider Moreno Hofland won a sprint finish for the 205km second stage of the Paris-Nice cycling race to Saint-Georges-sur-Baulche in Burgundy on Monday.
The 22-year-old crossed ahead of Germany’s John Degenkolb, already second on Sunday, and France’s Nacer Bouhanni, winner of the first stage.
Bouhanni leads the overall standings with a two-second advantage on Degenkolb and Hofland now 4 seconds off the leader.
Bouhanni said he was still feeling the effects of the crash he suffered on Sunday’s opening stage, when he crossed the finish line with his knee covered in blood.
“I struggled especially in the first 100km when my knee was still cold but after that I got better and better,” said the 23-year-old overall leader, the French champion in 2012.
“In any case, it didn’t affect me in the sprint. I was just lacking a bit of strength in the final 200m against Degenkolb,” he said.
The Frenchman might have lost the overall lead but for a disastrous final 11km for Belgian Gianni Meersman.
The Omega-Pharma Quick Step rider had picked up enough bonus seconds in intermediate sprints along the stage to make him the virtual leader, but a crash 11km from home cost him dearly.
He made it back to the peloton for the final sprint, but was deemed to have done so only thanks to getting an illegal tow from his team car, and organizers hit him with a 1 minute, 10 seconds penalty that dropped him outside the top 100.
In sunny conditions, French rider Anthony Delaplace and Latvia’s Aleksejs Saramotins led a long breakaway of more than 200km after taking the lead just 2.5km after the race got underway at Rambouillet, outside Paris.
Delaplace pulled ahead with 12km to go, but Saramotins resisted until the final 3km.
The pair had built up a lead of nearly 11 minutes on the peloton controled by Bouhanni’s FDJ team and then Omega Pharma, whose chase proved ultimately futile.
Yesterday’s 180km third stage ran between Toucy and the Magny-Cours circuit.