P-Nice 2: Blazing Boonen beats big chill

Tom Boonen wins his second consecutive stage at Paris-Nice and takes the race lead at the end of a w

Tom Boonen wins his second consecutive stage at Paris-Nice and takes the race lead at the end of a w
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM Today's second stage of Paris-Nice almost went the same way as the fourth stage last year, which was cancelled due to snow. As northern Europe's late winter steadfastly refused to budge and snow fell on the already weather-hit course of the stage from La Chatre to Thiers, race director Jean-Francois Pescheux considered a variety of options, before plumping for a much-curtailed stage of just 46.5 kilometres instead of the planned 191. This meant the riders signing on in La Chatre and then jumping into their team cars to drive to Aigueperse, where they got back on their bikes and ventured out into the snow-covered landscape for what turned out to be a very rapid run into Thiers. Race leader Erik Dekker's Rabobank team set a pace that suggested not only a determined defence of the Dutchman's lead, but a desperate desire to get back into their hotel and out of the freezing conditions. The bunch was lined almost right from the start, and a decent-sized group was dropped even before 20km had passed. Some of the frantic activity was down to an intermediate sprint at this point, which Dekker won, in the process increasing his lead to three seconds over Voigt. That left just one third-category climb to negotiate with 10km to go, and Rabobank's relentless and searing pace took them a fair way up it before some of Dekker's rivals went on the attack. Voigt was among them, as was Alejandro Valverde and Fassa Bortolo's Kim Kirchen. Kirchen led over the summit and onto the descent, where the kamikaze skills of Sylvain Chavanel took him clear - Liberty's Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano described the speed here as "madness" considering the conditions. The Frenchman was joined at the front by Davitamon's Leon van Bon, but as the road flattened out into Thiers, the Quick Step 'train' of stage one winner Tom Boonen brought the Belgian through to the front in the last couple of hundred metres. There was only likely to be one winner at that point with the Belgian in such great form. CSC's Kurt-Asle Arvesen got closest to Boonen, with Discovery Channel's Yaroslav Popovych third. The 10 bonus seconds gained for the stage win vaulted Boonen up from fifth to first place, three seconds ahead of Dekker. Not a bad return for Boonen and his team-mates for less than 54 minutes of riding - undertaken at a staggering average of 52 kilometres an hour. A decision is due to be taken on Wednesday morning about the schedule for the third stage, which also crosses some snow-covered sections of the Massif Central. Race director Christian Prudhomme has already said that there are likely to be some changes to the route. Stage 2, Aigueperse-Thiers 1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step 46.5km in 53.31 (52.14kph) 2 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) CSC 3 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel 4 Vicente Reynes (Spa) Illes Balears 5 Olaf Pollack (Ger) T-Mobile 6 Erik Dekker (Hol) Rabobank 7 Constantino Zaballa (Spa) Saunier Duval 8 Jrme Pineau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 9 Vladimir Goussev (Rus) CSC 10 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears 17 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC 0.03 21 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick Step 22 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 47 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile 48 Jorg Jaksche (Ger) Liberty Seguros 59 Thomas Lovkvist (Swe) Francaise des Jeux 60 Aaron Kemps (Aus) Liberty Seguros 66 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Davitamon-Lotto 75 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 79 Thomas Dekker (Hol) Rabobank 0.21 88 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 90 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 95 Ian McLeod (SA) Francaise des Jeux 0.36 96 David Zabriskie (USA) CSC 97 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC 137 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank 3.12 151 Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas-Bianchi 4.21 Overall 1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step 5.17.55 2 Dekker 0.03 3 Arvesen 0.07 4 Goussev (Rus) CSC 0.09 5 Jens Voigt (Ger) CSC 6 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo 0.11 7 Reynes 0.14 8 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Franaise des Jeux 0.16 9 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 10 Zaballa 11 Julich 12 Valverde 0.12 27 Vinokourov 0.57 28 Jaksche 0.58 29 Lovkvist 40 Kemps 1.07 47 Rogers 1.13 50 Evans 1.15 67 Thomas Dekker 1.31 72 Armstrong 1.35 76 Landis 1.39 82 Danielson 1.50 91 Zabriskie 2.15 97 Sastre 2.29 102 McLeod 2.43 132 Hayman 5.07 157 Rodriguez 9.34 164 Wegelius 13.15
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