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Tom Boonen won for the second day in a road at Paris-Nice, once again beating Allan Davis in a final bunch sprint, this time in Belleville. But arguably the day's real winner was Agritubel's Nicolas Crosbie, who broke away in the first kilometre, built a lead of almost half an hour over the pack, and only ran out of steam on the last of five smallish climbs just 13km from the finish.
Crosbie may well have drawn the shortest of the breadsticks proffered by his team manager at dinner last night, or perhaps he just noticed the peloton's indolence in the poor weather on Monday's first road stage. But whatever it was, something clearly made him decide to go for broke almost as soon as race director Christian Prudhomme had signalled racing had started for the day.
After just 23km he was already 11 minutes clear, and his lead rose to 27-30 by 81km. Only after Cofidis pair Thierry Marichal and Ivan Parra had been chasing for some time did the peloton start to react with clear determination. Crosbie's gap really started to plummet once he got into five second and third-category climbs running into the finish.
Going over the last of them, he still had more than a minute in hand, but no reserves on which to attempt to maintain his advantage. Ag2r's Samuel Dumoulin and Milram's Andrei Grivko were the first to pass him, the rest of the main pack swiftly followed.
Grivko and Dumoulin late effort was ended two kilometres from the finish, when Boonen and his lead-out boys set to work. As on stage one, Davis showed that he's closing in on sprinting's big guns, but once again the victory was Boonen's, who boosted his lead over Bobby Julich to 17 seconds.
"It was a special stage today with a rider in the front all day, who held a 25-minute lead at one stage," said Boonen. "It was not easy to decide how to react. Finally we decided to take the reins and we caught him at the very last minute to finally battle it out in a great sprint. I won for my team-mates, because they ride for 25,000km at the front each year for me. I can tell you that tomorrow, if the fight starts for real, I won't be part of it. I will sit back and watch." After today's effort, Crosbie will no doubt be doing the same.
Stage 2, Cerilly-Belleville
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 200km in 5.20.50 (37.40kph)
2 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros
3 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lampre
4 Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Saunier Duval
5 Simone Cadamuro (Ita) Milram
6 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank
7 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner
8 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Lampre
9 Koldo Fernandez (Spa) Euskaltel
10 Lilian Jgou (Fra) Franaise des Jeux
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 10.22.41
2 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC 0.17
3 Andrei Kashechkin (Kaz) Liberty Seguros 0.18
4 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel 0.20
5 Benot Vaugrenard (Fra) Franaise des Jeux 0.22
6 Davis 0.24
7 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto
8 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 0.25
9 Sandy Casar (Fra) Franaise des Jeux
10 Matej Mugerli (Slo) Liquigas
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM