photo credits @ WTFK
Mads Pedersen (Trek–Segafredo) won a chaotic sprint finish in the second stage of Paris-Nice from Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) and also took the overall lead of the race.
Tim Merlier (Soudal–Quick-Step) was the big favourite to make it back-to-back stage wins but a crash with 1km remaining split the peloton up.
The top 10 were all closely congested at the finish line as Pedersen powered past Kooij, with Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education–EasyPost) third and Dan McLay (Arkea–Samsic) in fourth.
“This is nice to start the season well,” said Pedersen. “Paris-Nice is a really nice race so of course it’s nice to get a win.
“It was really hectic. We had 10km full straight and a roundabout at the end but the team did well to keep me out of problems. It was tight at the end but I’m happy that I got it.”
For the second day running, Jonas Gregaard (Uno-X) was in the breakaway, except this time he was by himself.
Crosswinds caused a minor split in the peloton with 75km to go, but the bunch came back together and caught Greggard with 54km remaining.
Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) took six bonus seconds at the flat intermediate sprint with 13km to go, with Michael Matthews (Team Jayco–AlUla) and Nathan Van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma) unable – or potentially unwilling in the case of Matthews, as Sean Kelly alluded to on Eurosport commentary – to get around the two-time Tour de France champion.
Then came the run-in to the sprint where Danny van Poppel (Bora–Hansgrohe) hit the front early in the final few hundred metres, but it was Pedersen who timed his charge perfectly.
Second-place Kooij added: “It was really fast with a little bit of downhill. You know it will be nervous and guys will be fighting for position. It was hectic all day, a stage for echelons but no real wind.
“I’ve been close a few times now but not got the win. Of course, that’s a bit frustrating but on the other hand [there was] not much we did wrong today.”
A team time trial is on the cards for Tuesday’s stage where the general classification is guaranteed to get a big shake-up.
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