Everyone knew crosswinds could blow the peloton to pieces. But when it happened most could only watch as the others rode away.
Once a gap opens up, closing it is very difficult, normally only the strongest rouleurs can manage. Up front the pace is intense as the leaders know they have everyone else in trouble. As you can see there is next to no shelter from the wind on such exposed terrain.
At first Garmin – Barracuda and Omega Pharma – Quickstep drove the pace so hard there were only 11 riders in the lead group. This swelled to 30 riders at one point then crashes and the fierce pace saw several riders dropped. In the end a select group of 21 riders made it to the finish of Stage 2 in Paris-Nice and Tom Boonen won. Thanks to his clever positioning, team support and excellent form, he made the front group. They say it was his one hundredth win as a pro but others have him on 101 already.
Note Boonen was one of the few riders able to follow Fabian Cancellara’s attack in windy conditions during the Tour of Qatar and later he was able to follow Sep Vanmarcke in the Het Nieuwsblad when most couldn’t.
Other winners today include Bradley Wiggins who takes the yellow jersey – he also pipped Valverde in the intermediate sprint to take three bonus seconds – and other contenders for the overall like Levi Leipheimer, Alejandro Valverde and Tejay Van Garderen all boosted their chances.
Note Rabobank missed the move. Normally the team provoking the selection, this time they missed out. I think they had a rider or two in the successful move but they crashed out.
For the overall the biggest losers today were Andy Schleck, Rein Taaramae and Janez Brajkovic who all finished in the third peloton and conceded over ten minutes.
Taaramae at least is in excellent form and now has the chance to aim for stage wins but his Cofidis team will be feeling nervous given they have yet to receive an invitation to the Tour de France. Worse for the French team they are in last place on the team overall classification and will drive tomorrow with the team car at the very back of the race convoy.