Moreno Hofland has won the second stage of Paris-Nice outsprinting John Degenkolb and ongoing race leader Nacer Bouhanni to the line.
Bouhanni’s position on general classification looked threatened when Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) picked up time bonuses along the undulating and somewhat technical 205km route to be virtual leader.
However, the 28-year-old was involved in a crash within the final 10km and lost his advantage despite a desperate and controversial effort to pace back amongst team cars and accept a hand-sling from a teammate. He reportedly received a one minute and 10 second time penalty from commissaries post-race and fines totalling 300CHF.
Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM Cycling) and Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) escaped virtually from the gun and were allowed to build a healthy time advantage before Degenkolb’s Giant-Shimano team, Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Orica-GreenEdge assembled at the front of the main group to start the chase.
Saramotins was in position to record IAM’s first ever WorldTour victory when he went clear of Delaplace with 12km remaining. But the Latvian ran out of steam and returned to the main group with about 5km to go as teams began to organise their respective trains.
The 22-year-old Hofland (Belkin) timed his run suitably and best Degenkolb, who finished second in as many days, on the line. He has had an impressive start to the season winning stage four of February’s Ruta del Sol and finishing second at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne last weekend.
Welshman Geraint Thomas (Sky) finished safely in the main group and moves up to fourth overall.
Paris-Nice 2014, stage two: Rambouillet to Saint-Georges-sur-Baulche, 205km
1. Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin 4-53-46
2. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Shimano
3. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ.fr
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
5. Thor Hushovd (Nor) BMC
6. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Europcar
7. Armindo Fonseca (Fra) Bretagne-Seche Environnement
8. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Belisol
9. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-GreenEdge
10. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar
Overall classification after stage two
1. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ.fr 8-46-43
2. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Shimano at 2 secs
3. Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin at 4 secs
4. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky at 13 secs
5. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Europcar at 14 secs
6. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar
7. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
8. Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo
9. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
10. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-GreenEdge
French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni takes bunch finish on first stage of 2014 Paris-Nice
Images from the second day of Paris-Nice 2014, won by Moreno Hofland