Mads Pedersen takes Paris-Nice overall lead after sprinting to stage two win

Tadej Pogačar also raises eyebrows as he gains seconds in an intermediate sprint – again

Paris-Nice 2023
(Image credit: Anne Christine Poujoulat / Getty)

Mads Pedersen took over the general classification lead in the 'Race to the Sun' after winning a chaotic sprint on stage two to Fontainebleau after 163.7km of racing.

The Trek-Segafredo rider beat Jumbo-Visma's Olav Kooij into second place, with Pedersen's fellow Dane Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) third after what was a hectic dash the the line. It saw Pedersen take over the race lead from Tim Merlier (Soudal-Quick Step) thanks to the 10 bonus seconds on offer.

A long run-in on wide roads to the finish, not far south of Paris, proved to be a waiting game – not just for the final sprint but for a roundabout placed mischievously just inside the final kilometre, waiting to trip up the sprinters and their teams. Potential winners such as Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) were left well back as the race thinned into ones and twos, only opening out again with 500m to ride.

What was a largely uneventful day was livened up somewhat by the sight of Tadej Pogačar again swiping some seconds in an intermediate sprint, this time beating Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla) and Nathan Van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma) to the punch.

For Pedersen, most celebrated for his 2019 World Championship road race win at Harrogate, this was his second win of the season – the multi-talent having already won a time trial at the Etoile des Bessèges.

"It's nice to start the season well and Paris-Nice is a really nice race, so of course it's nice to get a win," he said afterwards.

"It was really hectic. We had 10k's full straight and then a roundabout at the end, but the team did really well keeping us out of problems."

He applauded his team-mate Alex [Kirsch] who, Pedersen said, gave him a "perfect leadout."

He was also unsurprisingly pleased, if a little bemused, to take the leader's jersey as a result of his efforts.

"Yeah that's really nice," he said. "Never tried that before in a race like this, so it'll be nice for the TTT."

He said the team had "full focus" for stage three's team time trial, which is 32.2km and takes place tomorrow (Tuesday) after a transfer south to Dampierre-en-Burly.

"We're here with [Mathias] Skejmose to do the TT, so it's really important tomorrow to do a good team time trial for him, so full focus for tomorrow," Pedersen said.

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After cutting his teeth on local and national newspapers, James began at Cycling Weekly as a sub-editor in 2000 when the current office was literally all fields. 

Eventually becoming chief sub-editor, in 2016 he switched to the job of full-time writer, and covers news, racing and features.

A lifelong cyclist and cycling fan, James's racing days (and most of his fitness) are now behind him. But he still rides regularly, both on the road and on the gravelly stuff.