German sprinter Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) proved to be strongest on stage two of Paris-Nice, punching clear in the sprint finish after a messy end to a long day in the saddle.
The 24 year-old ended up winning by a safe margin from Elia Viviani (Cannondale) and Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge) after former race leader and yesterday's stage winner Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) crashed out of the race midway through the stage.
Bouhanni lost control as he rounded a fast but tightening corner behind his teammates, slipping and landing face-first onto the asphalt. The French champion, although not seriously hurt, was unable to continue with the race.
Viviani got his reward at the end of the day in the form of the leader's yellow jersey although could struggle to keep hold of it over the lumps and bumps of stage three's route through the the Massif Central.
The long and windy road
Race organisers ASO seem to have used a ruler and pencil to plan today's stage, which took riders due South of Paris in a near straight line for just over 200km. A relentless headwind slowed the pace down to the extent that it took the peloton nearly six hours to make it to the finish in Cérilly.
In fact the four man break of Romain Feillu, Thomas De Gendt (both Vacansoleil-DCM), Maxime Bouet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) found it such tough going that they called time on the efforts with 44km still to race.
The day's main drama came on an inocuous-looking corner 56km out from the end. The boxing Bouhanni took a knockout blow as his wheels slipped beneath him as he stuck to his teammate's wheel and ended his short stint in the Paris-Nice lead in the back of an ambulance.
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma Quickstep) took the opportunity to warm up for the Classics and do some damage in the 18km finishing circuit, sprinting out of bends like an escaping animal and stringing the bunch out behind. However no one team seemed able to control affairs, despite a number of attempts from the likes of Cannondale, FDJ, Lampre and Argos-Shimano.
Yet after a disappointing opening road stage, where he was left behind with a puncture, Kittel seized his chance and made no mistake.
Paris Nice 2013, stage two: Vimory to Cérilly, 200.5km
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Argos-Shimano in 5-42-18
2. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale
3. Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
4. Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana
5. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale
6. Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
7. Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM
8. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
9. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar
10. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Radioshack-Leopard all at same time
Overall classification after stage two
1. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale
2. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 7 secs
3. Damien Gaudin (Fra) Europcar at 8 secs
4. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 9 secs
5. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 10 secs
6. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling
7. Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) FDJ at s.t.
8. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 11 secs
9. Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Leopard
10. Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana at s.t.
Nacer Bouhanni crashes out of the race
Thomas De Gendt in the escape
Ian Boswell was one of a number of riders to crash in wet conditions
Marcel Kittel takes the stage win
Elia Viviani in the race lead
Paris-Nice 2013: Race preview and information
Paris-Nice 2013: start list
Paris-Nice 2013: Who will win?
Paris-Nice 2013: The Big Preview
Paris-Nice 2013: Stage reports
Nacer Bouhanni wins stage one and takes lead in Paris-Nice
Prologue: Damien Gaudin takes surprise win
Paris-Nice 2013: Photo galleries
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one photo gallery
Prologue photo gallery
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