Cees Bol took stage two of Paris-Nice 2021 in an extremely chaotic finale in the tight twisty roads of Amilly, claiming victory ahead of Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange).
Bol (Team DSM) followed his lead-out train that guided him to take the stage comfortably ahead of some of the world's best sprinters.
The race saw multiple crashes over the pan-flat stage between Oinvill-sur-Montcient and Amilly including George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma), as the nerves where high but the potential crosswinds were not.
Matthews took five bonus seconds over the two intermediate sprints on the stage and then managed to sprint to third, meaning he took the yellow jersey by four seconds over Pedersen and stage one winner, Sam Bennett (Deceuninck - Quick-Step).
How it happened
Stage two of Paris-Nice started in Oinville-sur-Montcient before taking on a pan-flat 188km route to the finish town of Amilly. Sander Armée (Qhubeka-Assos) and Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) were the riders to escape into the early break.
That inevitably doomed break lasted around 60km despite the pair gaining almost four minutes over the peloton at one point. Once they were brought back with 102km to go, no breakaway was seen for the rest of the day as the race nervously made its way through the wide-open roads of northern France.
Teams did try and break the race up with about 60km to go and the race did split a little bit but the wind wasn’t strong enough for it to stick and the race calmed down about 10 kilometres later.
With 40km to go the race had dropped to a snail's pace as riders just took the opportunity to chat, as Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers looked after their respective leaders Primož Roglič and Tao Geoghegan Hart right at the front of the group.
The second intermediate sprint came after Michael Matthews won the first. André Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation) took the second ahead of Matthews and Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) with Geoghegan Hart also attempting to take bonus seconds.
Matthews taking second place in the final intermediate sprint did mean that he virtually went into joint lead overall with Sam Bennett (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) before heading to the finish after the Australian took a total of five seconds.
After that sprint the race went into a very tight bend that had fencing at either side of the road, with George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) going down and looking dazed before remounting his bike and continuing with 30km to go.
The race then headed into extremely tight and twisty roads with yet another crash that saw Alexis Vuillermoz (Total Direct Energie) go down. The Frenchman looked in a very bad way before later abandoning.
The pace finally kicked into life with 10km to go as teams looked to keep their leaders in the best possible positions. Gregor Mühlberger (Movistar) and Daniel Arroyave (EF Education-Nippo) were among those to hit the deck as they raced towards the stage conclusion.
As the peloton came into the final 5km there was absolute chaos as the roads continued to narrow heading into Amilly, as Trek-Segafredo took full control of the race.
A crash stretched the peloton out with about 600 metres to go with Pascal Ackermann's lead-out man, Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe) falling with three other riders.
Team DSM did have control before Trek-Segafredo took over yet again in the final 400 metres, Pedersen was launched first but it was Bol who powered his way through to take the stage with almost a gap of two bike lengths over Pedersen and the rest.
Matthews goes into the yellow jersey as the race heads in to the individual time trial on stage three, where the general classification riders will aim to make movement up standings before they head towards the mountainous end of the race.
Paris-Nice 2021, stage two: Oinville-sur-Montcient - Amilly (188km)
1. Cees Bol (Ned) Team DSM, in 4-27-59
2. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo
3. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange
4. Bryan Coquard (Fra) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept p/b KTM
5. Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck - Quick-Step
6. John Degenkolb (Ger) Lotto-Soudal
7. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
8. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain Victorious
9. Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
10. Rudy Barbier (Fra) Israel Start-Up Nation, all at same time
General classification after stage two
1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange, in 8-19-23
2. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo, at 4 seconds
3. Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck - Quick-Step
4. Cees Bol (Ned) Team DSM, all at same time
5. Arnaud Démare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 8s
6. André Greipel (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 11s
7. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Team DSM, at 12s
8. Florian Vermeersch (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at same time
9. Jasper Stuyvan (Bel) Trek-Segafredo, at 13s
10. Ben Swift (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at same time
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