Timothy Dupont had the power to fly past some of the best names in sprinting to take one of the Belgian's biggest career wins on stage two of Étoile de Bessèges 2021.
The final 400 metres started with a large roundabout which caused a massive crash and brought down some of the big favourites for the stage including Edvald Boasson Hagen (Total Direct Energie).
Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) opened up the sprint first once again, but this time it was not only Christophe Laporte that went over the top but four others with Dupont (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles) being the fastest.
Laporte keeps the orange leaders jersey by two seconds over Dupont going into stage three.
How it happened
The day started in the town of Saint Geniès de Malgoirès before the race travelled 154km to La Calmette on a largely flat course, albeit with a couple of categorised climbs.
A breakaway of five riders went away with Tony Hurel (St Michel-Auber93), Max Picoux (Xelliss-Roubaix Lille Métropole), Ludovic Robeet (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles), Alexandre Delettre (Team Delko) for a second time and Voijtech Repa (Kern Pharma) all involved.
The break, much like stage one, pulled out a gap of around four minutes before the swift pace being set by the leader Christophe Laporte's team Cofidis as well as Total Direct Energie slashed the gap down to 1-24 with 45km to go.
With 40km to go Robeet decided that he'd had enough and kicked out on his own on the final climb, quickly pulling out 20 seconds, with it growing to almost two minutes.
The rest of the break was dragged back by the peloton that were hammering along with 28km to go thanks to the addition of Bora-Hansgrohe adding riders to the front of the peloton.
Other teams were forming into colour order behind the Cofidis and Bora led peloton as they waited for the right moment to start launching their train.
The gap to Robeet finally dipped under a minute for the first time with 20km to go as Intermarché-Wanty Gobert Matériaux, Trek-Segafredo and Groupama-FDJ tried to take over pacing from Cofidis.
Ineos Grenadiers were the next team to move up with, surprisingly, Egan Bernal leading the way followed by Geraint Thomas, as the British team looked to be working for Michał Kwiatkowski after a strong finish on stage one.
Teams continued to jostle for position with the lead constantly changing with team's coming over the top of each other to take the lead into a sharp left hander that led onto a tight road.
The change of road helped Robeet pull out another five seconds with 13km to go to just 15 seconds but EF Education-Nippo ramped up the pace even more along with Alpecin-Fenix and Robeet was caught with 10km to go after an immense effort.
A tight chicane in a small village with 9km to go caused a nasty squeeze in the peloton, almost splitting it, luckily no-one hit the road but the moment caused a lot of nerves.
The reshuffling allowed Mads Pedersen's Trek-Segafredo, Nacer Bouhanni's Arkéa-Samsic and Bryan Coquards B&B Hotels-Vital Concept to take the lead at the front with 6km to go. Laporte's Cofidis were boxed in until they took advantage of a gap with 5km to go to get back to the front.
A small crash took out four riders with 3.5km to go including Ineos rider Ethan Hayter who hit the road very hard leaving him laying down on the verge, looking in a lot of pain. The crash also split the peloton with about a quarter of the bunch missing going into the last 2km.
The peloton was led by Arkéa into the final kilometre with Bouhanni well placed but the bunch was all over the road with a huge crash on one side of the final roundabout.
The right hand side of the roundabout was the best choice, that launched Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka-Assos) over the top of the two French sprinters of Bouhanni and Laporte but gave a perfect lead out to Dupont who took the win.
Étoile de Bessèges 2021, stage two, Saint Geniès de Malgoirès to La Calmette (154km)
1. Timothy Dupont (BEL) Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles, in 3-35-15
2. Pierre Barbier (FRA) Team Delko
3. Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA) Team Qhubeka-Assos
4. Rudy Barbier (FRA) Israel Start-Up Nation
5. Christophe Laporte (FRA) Cofidis
6. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) Arkéa-Samsic
7. Marc Sarreau (FRA) Ag2r-Citroën
8. Gerben Thijssen (BEL) Lotto-Soudal
9. Silvan Dillier (SUI) Alpecin-Fenix
10. Edward Theuns (BEL) Trek-Segafredo, all at same time.
General classification after stage two
1. Christophe Laporte (FRA) Cofidis, in 6-49-37
2. Timothy Dupont (BEL) Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles, at 2 seconds
3. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) Arkéa-Samsic, at 4s
4. Pierre Barbier (FRA) Team Delko, at 6s
5. Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA) Team Qhubeka-Assos, at 8s
6. Gerben Thijssen (BEL) Lotto-Soudal, at 12s
7. Rudy Barbier (FRA) Israel Start-Up Nation
8. Marc Sarreau (FRA) Ag2r-Citroën, all at same time
9. Bryan Coquard (FRA) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept, at 14s
10. Silvan Dillier (SUI) Alpecin-Fenix, at same time
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