Andre Greipel stormed to stage two victory at Paris-Nice after a superb lead-out by Lotto-Soudal team-mates into Saint-Amand-Montrond.
The stage had appeared all set for a bunch sprint from the off, but a late attack by Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep), Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and Lars Boom (Astana) disrupted tactics in the bunch.
Lotto-Soudal remained unperturbed, however, helping to orchestrate the chase alongside Orica-GreenEDGE before a stunning lead-out from Greg Henderson when the race came back together with 1500m remaining.
Henderson delivered the German champion to the front, and the Gorilla had just enough in him to hold off the late charges of Arnaud Demare (FDJ.fr) and John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin).
The bunch sprint had seemed a formality on the largely flat parcours after Arnaud Gerard (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) had forged ahead in the opening kilometres to form the day’s break and found himself without company up the road.
With nobody alongside the Frenchman, it meant the bunch had bonus seconds to contest at the intermediate sprints and stage one winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) was the first to claim them, beating Degenkolb first time out.
Gerard was still the only man up the road, ensuring plenty of exposure for his sponsors, at the second sprint and again Degenkolb kicked from the bunch, followed by Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE), to move within touching distance of the race lead.
Aside from the sprints, however, a steady pace was set by the bunch with only a short-lived attack to claim the day’s only King of the Mountains points upset the status quo.
Phillipe Gilbert was second over the Tour climb, behind Gerard, with polka dot jersey Jonathan Hivert doing enough to claim his lead by finishing third.
Needing to react to the move, however, the peloton upped the pace and brought everything back together with still more than 30 kilometres to race.
Cannondale-Garmin suddenly burst into life with 27 kilometres remaining, hitting the front with purpose and injecting some real pace for the first time in this race but without making any real gains.
It was instead Martin’s move – perhaps mindful of Degenkolb having moved within a second-place finish of Michal Kwiatkowski’s yellow jersey – that blew the peloton apart inside the final ten kilometres.
Thomas and Boom were quickly alert to the attack, forming a formidable trio up the road which prompted several counter-attacks – Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) briefly making contact before sitting up.
Martin, Thomas and Boom continued to go through and on, sharing the workload, as the kilometres ticked down – the bunch finally catching them with 1500m to go.
The disruption, however, was telling as few of the big-name sprinters ever looked in contention at the denouement.
Instead it was left to Greipel to finish off a stunning team job and get his arms in the air to cap a well-earned team victory.
Paris-Nice 2015: stage two – result
1) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Soudal – 4.30.18hrs
2) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ – ST
3) John Degenkolb (GER) – Giant-Alpecin
4) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
5) Jose Joaquin Rojas (ESP) – Movistar
6) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – Cofidis
7) Moreno Hofland (NED) – LottoNL-Jumbo
8) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha
9) Jonas van Genechten (BEL) – IAM Cycling
10) Niccolo Bonifazio (ITA) – Lampre-Merida
1) Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) – Etixx-QuickStep – 9.53.16hrs
2) Rohan Dennis (AUS) – BMC Racing – ST
3) John Degenkolb (GER) – Giant-Alpecin +2”
4) Tony Martin (GER) – Etixx-QuickStep +7”
5) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE +9”
6) Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP) – Astana +10”
7) Lars Boom (NED) – Astana – ST
8) Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) – IAM Cycling
9) Tom Dumoulin (NED) – Giant-Alpecin +13”
10) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky – ST