Paris-Nice 2016: Michael Matthews wins stage two

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Paris-Nice 2016: Michael Matthews wins stage two after Nacer Bouhanni relegated

Australian extends GC lead after high-octane tussle

Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) won stage two of Paris-Nice, in the yellow jersey, to extend his overall lead after Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) was relegated in the sprint.

Matthews and Bouhanni contested the sprint, after both riders’ sprint trains upped the pace on the technical finale and forced the remaining sprinters out of the running.

Michael Matthews extended his overall lead after Nacer Bouhanni’s relegation in the sprint (pic: ASO)

Bouhanni crossed the finish line first, but only after going shoulder-to-shoulder with the man in the yellow jersey – nearly forcing him into the barriers.

And the Australian was upgraded to stage winner – his second win in three days after his prologue victory.

Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida), Matthias Brandle (IAM Cycling), Anthony Delaplace (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Evaldas Siskevicius (Delko Marseille Provence KTM) formed the day’s break.

They led by more than eight-and-a-half minutes after 42km but that was already down to less than a minute as they approached the first passage of the finish line – Grmay sitting up.

Three became two on the final lap, as Delaplace dropped back with 13.5km remaining but Siskevicius and former Hour Record holder Brandle pushed on.

Tinkoff, Movistar, Astana and Cofidis all gave firepower to the chase though, and with 12km still to race, both men shook hands and returned to the peloton – and straight out the back.

Brandle’s IAM Cycling team-mates were among those to up the pace, but with a technical run-in to the finish line the fight for position had added meaning.

Matthews also showed himself, in the yellow jersey, and was sat fourth wheel under the flamme rouge as Orica-GreenEDGE upped the pace further.

Geraint Thomas was also prominent near the front – his aim being safety overall – but Etixx-QuickStep and Kittel were nowhere to be seen.

He was not alone though, as Bouhanni and Matthews led out the sprint, with Niccolo Bonifazio (Trek-Segafredo) on his wheel.

Bouhanni held the advantage, with Matthews seemingly boxed in and looking to use the smallest of gaps on the barriers to nip in ahead of the Frenchman.

Nacer Bouhanni was penalised for irregular sprinting (pic: ASO)

The Cofidis man closed the gap, however, and as both went shoulder-to-shoulder nearly took each other out – staying upright more by luck than design.

It prompted an angry reaction from the Australian as he crossed the finish line, with Bouhanni responding similarly.

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) crossed in fourth place, a full second’s gap behind the three front-runners, but it was all eyes on the commissaires’ decision.

And though Bouhanni was interviewed immediately post-race as stage winner, it quickly became apparent Matthews would be handed his second stage win instead.

Paris-Nice 2016: stage two – result

1) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE – 5.04.26hrs
2) Niccolo Bonifazio (ITA) – Trek-Segafredo – ST
3) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – Cofidis
4) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha +1”
5) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ – ST
6) Ben Swift (GBR) – Team Sky
7) Andre Greipel (GER) – Lotto-FixAll
8) Wouter Wippert (NED) – Cannondale
9) Adrien Petit (FRA) – Direct Energie
10) Jonas van Genechten (BEL) – IAM Cycling

General classification

1) Michael Matthews (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE – 9.41.46hrs
2) Tom Dumoulin (NED) – Giant-Alpecin +14”
3) Patrick Bevin (NZL) – Cannondale +19”
4) Ion Izagirre (ESP) – Movistar – ST
5) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky
6) Lieuwe Westra (NED) – Astana +24”
7) Dries Devenyns (BEL) – IAM Cycling +25”
8) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ – ST
9) Rafal Majka (POL) – Tinkoff +27”
10) Richie Porte (AUS) – BMC Racing – ST

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