Carnage in the general classification has ensued at Paris-Nice with the second stage of the race seeing George Bennett of Team Jumbo-Visma climbing up the standings as a number of his rivals have drifted back and lost significant time. Dylan Groenewegen claimed his second consecutive stage win ahead of Ivan Garcia and Philippe Gilbert.
Although stage 2, the 163.5km from Les Bréviaires to Bellegarde was pretty flat, conditions were again set to light up the race, with the stage beginning 10 minutes early because of the expected tailwinds and crosswinds. The king of the mountains leader, Damien Gaudin of Direct Energie got in the early breakaway with Nicolas Edet of Cofidis and Alessandro De Marchi of CCC Team; but their lead would be very short-lived as the conditions broke up the race significantly.
After a couple of early splits in the peloton the race broke apart properly with 100km remaining with groups littering the roads of France. The head of the race saw GC contenders Romain Bardet of AG2R La Mondiale, Egan Bernal of Team Sky, Nairo Quintana of Movistar along with sprinters Arnaud Demare of Groupama-FDJ, Andre Greipel of Team Arkéa Samsic, John Degenkolb of Trek-Segafredo and Mattheo Trentin of Mitchelton-SCOTT all make the head of the race in the company of yellow jersey wearer Dylan Groenewegen.
In the second group on the road was George Bennett of Team Jumbo-Visma, stuck at 1.10mins back with 35km remaining, but managing to stay in the group as riders around him like Caleb Ewan of Lotto Soudal fell back in the melee created by the crosswinds. With 32.5km to go the Bennett group had closed to 42 seconds, but then at the first crossing of the finish line that time gap had grown again to a minute with 23km to go. Steadily though the gap did close as the second group appeared to swell in numbers and gain momentum.
The leading group’s disadvantage was that there was no one team able to dominate the field with teams having one or two members in the front; but no serious numbers advantage. Behind them BORA-Hansgrohe were among the teams picking up the pace behind them and closing the gap to 26 seconds with 14.5km. After one of the longest chase efforts to get back onto the peloton, the Bennett group made contact with the head of the race with just 10km remaining as racing continued at upwards of 60kph.
Happy for everyone of the 55teeth I was rocking on the front today. Seriously one the hardest days I can remember on the bike. So good from @GroenewegenD and the rest of the boys. Full squad in front group. my Soft climbing hands are not made for this hard man style of racing pic.twitter.com/APeOXkUqh2
— George Bennett? (@georgenbennett) March 11, 2019
It looked like it might be the day decided then, but for a change of direction and a furious surge in pace from Luke Rowe of Team Sky who’d been prominent throughout the day. He had company in Egan Bernal and Michal Kiwatkowski, while Matteo Trentin and Dylan Groenewegen made the front group. The surge in pace had dropped Marcel Kittel though and with 4km to go the German found himself alone. George Bennett was in the second group on the road, but they remained in touching distance of the leaders with 3km to go.
The lead group was a very select one now, and it was very much advantage Groenewegen as on paper he was the strongest sprinter. He was joined at the front by Bahrain Merida’s Iván García, Matteo Trentin, Philippe Gilbert of Deceuninck-Quick Step, Michal Kwiatkowski, Luis Leon Sanchez of Astana and Egan Bernal; while Luke Rowe finally succumbed to his own efforts and dropped back to the second group with just under 2km to go.
Team Sky had the numerical advantage still in the lead group with Kwiatkowski and Bernal now being leant on a little to do the work running into the finish. With GC aspirations the priority they were happy to oblige and perform the lead out for the group as García made the first move for the line. Matteo Trentin hit the front with just about 100m to go but Groenwegen was unstoppable as soon as he decided to go. He took his second win in as many days with García second and Philippe Gilbert third.
George Bennett crossed the line in the second group on the road, but conceded just 5 seconds to Bernal and Kwiatkowski, moving up in the GC to 28th overall at 25 seconds behind the Dutch sprinter. Sadly the race claimed four riders who could have been influential in the general classification with Warren Barguil, Rigoberto Uran, Louis Meintjes and Gorka Izagirre all abandoning the race; as well as Mark Cavendish.