In a testy sprint on Tuesday, Nacer Bouhanni and race leader Michael Matthews locked horns in Paris-Nice stage 2. Though Cofidis’s Bouhanni crossed the line first, Orica – GreenEdge’s Matthews was given the win by a race jury, which ruled that the Frenchman deviated from his line in the sprint. Trek – Segafredo’s Niccola Bonifazio was given second place.
“He changed his line a little bit in the sprint,” said Matthews about Bouhanni. “When you open up a sprint at the end of a 200km stage, it’s hard to sprint in a straight line. It’s racing. It is what it is. I probably would have come around him anyway. Either way, it’s definitely amazing to get another stage win.”
“He came up behind me, and he bumped into me. I didn’t change my line. I was trying not to crash,” Bouhanni argued, to no avail.
Stage 2, top 10
- 1. Michael MATTHEWS, ORICA – GreenEDGE, in 5:04:26
- 2. Niccolo BONIFAZIO, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at :00
- 3. Nacer BOUHANNI, COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at :00
- 4. Alexander KRISTOFF, TEAM KATUSHA, at :01
- 5. Arnaud DEMARE, FDJ, at :01
- 6. Ben SWIFT, TEAM SKY, at :01
- 7. André GREIPEL, LOTTO SOUDAL, at :01
- 8. Wouter WIPPERT, CANNONDALE PRO CYCLING TEAM, at :01
- 9. Adrien PETIT, DIRECT ENERGIE, at :01
- 10. Jonas VANGENECHTEN, IAM CYCLING, at :01
- 1. Michael MATTHEWS, ORICA – GreenEDGE, in 9:41:46
- 2. Tom DUMOULIN, TEAM GIANT – ALPECIN, at :14
- 3. Patrick BEVIN, CANNONDALE PRO CYCLING TEAM, at :19
- 4. Jon IZAGUIRRE INSAUSTI, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :19
- 5. Geraint THOMAS, TEAM SKY, at :19
- 6. Lieuwe WESTRA, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at :24
- 7. Dries DEVENYNS, IAM CYCLING, at :25
- 8. Arnaud DEMARE, FDJ, at :25
- 9. Rafal MAJKA, TINKOFF, at :27
- 10. Richie PORTE, BMC RACING TEAM, at :27
The day’s breakaway included four riders: Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre – Merida), Matthias Brandle (IAM Cycling), Evaldas Siskevicius (Delko Marseille), and Anthony Delaplace (Fortuneo – Vital Concept). Early in the race’s longest stage, the break’s advantage went north of six minutes, but it steadily slipped through the final half of the day.
Grmay drifted back to the peloton inside of the final 30 kilometers. The trio of attackers pressed on, and with about 15km left, it was only Siskevicius and Brandle off the front. With 12km to go, the duo was caught.
Under the red kite, Orica was under control, setting up yellow jersey-wearer Matthews. Katusha pushed up the right side with Bouhanni tucked in.
Trek opened up the sprint just before the final right turn. Cofidis was there, placing Bouhanni second wheel with Matthews just behind.
The Cofidis sprinter fired the afterburners and gradually drifted to the left side of the road, pinching Matthews against the barriers. The two bumped elbows and nearly crashed, while Bonifazio opted for the other side, away from the kerfuffle.
Amid the finish line histrionics — Matthews and Bouhanni shouting and gesticulating at each other — it was unclear how the jury would rule, but after a few minutes, Bouhanni was relegated to third place on the 214km stage.
Wednesday’s 165.5km stage from Cusset to Mont Brouilly will be Paris-Nice’s first foray into the hills with six categorized climbs, including a cat. 2 uphill finish.