Bol knocks off sprinters to win Stage 2 of Paris-Nice

Cees Bol (Team DSM) was the fastest to the finish line in Amilly at the conclusion of Stage 2 of Paris-Nice, outpacing Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) after a nervous and crash-affected run to the line. Matthews took over the race lead from previous yellow jersey-holder Sam Bennett (Deceucninck-QuickStep) who finished fourth.

Cees Bol, Team DSM, Paris-Nice

Cees Bol of Team DSM wins Stage 2 of Paris-Nice Source: Getty

A late fall meant that the winner was decided from a group of just 20 riders after a crash in the peloton held up a number of riders a kilometre from the finish. Bol's DSM were safe up front, leading the way along with most of the other of the big-name sprinters, before Jasper Stuyven took over for Trek-Segafredo led out Pedersen in the final 600 metres.

Bol was fourth wheel, just behind Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) at that point and timed his sprint well, hitting out just before Pedersen, sweeping past the former world champion and careening to a convincing win. 

"It's the best feeling," said Bol. "I had a bit of a struggle at the start of the season and wasn't good before now. We kept believing and today, with superb help from my teammates, we smashed it.

"We went well through the last corner. I was close to being boxed in but Nils (Eekhoff) recognised the moment and kept the door open for me. Then, I was in a good wheel. The guys from Trek-Segafredo did a strong lead-out but I started my sprint at the right moment and had enough power to make it to the line."

Bol, 25, is in his third year as a professional and has always been around the mark of the top sprinters, without many wins, this was his second WorldTour victory, his fifth in UCI races, but the signs are good for him to continue this good run of form.

"It's a good boost to the confidence, especially after a rough start," said Bol. "Yesterday we didn't do well now today we showed we can do it as a team. It gives confidence for the sprint stages and the other days where we have a chance with the other guys."

The race was hard for significant portions of the course, with crosswinds and pressure from the teams forcing splits after the initial two-man breakaway of Sander Armée (Qhubeka Assos) and Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) had got away. 

The pair were reabsorbed after echelons formed with still 105 kilometres remaining of the 188 kilometre stage. All riders were able to return after the aggression, with Michael Matthews winning the intermediate sprint to move to just two seconds off Bennett's race lead.

It was less windy in the final 50 kilometres, and the peloton settled into a more settled rhythm until the second intermediate sprint, 34 kilometres from the finish. Once again, Matthews was active, taking another two seconds bonus in second position, while André Greipel (Israel Start-Up Nation) was first across the line.

Immediately after the sprint, the road narrowed into the single lane, urban streets, with a crash in the peloton coming as a result of the crush of riders. Jérémy Lecroq (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) went down first, but it was George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) who came off worst. The New Zealand road champion stumbled slightly as he returned to his feet, took off his cracked helmet and looked dazed, but he was back on his bike within two minutes of going down after what looked like a quick check from the team staff.

The UCI put in place concussion protocols at the end of 2020 and it is unknown at this stage exactly how close those were adhered to by looking at the television footage.

The race came alive in the run to the finish, with teams battling to be first through the technical hairpins in the final few kilometres.

A crash near the front of the peloton took out Bora-Hansgrohe duo Michael Schwarzmann and Jordi Meeus, as well as Matteo Pelucchi (Qhubeka Assos) and Rui Oliveira (UAE Team Emirates), with the majority of the race caught out behind the fall and seeing their chances at the stage win vanish. 

Pedersen was second while Matthews fought his way on for third, claiming enough bonus seconds after earlier winning the first intermediate sprint to move into the race lead by four seconds over Pedersen.

Stage 1 winner Sam Bennett was a fast-finishing fifth, the smallest of margins for Matthews ensuring that the Australian would pull on the yellow jersey. 

Paris-Nice continues with the Stage 3 time trial, a flat 14.3-kilometre stage that finishes on a short climb into Gien, with the pure time triallists still expected to feature prominently on the power-focused stage. You can watch the racing action from 12.15 AEDT on SBS HD, with race replays and catch-up higlights available on the Cycling Central website and SBS On Demand. 

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5 min read
Published 9 March 2021 at 7:58am
By SBS Cycling Central
Source: SBS