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Photo ©: Sirotti

62nd Paris-Nice - 2.HC

France, March 7-14, 2004

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Stage 2 - March 8: Chaville - Montargis, 166.5 km

Complete live report

14:32 GMT    130km/36.5km to go
Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 2 of the 2004 edition of Paris-Nice. Today is the first road stage, and almost certainly a day for the sprinters as it's basically flat between Chaville and Montargis. There are five small (cat. 3) climbs in the first half of the race but a dead flat second half will give the sprinters' teams more than enough time to reel in a breakaway.

Under a bright sun the riders took off from Chaville again this morning. The temperature was brisk but should warm up as long as the sun stays out. Germany's Jörg Jaksche (Team CSC) begins the day as the race leader after his fine performance in Sunday's opening time trial. He holds a four second lead over Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) and Dutchman Erik Dekker (Rabobank).

14:44 GMT    149km/17.5km to go
Team CSC is not fooling around today in defense of Jaksche's yellow jersey, as the team has basically ripped the field apart and is now driving the pace at the head of a rather select group of just 30-35 riders. A bit surprising for this first stage, but it shows that the week will be full of aggressive racing since every second will matter for the general classification.

The race is ahead of schedule and the riders are in fact already hitting the finishing circuit of 17 kilometres in Montargis.

So in the front group, seven CSC riders are still holding the lead together, along with several riders from US Postal (Ekimov, Peña, Hincapie, Noval, Azevedo), Quick.Step-Davitamon (Rogers, Huslmans, Tankink), etc.

The first group has two minutes on the chase group of 20 riders, and some 3'20 to the third group on the road. The Alessio-Bianchi team, including Cyclingnews diarist Scott Sunderland, is leading the chase.

14:46 GMT    154km/12.5km to go
The main peloton has just gone through the first line, entering the finishing circuit four minutes behind the leaders. Two teams have missed out completely: Ag2r-Prévoyance and RAGT Semences-MG Rover.

CSC continues to control the lead group with Jaksche comfortably sitting on the wheels of his teammates.

14:49 GMT    157km/9.5km to go
Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), winner of the Classic Haribo, is a strong contender for a sprint finish in the lead group. Australian Baden Cooke of FDJeux.com has missed today's move and finds himself in the first chase group, along with Great Britain's David Millar.

A final group of stragglers, almost ten minutes behind the leaders, has just entered the final circuit. The group includes Phonak's Tyler Hamilton, who started the race despite being hit with a flu in the last few days.

14:54 GMT    160km/6.5km to go
The Chocolade Jacques team has started to move up behind CSC in the lead group, preparing the finish for Gerben Lowik.

Frank Vandenbroucke is in the lead group, and has also picked up 3" in a bonus sprint today, keeping him in a good position overall.

The wind has played a bigger role than expected today, catching many riders by surprise and creating the enormous time splits which are almost certainly reshaping the race.

14:56 GMT    161km/5.5km to go
An attack comes now from Rabobank's Matthew Hayman. He's got a gap of about 20 metres but it will be tough to stay away on his own. His teammate Robert Hunter is in the lead group too, more of a candidate for an eventual sprint.

14:58 GMT    163km/3.5km to go
Hayman is back in the group as CSC continues to drive the train. A new attack from Fassa Bortolo's Fabian Cancellara, but he's got a small fleet of CSC riders on his back wheel straight away. Some splits are starting to open up and the lead group is getting more antsy as the finish draws near.

15:00 GMT    164km/2.5km to go
Jens Voigt leads the CSC train, looking over his shoulder to make sure Jaksche is in position and to watch for more attacks.

Jaksche has managed to grab two bonus seconds as well, meaning on the road he now has six seconds over Rebellin on GC.

15:02 GMT    166.5km/0km to go
CSC starts to let the others take over, knowing the work is done to keep Jaksche in position. Quick.Step's Pedro Horillo goes clear in a late attack and holds off the charging group by mere metres to win!

So much for thoughts of a predictable stage. Nobody has won the race overall, but quite a few people have lost it...

15:06 GMT    km/166.5km to go

Provisional results:

1 Pedro Horillo (Spa) Quick.Step-Davitamon
2 Beat Zberg (Swi) Gerolsteiner
3 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Team CSC
4 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) FDJeux.com
5 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Lotto-Domo
6 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner)
7 Gerben Lowik (Ned) Chocolade Jacques
8 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole
The first chase group has come in nearly four minutes behind the leaders, including riders like Alexandre Vinokourov, Laurent Brochard, and many more...

In the general classification, Jaksche stays in yellow ahead of Rebellin and CSC teammate Bobby Julich, who moves up to third.