|Australian champion Robbie McEwen won the second stage of Paris-Nice today in Belleville with as canny a display of sprinting you’re likely to see. After getting lost in the pack yesterday before blasting through to finish third, the Lotto sprinter stuck right on the wheel of stage one winner and race leader Alessandro Petacchi today, and then gave the Italian some of the treatment he’s recently been handing out to others.
A series of roundabouts in Belleville had helped to line the finishing pack, so much so that when Gabriele Balducci of the Tacconi began the final sprint from 500 metres out he had just Petacchi and McEwen for company. These two sat in for 250 metres while Balducci gave it all he had and Telekom’s domestiques tried vainly to pull Danilo Hondo across a 20-metre gap to the leaders.
Sitting behind the two Italians, McEwen was ideally placed to make the decisive move, and couldn’t have judged it any better. He jumped past Petacchi and Balducci on the right, but stayed so close to them that Petacchi initially had no option but to delay his own jump.
The hesitation was crucial, and the Australian was going away from the Italians until just before the line when he looked back and began to celebrate his win. He said to French TV afterwards that he was in the best shape of his career going into this season, and that the team were expecting at least one stage win at Paris-Nice. With that objective achieved he’ll now be looking for another.
With the bonus seconds on offer at the line, McEwen moved up to second overall, three seconds down on Petacchi, who also kept the points jersey.
The surprise of the day was Cofidis sprinter Jo Planckaert taking the lead in the King of the Mountains competition. He won the penultimate climb of the day, a 2nd-cat, catching Mapei’s Dario Cioni just before the summit soon after the Anglo-Italian had passed the break of the day that had involved Lotto’s Glenn d’Hollander and CSC’s Paul Van Hyfte.
Planckaert added the final 3rd-category climb for good measure, but his hold on the white polka dot jersey should be short-lived given the mountain tests tomorrow.
Stage 2, Moulins-Belleville
1. Robbie McEwen (Australia) Lotto-Adecco 170km en 4-21-21
2. Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo)
3. Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r)
4. Andrea Tafi (Mapei)
5. Danilo Hondo (Telekom)
6. Andrea Ferrigato (Alessio)
7. Gabriele Balducci (Tacconi Sport)
8. Christophe Capelle (BigMat)
9. Matthias Buxhofer (Phonak)
10. Danny Jonasson (CSC)
24 Baden Cooke (FDJ)
53 Christopher Jenner (Credit Agricole)
90 Bobby Julich (Telekom)
94 Cadel Evans (Mapei)
133 Robert Hunter (Mapei) all st
154 Matthew Wilson (FDJ) at 2-31
1. Alessandro Petacchi (Italy) Fassa Bortolo 9-11-39
2. McEwen at 3 sec.
3. Laszlo Bodrogi (Mapei) at 8 sec.
4. Didier Rous (Bonjour) at 10 sec.
5. Javier Pascual Rodriguez (iBanesto.com) at 14 sec.
6. Nico Mattan (Cofidis)
7. Juan Carlos Dominguez (Phonak)
8. Andreas Kloeden (Telekom)
9. José Alberto Martinez (Euskaltel) all st
10. Dario Frigo (Tacconi) at 15 sec.
12 Alex Zuelle (Team Coast) st
15 Laurent Jalabert (CSC) at 16 Sec
25 Julich at 21 Sec
36 Cooke at 25 Sec
37 Hunter st
40 Jenner at 26 Sec
71 Richard Virenque (Domo) at 33 Sec
84 Evans at 35 Sec
148 Wilson at 3-08
KoM: Jo Planckaert (Cofidis)
Best Young Rider: Angel Vicioso (Kelme)