In front of the spectacular castle of Fontainebleau, Denmark’s Mads Pedersen outwitted the rest of the field to snatch his second stage victory in Paris-Nice after the one clinched last year in Dun-le-Palestel.
The former world champion beat promising Dutch sprinter Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) and compatriot Magnus Cort to take the yellow jersey away from Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick Step).
Tadej Pogacar, who again won the day’s intermediate sprint, is second overall, two deconds behind, ahead of a crucial team time trial on Tuesday.
Gregaard goes again
The real start was given at 13:00 to 154 riders. With 3 km done, Jonas Gregaard (Uno-X Pro), already part of yesterday’s break with Paul Ourselin (TotalEnergies) was back in action, this time going solo for a long day at the front.
The Dane took his gap to a maximum of 4:25 before the peloton, led by Merlier’s Soudal Quick Step team-mates decided it was enough. With a lead settling at under three minutes, Gregaard came first at the top of the 3rd category Cote des Granges-le-Roi, to add three points to his KOM tally, making him the provisional leader of the mountain classification.
New KOM leader
A brief echelon took place after kilometre 81, when the peloton suddenly raised the tempo and split, losing a few riders along the way. While the pack came within 25 seconds of the escapee, it finally regrouped and let Gregaard regain some of his lead.
The Dane went ahead, again coming first at the top of Cote de Méréville (km 103.1) to take his KOM lead to eight points. He will keep the polka-dot jersey until stage 4 since there are no KOM points on offer in stage 3’s team time trial. Gregaard was also voted the most aggressive rider of the stage.
His KOM harvest completed, he waited for the pack and was reeled in with 53 km to go. Over two days, the Dane has spent 229 km at the front. In the last 50 km, the pack geared up for the final sprint and the only event was a crash by Pierre Latour, 6th overall, with 39 km to go.
The Frenchman was able to make it back on his bike and into the pack with a little help from team-mates Jeremy Cabot and Paul Ourselin. On the only intermediate sprint of the day, Tadej Pogacar attempted the same move as a day before, going for the six seconds up for grabs.
The UAE Emirates team leader beat Michael Matthews (Jayco-Alula) and Nathan van Hooydocnk (Jumbo Visma) on the line to snatch precious time ahead of Tuesday’s team time trial. A crash took place under the red flame, disorganizing the final sprint which looked undecided before Mads Pedersen surged to take the day’s laurels. – www.paris-nice.fr