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Paris-Nice: Arvid de Kleijn wins stage 2 bunch sprint

Arvid de Kleijn (Tudor Pro Cycling) powered to new heights with his first WorldTour victory on stage 2 of Paris-Nice. The Dutchman outsprinted a top field of fast men to take the biggest win of his career and of his team’s career. 

This is the Swiss team’s first victory at WorldTour level in just their second season as a ProTeam. A lack of wind on the 177km route led to a mainly slow day of racing from Thoiry to Montargis, with the Swiss team getting the fast run into the finish right and positioning their sprinter in prime position for the key duo of roundabouts in the last 2km.

Laurence Pithie (Groupama-FDJ) continued his brilliant start to the season with second on the stage ahead of Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco AlUla) and took six more bonus seconds, but couldn’t come around De Kleijn.

The 21-year-old Kiwi moved into the yellow GC leader’s jersey thanks to his bonus time gains ahead of Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) and Olav Kooij (Visma-Lease a Bike), with the trio all on the same time.

“I think I’ve been close a couple of times and I was chasing a WorldTour victory. It’s nice to grab it like this. Everybody could see it was a great team performance,” said De Kleijn before crediting experienced teammate Matteo Trentin, who was brought into the Tudor setup for 2024.

“He [Trentin] knew exactly what to do. He said we had to stay calm until the end and then he did an amazing pull and then I have the two Dutchies in front of me and they did an incredible job.

“Today was all in for me and it was nice to finish it off.”

De Kleijn was almost caught out when Danny van Poppel opened the sprint but ensured last man Maikel Zijlaard was out of his way so he could latch onto his compatriot’s wheel.

“I was the last 200 and I was a little bit boxed in by my own teammate. I screamed to the left so he opened up and I could go to the wheel of Van Poppel and I came with speed and kept it to the line,” De Kleijn said.

This marks a huge step for Fabian Cancellara’s Tudor, who are set to ride their first Grand Tour later in the season at the Giro d’Italia.

“We are making big steps and I’m also personally making steps every year. I’m a little bit older than the rest but it’s nice to see I can still make improvements,” said the 29-year-old.

In the fight for the overall GC, Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek) moved onto the same time as Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) and just two seconds behind Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) thanks to gaining two bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint.

Tomorrow’s stage 3 will provide the first big shakeup for the overall standings with a team time trial starting and finishing in Auxerre.

It’s the second in as many years at Paris-Nice and Evenepoel will be looking to lead his strong Soudal-QuickStep squad to victory ahead of other top favourite Primož Roglič (Bora Hansgrohe).

How it unfolded

Day two at the Race to the Sun was designed for the wind to open up the racing on exposed roads, but threats of early echelon action were dampened by the wind not playing ball.

Attacks were made for the second day running by Jonas Rutsch (EF Education – EasyPost) and Mathieu Burgaudeau (TotalEnergies) in pursuit of KOM points, but there was no threat of splits forming.

By the end of the day, the Frenchman had moved into the lead of the polka-dot competition ahead of Rutsch with help from teammate Pierre Latour over the second categorised climb, the Côte de Villeconin (0.8 km at 7%).

Between the fight for KOM points came a solo attack from Pascal Eenkhoorn (Lotto Dstny), but this came to nothing and he was soon back in the bunch.

With the fight for the mountains classification done and no real wind to work with, everything in the peloton calmed completely for the next couple of hours. For a while, the peloton was led by a lone Koen Bouwman (Visma-Lease a Bike) while they awaited the sprint finish.

The 60km to-go point marked a reignition of racing in the peloton as the intermediate sprint and bonus seconds approached.

An aggressive fight for the bonuses was set up by Lidl-Trek, but it was Danny van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe) who took the maximum six available to take them away from any of Primož Roglič’s GC rivals. Pedersen moved level on time with race leader Kooij after securing four bonus seconds and helped Mattias Skjelmose to two in third.

A 90-degree turn would follow the sprint point in Puiseaux, meaning a change in wind direction from a headwind into a crosswind but with wind speeds still low, calm returned in the bunch until the sprint trains began their charge for home with 12km to go.

Every turn in the final 10km was raced for with Arkéa-B&B Hotels and DSM-Firmenich PostNL best placed until Trentin charged to the front with 2.3km to go and put Tudor into the driving seat.

This moved the action from the left-hand side of the road to the right and washed most of the top sprint teams back into the bunch, with Kooij and Fabio Jakobsen among those losing out.

The final kilometre was led by Visma-Lease a Bike but without the race leader and their sprinter anywhere near the front. Van Poppel launched first before he was easily passed by a flying De Kleijn and Pithie with the Dutchman securing Tudor’s first victory of the season after impressing throughout the UAE Tour.

Results

SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
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