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Paris Nice Stage 2

Today has started with me coming into the commentary box to find Ned making more pessimistic predictions about the world, in particular the Champion of the World, Mads Pedersen.  Ned's not the pessimistic type, yet something has come over him lately, and so his latest victim is the young Dane, "I don't think he's going to win a race this year.  Who was the last World Champion to not win a race?"  And so we went on a dark search through the annals of rainbow wearers.  To save you the time, we think it's Rudy Dhaenens.  

To put this in context, it all goes back to a piece Ned wrote a few weeks ago on The Road Book journal, excerpt below:

"It’s amazing how quickly greatness passes. Suddenly, and without anyone realising it’s happened, a prolific winner stops winning. It could be that this has already happened to Chris Froome, Greg van Avermaet, Vincenzo Nibali and to Geraint Thomas. It’s certainly come to pass for Mark Cavendish. I suggest that it’s also happened to Peter Sagan, and that 2020 will prove my patently ridiculous point. His USP was both his great strength and his great weakness. He was always one of the best puncheurs, though perhaps not absolutely THE best, and one of the best sprinters, though perhaps not absolutely THE best, and one of the best baroudeurs, though perhaps not absolutely THE best. But that combination allowed him to scoop up the green jersey seven times, the rainbow bands three time in a row and a whole bunch of victories. The problem is that there are suddenly a bunch of riders who have similar attributes, albeit differently slanted, who can match him in most disciplines and beat him in others. The era of specialization is being thrown into question by riders like Evenepoel, Alaphilippe, van Aert, Pedersen, Hirschi and van der Poel. Sagan’s finished. He’s done."

So, Sagan is done, Ned says so.  The latest addition to the Dark List of Ned's is Mads Pedersen, so it was with great pleasure that two of today's principal protagonists were Peter Sagan and Mads Pedersen, in fact from the moment the coverage started it seemed like the director had chosen to follow the young World Champion, I found it hard to hold my shit together I found it so funny.  Especially as 33km from the finish, as the race turned into a predicted crosswind section, Pedersen and Sagan seemed to be ever present at the front.  

It was a weird stage, because instead of the race storming into this cross-wind section fearing the inevitable carnage, it all seemed quite passive, then slowly it started to fall apart from the rear, disintegrating slowly, and very ominously.  Then things started happening, like Alaphilippe puncturing, then Quintana crashing, and before you knew it there was hardly anybody left at the front and there were groups as far as the helicopter could see.

The screw kept being turned, until the final knockout punch was delivered by Sagan and his team mates with about 11km to go, and then there were only about 10 left at the front, Bora having four of them.  They then controlled it as best they could with Sagan being the ring leader, letting gaps go, forcing others to work.  At the time it seemed like he had everything in control, chaperoning Ackermann (their sprinter) to an inevitable win.  Although in hindsight it is clear he was being as economical as he could be, knowing his ability to contribute was limited and that he would have to make sure he waited as late as possible, which he did, but even then it was too early.  The great Peter Sagan did not have the necessary kick, the vicious explosion we're familiar with, it wasn't there.  Ackermann was hung out to dry and Nizzolo used it to his advantage and won comfortably.  

The GC winners for the day were Sergio Higuita and Vincenzo Nibali, big losers were Alaphilippe and Quintana, both losing over one minute.

1. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling 3:49:57
2. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
4. Nils Politt (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation
5. Sergio Andres Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Pro Cycling
6. Mads Schmidt Würtz (Den) Israel Start-Up Nation
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:03
8. Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
9. Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
10. Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Start-Up Nation

So yeah, another day Christian Vande Velde would have added to his list of Reasons to Hate Paris Nice.  As usual the Never Strays Far podcast will be up with even more details about the racing, find it here.  And you'll also be able to watch it on ITV4 daily at 7pm.