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Splitsville at Paris-Nice

It’s so hard to resist making wind puns. Gone with the wind. Blowing in the wind. Is there an answer? Never on Mondays.

During today’s second stage of Paris-Nice, the wind split the field and quite possibly ended the hopes of the riders left behind. Bradley Wiggins, who finished one second behind prologue winner Gustav Larsson, made the split and grabbed the yellow shirt. No doubt he is hoping to hold it all the way to Nice. Levi Leipheimer, Tejay van Garderen, Alejandro Valverde, and Sylvain Chavanel are among the pre-race favorites who also made the split. I’m being a bit over-generous there calling Chavanel a favorite, but hey! He’s French! And it’s a bike race in France! So.

Prologue winner Gustav Larsson, Tony Martin, Fränk and Andy Schleck, and Jèrôme Coppel all missed the split and sit more than 2:30 down in the general. In an eight-stage race? That might as well be several time zones. Thomas Voeckler also missed the split, but he probably likes it back there. More breakaways, more funner, or at least, that’s what it always seems like with Voeckler. Stage-hunting time, anyway for him.

Today’s win-driven split could mean this Paris-Nice is a four-rider race: Leipheimer, van Garderen, Valverde and Wiggins. On team support Wiggins and van Garderen seem to me to have the advantage. But both Valverde and Leipheimer will enjoy that final crono up the Col d’Èze. Also, somewhere along the road to Nice, the wind could blow again, or someone could get crafty and twist around all our expectations. Really, I can’t help but hope that somebody does.

Meanwhile, Tom Boonen took out another sprint victory today. He’s taken to bunch sprinting again, it seems, and with some success. Boonen won the overall at Qatar. Too bad for him Sep Vanmarcke had the faster finish at the Omloop. Anyway, it’s nice to see Boonen winning bike races again. I feel like it’s been too long, really.

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