Groenewegen powered out of the pack to win a bunch sprint by a clear
bike length on Monday to clinch victory in stage two of the Paris-Nice
race as the Dutch speedster starts to mark himself out as a man to
Frenchman Arnaud Demare, the winner of Sunday's dramatic four-way
photo finish, retains the overall lead with the time gap and points
bonus earned with a slog up the cobbled hill before the stage one
Demare, the 26-year-old French champion, was in the mix again Monday
but ended fifth, although he was cheered along much of the 187.5km route
in his race leader's yellow jersey.
"He's the best right now," Demare said of Groenewegen after the race,
and the Dutchman had also beaten him in the season's first classic at
Demare's words prove the 24-year-old Groenewegen is making a name for
himself as the season progresses and this was his fifth race win of the
season, easily bursting clear of big shots such as Italy's Elia Viviani
and the German stalwart Andre Greipel, who came second and third here.
Groenewegen won the final stage of the 2017 Tour de France and is scheduled to race the Grande Boucle again this season.
"It was a tough sprint," said Groenewegen, who confirmed Monday he would not race the Milan-SanRemo classic.
"It was great to beat all the favourites, just perfect. This was the
main chance of a bunch sprint and we won," he told reporters.
Team Emirates leader and Portuguese climber Rui Costa, who fell twice
on Sunday and early on the stage Monday, pulled out after his right
knee gave him too much pain.
Tuesday's 210km stage from Bourges to Chatel-Guyon in the Puy-de-Dome
region may end up going to a sprinter again but it is far from certain.
With a category three climb followed by a sharp, tricky descent some
20km from home, it may be too tempting for the powerful rollers amongst
the peloton to resist a late bid.
Over the five remaining stages there is a time trial and three days
featuring significant climbing, including the final day 110km run around
Team Sky have dominated this high-profile spring stage race since
2012 and while reigning champion Sergio Henao of Colombia is targeting
his own personal treble, Dutchman Wout Poels is strongly fancied in the
absence of Chris Froome.
The pair trail leader Demare by 15 seconds in the overall standings.