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Stage 2: Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines - Contres.
Terrain: Flat.
GC Importance: Sprinter Party!

This 201.5 kilometer stage between Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines and Contres offers the fast-men their first opportunity to chase stage victory at this year's Paris-Nice. Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines has never before hosted a Paris-Nice stage, but it has provided the start for Paris-Tours on 16 occasions. The stage runs almost directly south over flat terrain across the Plain de Beauce. Wind is common across the flat lands of the Plain de Beauce, so there is always the possibility that crosswinds will split the field. Though the riders will have no time for sight-seeing, the stage passes the famous château de Chaumont sur Loire. Contres, a town east of Tours and just south of Blois, will host the finish.

No categorized climbs decorate the stage profile. Indeed, the stage runs slightly downhill all the way, losing around 60 meters in elevation between the start and finish. There's no excuse for the riders to dilly-dally. Two intermediate sprints enliven the proceedings and the time bonuses could bring a change in the race lead by day’s end. The towns of Gaubert and Herbault host the sprints, which come at kilometers 66 and 145. The stage should end in a sprint. A right turn announces the sprint at 600 meters to go, then it’s a straight line to the finish.

This week, the sprint field divides between Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, with the flatter Italian race typically proving the more popular. Still, the final kilometer should see its share of hijinx during this Paris-Nice. André Greipel has already proved his early-season speed this year, and we can expect to see him at the front with his powerful HTC-Columbia team. HTC-Columbia, who also ably support Mark Cavendish in the sprints, expert at the lead-out business. Heinrich Haussler of Cervélo TestTeam will also ride Paris-Nice. Of late, Haussler has found victory elusive as he has scored a string of seconds and thirds. The master of the near-miss, Haussler no doubt is hoping his luck will change. Greg Henderson will represent Team Sky in the final kilometer. Henderson transferred to Sky after riding in the Cavendish-Greipel trains at HTC-Columbia. Given the chance to race for himself, Henderson scored a sprint win of his own last season, and in January, he took two stage wins at the Tour Down Under. Borut Božič of Vacansoleil won two stages at the Etoile des Bessèges already this year, and finished second last year at Paris-Tours after making it to the line in a three-up break with Philippe Gilbert and Tom Boonen. Français des Jeux will be hoping that their sprinter Yahueni Hutarovich can match his recent successes at the Tour Mediterréen where he won two stages.

Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)<-->