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Nizzolo wins tough Paris-Nice stage as big guns misfire

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Châlette-sur-Loing (France) (AFP)

Italian sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo pounced late to win a rainy stage two of the Paris-Nice on Monday, as pre-race favourite Nairo Quintana had a damaging day.

Sunday's stage 1 winner Germany's Maximilian Schachmann of the Bora team remains in the overall leader's yellow jersey, while two time Giro d'Italia points winner Nizzolo is in second 15 seconds adrift.

Stage two culminated in a small bunch sprint after a blustery 166.5km struggle from Chevreus to Chalette-Sur-Loing with Slovak star Peter Sagan and 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali notably keeping pace with a lead group of 12.

Sagan and Nibali had both been slated to race in Italy, and only came to Paris-Nice when the Strade Bianchi and Tireno-Adriatico races were postponed due to the coronavirus.

In the final sprint Monday, Sagan's teammate Pascal Ackermann made a determined bid for the line from just inside the final kilometre, but was well beaten by a powerful surge from the 31-year-old Italian Nizzolo.

"I waited until as long as I could and then took his (Ackermann's) wheel as he came past. Then at the line I managed to get past him.

Colombian Quintana, previously seen as a favourite, was caught in a fall 25km from home with the peloton rolling at full pace, he dropped around 1min 30sec on the day.

Another man tipped as a potential winner the French star Julian Alaphilippe also suffered a costly puncture 30km from the finish line.

French climber Thibaut Pinot also lost precious seconds when he was caught by a sudden late surge by the Bora team led by powerhouse Sagan.

"Peter (Sagan) made such a huge effort to split up the front group. We had a great chance today," said yellow jersey Schachmann.

He then identified one of the climbers who emerged unscathed Monday as a potential threat to his lead.

"EF Pro Cycling did a good job too as Sergio Higuita was there. In the mountain he will be one of the best competitors."

Higuita is 23 seconds behind Schachmann.

Tuesday's third stage of eight is a long 212.5km flat run through exposed wheat plains.

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