ORLEANS, France (AP) — Tom Boonen of Belgium led a sprint finish to win a wind-swept second stage of the Paris-Nice race on Monday, as Bradley Wiggins of Britain displayed savvy riding to wrest the overall race lead.
The 31-year-old Belgian captured his 100th career individual stage or race victory by edging Jose Joaquin Rojas of Spain and John Degenkolb of Germany in the flat ride south from the Paris area, race organizers said.
Blustery conditions helped a 20-rider lead bunch that also included Wiggins and U.S. rider Levi Leipheimer to outpace the pack by 2½ minutes over the 115 miles from Mantes-la-Jolie to Orleans.
"It was a hard day with the crosswind," Boonen said. "We fought a hard battle all day because there were GC (general classification) contenders in the leading group."
Wiggins, one of the overall race favorites, took the lead from prologue winner Gustav Larsson by jumping ahead of the Swede as part of a 30-man group that broke out of the main pack shortly after the midway point.
The Sky Procycling rider leads second-place Leipheimer by six seconds, and Leipheimer's Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammate Boonen is third, seven seconds back. Two promising young Americans at the BMC team are off to a solid start: Tejay Van Garderen is fourth, 11 seconds behind Wiggins, and Taylor Phinney is seventh, another 10 seconds back.
For Luxembourg's Andy Schleck, who was already 61 seconds off the lead after the first stage, the race went from bad to worse as he finished nearly 11 minutes back of the leaders, and is now 12:01 off the pace in 155th place. He is seen as a possible favorite for the Tour de France title this summer.
Tuesday's third stage cuts a vertical swath through central France with a rolling, 120-mile trek from Vierzon to Vassiviere lake. The race ends Sunday.
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