Germany’s Marcel Kittel won the second stage of the Paris-Nice race, a 200.5km ride from Vimory to Cerilly, on Tuesday.
However, the overall lead is held by Italian Elia Viviani, who benefited from overnight leader French champion Nacer Bouhanni crashing out of the race when he came to grief 58km from the finish and suffered a mouth injury.
“He has a split lip, and maybe a damaged tooth, he is also complaining of a sore arm,” his team sporting director Frank Pineau told France Television, adding he had been taken to hospital in nearby Bourges.
The 24-year-old Kittel – who counts a stage win on the Tour of Spain in 2011 amongst his honours – overtook four riders, including Viviani, to take the stage in a sprint finish.
Viviani finished second with Australian Leigh Howard taking the final place on the podium.
“I am very happy to have had this opportunity,” said Kittel.
“After the first stage, I was very disappointed not to have a chance to win because I had a puncture about 10km from the finish.
“It’s important for me to win a race on the WorldTour and also to do it so early in the season but it is probably the last chance for me to win on this year’s Paris-Nice,” he added.
Viviani has a seven second lead to protect over Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel with compatriot Damien Gaudin third overall and a further second adrift.
“It gives me great satisfaction to have the yellow jersey which was my objective,” enthused Viviani.
“I didn’t win the stage but Kittel was very strong, too strong for me today.
“I’ve taken a look at the profile for the next stage and it’s going to be difficult to retain the jersey but I have a good team and I’m going to try my best.”
Stage three features a 170.5km ride from Chatel-Guyon to Brioude and includes a category two climb just 15km from the finish.