By Gilles Le Roch'
LIMOGES, France (Reuters) - France's William Bonnet avoided a pile-up in the finale of the 201-km second stage of the Paris-Nice race to snatch his most prestigious victory to date Tuesday.
The 27-year-old Frenchman surged in the final stretch to win in Limoges ahead of Slovak Peter Sagan while last year's overall winner Luis Leon Sanchez was third.
Dutchman Lars Boom retained his overall lead. He has a five-second advantage over Germany's Jens Voigt while Spaniard Sanchez moved up to third, 10 seconds adrift.
"It's the most beautiful win of my career. I used to work a lot for Thor Hushovd when I was with Credit Agricole. I have more freedom to play my own cards since I joined Bbox," Bonnet said.
"I hope it's my first great win but that more will follow. There were only two days for sprinters in this Paris-Nice so I think that's it for now but I have other goals in the early season - to do well in Milan-San Remo and in the spring classics, and above all Paris-Roubaix."
Bonnet was lucky to stay out of trouble when Slovenian Grega Bole hit the tarmac in front of France's Jimmy Casper only 600 meters from the line.
Sanchez attacked immediately after the pile-up, followed by Sagan, but a late surge allowed Bonnet to raise his arms on the line.
"The last 100 meters were long, but I really went for it," he said.
Unlike in the first stage, when cold and strong crosswinds caused massive pile-ups in the peloton, most favorites reached Limoges unscathed.
Tour de France champion Alberto Contador started as planned despite bruises from his crash the previous day and he took no risks, finishing 17th in the same time as Bonnet.
A long break involving France's Laurent Mangel, Italy's Mauro Finetto and Dutchmen Koen De Kort and Jens Mouris was reined in after 183 kms, but allowed Mangel to take the best climber's polka-dot jersey on the three hills of the day.
Wednesday's third stage takes the peloton to Aurillac over 210 km.
(Editing by Justin Palmer)