Peter Sagan took the stage victory and the Yellow Jersey on Stage Two of the Tour de France today after an absorbing last 10km which saw Jasper Stuyven caught 500m before the line.
After reportedly calling the opening stage from Mont-Saint-Michel to Utah Beach ‘boring’ Sagan certainly made the fight to the line anything but as he pipped Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx Quickstep) to the line at Cherbourg to win his first Tour stage since 2013.
On paper it was always going to be unlikely for Mark Cavendish to retain the Yellow Jersey he won so brilliantly at Utah Beach yesterday. The race profile was suited to someone who could climb but also have that burst of energy in the final stages to claim victory, and today that man was the World Champion Sagan.
Contador tumbles again
It was a slow and steady start to proceedings; but a breakaway eventually got clear; Paul Voss, the King of the Mountains leader and Cesare Benedetti both of Bora-Argon were involved in the breakaway along with Vegard Breen (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo).
Together they built up a healthy lead of over five minutes; a lead which only crumbled within the last 500m as the sole survivor of the breakaway Stuyven was caught.
But for Alberto Contador it was another bad day at the office, the 33-year-old is still one of the favourites for the overall crown; but his crashes in the opening days have certainly not aided his cause. The one yesterday was more serious than today’s one, but in terms of losing minutes it not ideal for El Pistolero .
A fast and frenetic finish
The climb up the Cote de la Glacerie was always going to be tough on its own; but it was the run-up to the climb which was tricky. There was plenty of unwanted road furniture for the riders to navigate, and even a stretch of road that could only fit two riders abreast – it was the Tour in all its glory.
But with the race entering the last 10km, it was the breakaway that still held the advantage with a lead of roughly two minutes – and for one moment it looked like the peloton had given up the ghost.
But as the slopes began to rise it was Stuyven who decided to go alone with around 7km remaining; he left Voss and Breen for dead as he hunted for what would have been a memorable stage victory.
But back down the road the peloton was kicking into life; the acceleration of Tinkoff-Saxo at the front upped the pace and it was a frantic scramble for position.
And in the melee for position it was a rank outsider for the overall victory who had an unfortunate puncture. Richie Porte who left Team Sky in search of more leadership opportunities last year rued his luck as he was caught out; and ultimately left behind after waiting to fix his unwanted puncture.
Whilst the BMC rider was sorting his puncture, for a moment Eurosport had us believing Stuyven had a one minute advantage over the chasing pack; but that was wrong and he was caught as he was lining up for the finishing straight.
From there, the big hitters took over. Sagan was in proximity, as was Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde, even Chris Froome was in the pack hunting for a stage win.
But ultimately it was the Slovakian dynamite who took not only the stage victory but the Maillot Jaune as the Tour opening weekend closed with a bang.