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Coming around Alaphilippe in the final metres, Sagan won stage 2 to take his first stage victory at the Tour de France since 2013 and his first yellow jersey, with Alaphilippe in 2nd and Valverde in 3rd; Contador and Porte lost time

Photo: Sirotti

ALEJANDRO VALVERDE

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JULIAN ALAPHILIPPE

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PETER SAGAN

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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03.07.2016 @ 17:54 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) finally broke a drought that has lasted since 2013 when he took a dominant victory in the uphill sprint on stage 2 of the Tour de France. The world champion came around Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) in the final metres to take his fifth Tour stage victory, with Alahilippe and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) completing the podium, and also earned himself his first yellow jersey. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) crashed again and was dropped in the finale while Richie Porte (BMC) lost time due to a late puncture.

 

When he won three stages at his Tour de France debut in 2012, it looked like Peter Sagan would go on to take numerous victories in the world’s biggest race. However, things haven’t turned out as expected and even though he has won the green jersey every year since his debut, he has only added one stage victory to his palmares, all the way back in 2013.

 

Last year he finished second on no less than five occasions and after a third place in stage 1, he was determined to finally break his drought in today’s hilly second stage which was tailor-made for his characteristics. He didn’t disappoint as he turned out to be the strongest in the uphill sprint, easily coming around Julian Alaphilippe in the final metres after a true masterpiece by teammate Roman Kreuziger had brought lone attacker Jasper Stuyven back.

 

The win also allowed Sagan to take his first ever yellow jersey but it was not all plain sailing for the Russian Tinkoff team. Team leader Alberto Contador crashed for the second day in a row and he was unable to keep up with the best in the finale and ended up losing 48 seconds.

 

Things were even worse for Richie Porte (BMC) who punctured with 4km to go and had no chance to get back in the hectic finale. With very little support from his teammates, he reached the finish alongside race leader Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), losing a massive 1 .45.

 

The dramatic started at the bottom of the small Cote de Octeville climb with 9km to go. At that point, an early break of Jasper Stuyven (Trek), Paul Voss (Bora-Argon 18) and Vegard Breen (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) threatened to spoil the party for the punchuers as they still had an advantage of around 2 minute.

 

Stuyven clearly sensed that he was the strongest and he made his bid for the stage win already on the lower slopes, with Voss making a failed attempt to chase him down. Further back, Sky had taken control with Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe who led the peloton onto the climb.

 

Etixx-QuickStep hit the front with Tony Martin who made the peloton explode to pieces, with riders like Marcel Kittel, John Degenkolb and Domenico Pozzovivo among the first to get dropped. Damiano Caruso took over for BMC and was quickly reducing the gap, with Porte and Greg Van Avermaet looking comfortable on his wheel.

 

Stuyven reached the top with an advantage of 1.30 and didn’t lose any time on the descent. There was no help for Caruso who did all the work until Ramunas Navardauskas took over for Cannondale.

 

BMC suddenly had to change all their plans with 4km to go. Porte suffered a very untimely puncture and it took a long time for him to get a new wheel. When he finally got back on his bike, there was very little help from his teammates as only Caruso dropped back after he had finished his work on the front.

 

Stuyven hit the final climb of the Cote de la Glacerie with 3km to go with an advantage of 1.30. That was the sign for Tinkoff to kick into action as Michael Valgren hit the front and the gap came down quickly. Cavendish was dropped and Breen and later Voss were caught.

 

When Valgren swung off, Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale) launched a strong attack and while he built a small gap, Kreuziger took over from his Danish teammate. The Czech was truly impressive as he easily brought Slagter back and made Stuyven’s advantage melt away.

 

Stuyven reached the top as the first rider to take the mountains jersey but Kreuziger was not far behind. When the Belgian hit the final 700m that were all uphill, he finally had to surrender to the strong Czech who just kept riding on the front. However, it had a negative effect for the team as Contador was suffering from his injuries and lost contact with the main group.

 

Kreuziger finally swung off when Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) tried to accelerate. However, he sat down immediately and so Sagan found himself in the wind way too early. However, he stayed calm, slowed down and waited until Alaphilippe launched the sprint. He jumped onto his wheel and then easily came around in the final metres to take the win. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) cracked in third position and forced Alejandro Valverde to close a gap, with the Spaniard having to settle for third.

 

With the win, Sagan moved into the race lead with an 8-second advantage over Alaphilippe. He should have an easier day tomorrow in the very long 223.5km stage 3. There’s only an early category 4 climb on an almost completely flat course and so the sprinters are expected to come to the fore on the slightly uphill finishing straight.

 

A tricky finale

After the flat opener, the puncheurs were expected to come to the fore in the second stage which brought the riders over 183km from Saint-Lô to Cherbourg-en-Contentin. After a lumpy start with three categoru 4 climbs, the terrain was flat in the middle section and then got hillier again in the finale. Inside the final 10km, the riders first tackled the uncategorized Cote d’Octeville and the category 3 climb of Cote de La Glacerie which averaged 6.5% over 1.9km. The top came just 1500m from the line but that didn’t bring an end to the climbing. The next 500m were flat but the final 700m were uphill at a gradient of 5.7%.

 

As expected, it was raining when the 198 riders who took the start yesterday, gathered in Saint-Lô, but it did not dampen the spirit of four riders who attacked right from the start. The rider in the mountains jersey, Paul Voss (Bora-Argon1 18) was again part of the action, and like yesterday he was joined by a teammate. This time it was Cesare Benedetti accompanying him alongside Vegard Breen (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek).

 

Stuyven and Breen win the KOM sprints

The peloton was content with the situation, and in less than two kilometers the gap had gone out to 30 seconds. At the bottom of the first climb after 10km of racing, it was already more than four minutes and after Breen won the KOM sprint, the peloton reached the top 5.15 later

 

Dimension Data took control and stabilized the gap as they approached the second climb. Again Bora were denied in the KOM sprint as Stuyven took the only point on offer. The peloton reached the top with a deficit of 5.50.

 

Stuyven wins again

Dimension Data increased its speed and slowly started to reduce the gap. At the 34.5km mark, it was down to 4.35 and it was still around that mark at the end of the first hour during which the riders had covered just 39.5km.

 

Benedetti tried a failed solo move as they approached the third climb but he refused to give up. He attacked again alongside Stuyven and only Breen managed to get back before they hit the climb. Voss was 10 seconds behind as they hit the ascent where Breen tried the next attack. However, it was Stuyven who easily came out on top in the sprint.

 

Contador goes down

The aggression had extended the gap to 5.20 when Stephen Cummings (Dimension Data) led the peloton over the top. However, the front group lost some momentum due to a lack of cooperation and this allowed Voss to get back.

 

The front quartet started to work together again and managed to push the gap out to 6 minutes before Cummings managed to stabilize the situation. Things seemed to be calm when the first dramatic highlight occurred with 125km to go. A big crash brought down the likes of Michael Matthews, Michael Albasini (Orica-Bikeexchange), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep), Waren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r) and while everybody seemed to be unscathed, it took a long time for Contador and Martin to get back on the bike. When the Spaniard finally got going again, he was more than 2 minutes behind and the Tinkoff team faced a hard chase.

 

Cummings in control

Cummings clearly slowed down and so allowed Contador, Martin and five Tinkoff riders to rejoin the peloton with 113km to go. That allowed the escapees to push the advantage out to 6.30 before the Brit again upped the pace. Meanwhile, Michael Mørkøv (Katusha) who crashed hard yesterday, was suffering at the back on the field, losing contact on the small climbs that littered the course.

 

After the hectic moment, the race settled into a rhythm, with Cummings keeping the gap at 6.30. Meanwhile, the sun came out and the riders even hit dry roads.

 

Greipel wins the sprint

As the approached the feed zone with around 80km to go, the level of stress intensified and big teams like BMC, Sky, Cannondale, Astana and Tinkoff lined out their troops next to the Dimension Data riders. As a consequence the gap had dropped to 6.00 when Benedetti led Voss, Breen and Stuyven across the line in the intermediate sprint with 75km to go.

 

Dimension Data lost control as the peloton approached the sprint as Direct Energie, Katusha and Movistar lined out their troops on the front. Marco Haller and Jacopo Guarnieri did the lead-out for Alexander Kristoff but it was André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) who did a long sprint. Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) tried to come around but it was the Lotto captain who took fifth place points. Kittel, Kristoff, Sagan and race leader Cavendish were next across the line.

 

Dimension Data take charge

The peloton hit narrower roads and it was Movistar, BMC and Cannondale that took control 5 minutes behind the leaders. However, they soon realized that there was no immediate danger and so Dimension Data again took control with Cummings. That allowed the gap to grow to 6.00 as they entered the final 60km.

 

Natnael Berhane took over the pace-setting for Dimension Data but there was still no help for the South African team. Cummings and Daniel Teklehaimanot also took a few turns as BMC and Movistar again moved to the front to keep their leaders in position.

 

IAM and Direct Energie hit the front

The fight for position was enough to reduce the gap to 5.05 at the entrance of the final 40km. This was the signal for IAM to hit the front with Stef Clement and Leigh Howard and they soon got assistance from Direct Energie with Antoine Duchesne and Adrien Petit. While the Swiss team was riding for Jarlinson Pantano, the French squad was hoping for Bryan Coquard.

 

The gap started to come down quickly and was only four minutes with 33km to go. IAM soon disappeared but Direct Energie maintained their fast pace with Sylvain Chavanel, Petit and Duchesne. That made it hard for Geraint Thomas (Sky) to rjoin the peloton when he suffered a puncture with 28km to go.

 

Benedetti is dropped

The escapees went full gas as they started to believe in their chances and this was too much for Benedetti who fell off the pace with 25km to go. However, their gap had been reduced to 3 minutes with 20km to go as Direct Energie, Tinkoff and BMC were now battling hard for the front positions in the peloton.

 

Chavanel took some massive turns before BMC hit the front with Michael Schär and Rohan Dennis. Their brutal pace sent riders like Thomas De Gendt, Thomas Voeckler and Alexis Gougeard out the back door and brought Benedetti back.

 

Sky take control

With 11km to go, Bernhard Eisel hit the front for Dimension Data as the peloton hit the panic button. The gap was still 2.30 and only coming down very slowly.

 

As light rain started to fall, Sky wanted to keep Chris Froome out of trouble and so hit the front with Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe. As they hit the Cote de Octeville, they had brought the gap down to 2 minutes and this is where the dramatic finale started.

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