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After strong crosswinds had created a small front group, Greipel narrowly held off Sagan and Cancellara to win stage 2 of the Tour de France; Cancellara took yellow while Nibali and Quintana lost more than a minute

Photo: Sirotti












05.07.2015 @ 18:07 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) continued his winning streak at the Tour de France when he won a hugely dramatic second stage of the French race on a day when crosswinds split the field to pieces. With a well-timed sprint, he narrowly held off Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek) when 20 riders arrived at the finish to take his first stage win of this year’s race while Cancellara took the overall lead by virtue of bonus seconds. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) both missed the split in the crosswinds and lost 1.28 to Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) who were both in the front group.


Ever since he made a belated Tour de France debut in 2010, André Greipel has managed to win a stage in every single edition of La Grande Boucle. This year he had stated his intention to continue his run of success and he had done nothing to hide that stage 2 was the biggest goal of his race.


Last year Greipel had a bad start to the race that even led to public criticism from the team management. This year things couldn’t have been more different as he delivered in his first opportunity to show his sprinting skills by winning the stage to Neeltje Jans.


However, it was not a real bunch sprint that saw the big German come out on top. Instead, it was a true crosswinds drama that left just 24 riders to sprint for the win. With the sprint and GC teams combining forces, they managed to distance the main group by 1.28 and decide the stage in a sprint from a reduced group and despite the presence of Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) in the group, Greipel came out on top.


The drama has started with 65km to go when a crash that involved Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo)split the field. The Dutchman soon found himself in a second group alongside the likes of Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Europcar and LottoNOL-Jumbo were forced on the defensive as they were quickly distanced by 45 seconds.


The windy conditions made the peloton extremely nervous and spelled the end for the breakaway. All the big team were rallying for position but it was the ever-attentive Etixx-QuickStep that made the big attack with 57km to go after Michal Kwiatkowski and Manuel Quinziato (BMC) had been working on the front.


Zdenek Stybar, Tony Martin, Cavendish, Kwiatkowski, Rigoberto Uran and Mark Renshaw all took turns on the front and this made the peloton blow to pieces. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) was the first main rider to be distanced but things became dramatic when Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde also missed out.


Movistar hit the front of the second group with their entire team with 52km to go but they were losing ground. Ag2r also came to the fore as Jean-Christophe Peraud was also there but they were quickly 45 seconds behind.


Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) had bad luck to puncture out of the lead group and with no caravan, he was left behind. Meanwhile, Lotto Soudal made the next big attack with Tony Gallopin and he made the group split as only 26 riders were left in front when the dust had settled.


Gallopin, Greipel, Marcel Sieberg (Lotto Soudal), Kwiatkowski, Martin, Renshaw, Cavendish, Uran, Stybar (Etix-QuickStep), Greg Van Avermaet, Michael Schär, Daniel Oss, Tejay van Garderen, Quinziato, Danilo Wyss (BMC), Peter Sagan, Alberto Contador, Roman Kreuziger, Michael Rogers, Daniele Bennati (Tnkoff-Saxo), Tom Dumoulin, Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), Fabian Cancellara (Trek), Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard (Sky) and Kristijan Koren (Cannondale) found themselves in the front while Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Robert Gesink (LottoNL) had missed the split. They immediately hit the panic button, with Nibali taking some huge turns himself, but as Etixx-QuickStep and Tinkoff-Saxo were working hard in the front group, they lost ground.


FDJ, LottoNL and Giant-Alpecin also contributed to the pace-setting but the gap was constantly growing. With 42km to go, they were 30 seconds behind while the Quintana group was at 1.05.


With 35km to go, the Nibali and Quintana group merged but still found themselves with a deficit of 1.05. Movistar, Astana, FDJ, Ag2r and Lampre-Merida combined forces but they were running out of manpower. Things didn’t get any easier when Nibali had to stop due to a puncture.


With 30km to go, BMC also started to work with Etixx-QuickStep and Tinkoff-Saxo in the front group which lost a bit of ground. The gap came down to 55 seconds before the progress stalled and Koren dropped back from the front group.


Sagan also started to work in the front group to prove Tinkoff-Saxo’s focus on yellow and Stannard also took pulls for Sky. The gap was stable at 55 seconds for a while but with 15km to go, the balance tipped in favour of the front group.


At this point, Bennati punctured out of the front group and he would never make it back. Sagan had similarly bad luck but with an impressive effort he rejoined the front group.


With 11km to go, the gap was 1.10 and things weren’t made easier when Tiago Machado and Winner Anacona who had been working hard in the chase group, crashed. As they entered the final 5km, the gap had gone out to 1.25 where it stabilized as the front group stared to prepare for the sprint.


Kreuziger and Thomas took some huge turns to maintain a high speed as they approached the flamme rouge where Etixx-QuickStep took over. Kwiatkowski set the pace until Renshaw and Cavendish sprinted past him but the pair had made a mistake by launching the sprint too early.


When Renshaw started to fade, Cavendish had to sprint from afar and that proved to be his undoing. Greipel and Sagan both passed him and it was the German who came out on top.


To make things even worse for Etixx-QuickStep, Cavendish stopped his sprint too early which allowed Cancellara to pip him for third. Hence, the Swiss picked up four bonus seconds to take the yellow jersey with a 3-second advantage over Martin. 1.28 later the Quintana-Nibali group rolled across the line while Kelderman and Rolland lost more than 5 minutes.


Cancellara will try to defend his yellow jersey tomorrow but it won’t be an easy task. The second stage brings the riders into the Ardennes where four climbs known from Fleche Wallone await in the finale. Inside the final 15km, the riders will first tackle the Cote de Cherave before they end the stage with the traditional uphill finish on the Mur de Huy.


A windy stage

After the opening time trial, the Tour de France continued with a 166km ride from Utrecht to Neeltje Jans. The course was completely flat but as the final 50km took place along the Dutch coast, wind and rain were expected to create carnage.


The riders had nice sunshine when they rolled out from Utrecht surrounded by a massive crowd and after a small ceremony, the flag was waved to signal the official start. Stef Clement (IAM), Jan Barta (Bora-Argon 18), Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar) and Armindo Fonseca (Bretagne) attacked straight from the gun and they were immediately allowed to build an advantage.


Etixx-QuickStep in control

However, Etixx-QuickStep left nothing to chance and when the gap had gone out to 2 minutes Michal Golas and Julien Vermote started to chase. Wyss quickly came to the fore as BMC also wanted to lend a hand and after briefly bringing the gap down to 1.20, they allowed it to grow to 2.40.


Those three riders kept its table around that mark for most of the early part of the stage that was not too stressful. However, the first rain started to fall with 120km to and that changed to atmosphere completely.


A first split

Movistar, Astana, Sky and Tinkoff-Saxo lined out their trains next to Wyss, Golas and Vermote as the big fight for position created the first small splits in the peloton and made the gap melt away. With 105km to go, Bennati and Matteo Tosatto made the big acceleration in the windy conditions and as Sky also came to the fore, the peloton split in two.


Rui Costa, Bauke Mollema, Haimar Zubelda, Ryder Hesjedal, Daniel Martin, Laurens Ten Dam, Rodriguez, Valverde and Andrew Talansky were among the riders to have missed the split. Hence, Trek, Cannondale, Lampre and Katusha started to chase hard.


A regrouping

The escapees were now just 15 seconds ahead and this prompted Barta to attack. Fonseca was the first to rejoin him though and later Clement and Quemeneur also made it back.


As they entered Rotterdam, things got let nervous and so the gap went out to 30 seconds and the peloton regrouped. The pace was rather slow for a few kilometres until they started to prepare for the intermediate sprint which made the gap come down.


Degenkolb wins the sprint

Barta attacked again and this time no one was able to follow him. He won the intermediate sprint while Clement, Fonseca and Quemeneur narrowly held off the sprinters. Giant-Alpecin had made a big lead-out for John Degenkolb who narrowly held off Alexander Kristoff, Sagan, Cavendish, Bouhanni, Bryan Coquard and Greipel.


The chase trio was caught by the sprinters but Clement and Fonseca attacked again. With 0km to go, they were 10 seconds behind Barta while the peloton was at 30 seconds.


Kelderman crashes twice

Kelderman was caught up in his first crash alongside Anacona, Damiano Caruso and Thomas De Gendt while Etixx-QuickStep took control of the peloton as they exited the feed zone. As the situation was pretty calm, the Dutchman managed to rejoin the peloton.


Jens Debusschere was the next rider to hit the deck and so found himself behind when the peloton again got nervous. Meanwhile, Barta waited for his chasers as he now had a gap of a minute. However, the nervousness made the peloton speed up and moments later Kelderman went down again, signaling the start of the drama.



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