Tour de France (st. 2)
Alejandro, Enric finish into main, 30-rider peloton despite former World Champ’s puncture at penultimate descent, as Marc tries move in Quatre Chemins climb after crashes on Saturday. Alaphilippe (DQT) takes stage + yellow.
/ Today’s route
It was meant to be the first crucial day for the GC contenders. Three categorized climbs –La Colmiane (Cat-1), Turini (Cat-1) and the Col d’Èze (Cat-2)– were covered on the 186km stage two of the Tour de France, around Nice, as well as the Col des Quatre Chemins (Bonus Sprint), crested just nine kilometers from the end.
/ Weather report
No sunny day was received better by the peloton than this one! No clouds in the sky on Sunday, with maximum temperatures around 26ºC and a minimum 17ºC at the top of the first two climbs. Strong winds were expected near the coast for the end of the stage, around 30kph, from the southwest.
/ Keys to the race
- Speeds were high as the peloton went for the early break, partly due to the fact that the intermediate sprint was really close to the start. In the end, seven riders got green light: Sagan, Pöstlberger (BOH), Asgreen (DQT), Cosnefroy (ALM), Gogl (NTT), Perez (COF) and Skujins (TFS). Race leader Alexander Kristoff’s UAE Team Emirates squad took the lead of the bunch early on.
- Jumbo-Visma took charge of commanding duties at the front of the field through sections of the first two climbs, La Colmiane and Turini, and contributed to reducing the maximum gap of the break, around 3’30”, to just under two minutes. Carlos Verona and Marc Soler worked hard to cover their team-mates against the wind into those ascents.
- The break was caught at the end of the Turini descent, and the subsequent selection through the Col d’Èze left barely 50 riders at the front, including the Movistar Team’s Soler, Mas, Oliveira and Valverde. ‘Bala’ suffered an ill-timed mechanical -rear wheel punctured- through the descent of that penultimate climb, yet quick help from Nelson, who gave him his bike, meant that the former World Champion was able to bridge back and get another bike from his in time for the final ascent.
- At Quatre Chemins, Alaphilippe (DQT, 1st) and Hirschi (SUN, 2nd) launched an attack from the foot of the climb, with Adam Yates (MTS, 3rd) as only rival able to match their pace and reach the finish with them. Marc Soler tried to counter-attack and go after them, yet was neutralized by a 30-rider peloton near the end, only 2″ behind the lead trio at the finish, that featured Valverde (14th) and Mas.
Marc Soler: “After a blow like yesterday’s, with those two crashes -one into a downhill portion and another one, the hardest, with 3km to go-, your spirit struggles, and you need to get over any doubts about your condition as soon as possible. There was no better way to bounce back than giving it a try. My knee was hurting quite a bit in the morning, but as we got into racing, it became less of a problem, and I completed the stage with almost no pain. The pace was high all day long, and that energy I lost from yesterday’s crashes might have played a factor in the end, but even after that and despite losing a minute at the finish, I’m happy with how things are going right now.
“I’ve tried to attack at the end of the climb, thinking I could be close to Hirschi, Alaphilippe and Yates and bridge back later on, but the pace was so high, both at the front and at the bunch, and I couldn’t make it to the leading group. I lost my position into the downhill, I lost a couple of meters and once we got to more open roads near the finish, I wasn’t able to get back to Alejandro and Enric.
“The team-mates did really well today, with Nelson supporting Alejandro after that puncture, and we’re happy with how we did today, despite feeling dead tired in my case (smiles). Let’s see how we do in the next few days – Rojas is the one struggling the most after yesterday’s blows; Imanol, Nelson and Carlos are doing better. I think we’ll be able to recover and reach our best at the key part of the race.”
/ Upcoming goals
Should circumstances allow it, the Tour should witness another bunch sprint in Sisteron on Monday (198km), even though the route will be quite hilly early on, with three Cat-3 ascents -the Col du Pillon (55km) is almost nine kilometers long- and a Cat-3 climb, L’Orme, less than 50 kilometers from the end.
Cover picture (c): BettiniPhoto