Tour’14 St.2: Nibali Nabs It!
Race Report: With nine climbs and the final one coming just 5 kms before the finish it was always going to be a day of attrition. Vincenzo Nibali proved the wiliest though and the Shark of Messina outsmarted everyone to take the win and the jersey.
The big news at the beginning of the day was that former World Champion and sprinter extraordinaire Mark Cavendish (OPQS) would not start Stage 2 having suffered a dislocated collarbone in yesterday’s crash as he and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) fought for the wheel of Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
The Cavendish crash
Cavendish was quick to accept the blame for the incident and offer his apologies to Gerrans but, although the buzz on social media was against the Manxman, most cycling commentators viewed the crash as a ‘racing incident.’ Either way, it looked as if the man of the moment, Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) had the beating of all of them anyway.
Today’s stage from York to Sheffield got underway without all the Royal preamble of yesterday’s roll-out but the crowds, estimated at 1.5 million spectators yesterday, had swelled and with the climb of Holme Moss coming at 143 kms, it was sure that the Tour would remember Yorkshire and that the French roadside spectators would have something to aim for.
The race director’s flag came in and the day’s breakaways headed off. It took about 5 kms before the peloton allowed them to escape with Bart De Clercq (Lotto Belisol) deciding to cross the gap and complete the group of seven containing Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing), Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis), Armindo Fonseca (Bretagne-Séché Environnemont), Perrig Quemeneur (Team Europcar), David de la Cruz (Team NetApp-Endura) and Blel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale).
They weren’t given too much leeway though, holding at about 2:40, with the main players being quite attentive in the peloton. Most of the contenders had recce’d the climbs of today and while they’d all heard of Holme Moss, many believed that the final climb up Jenkins Road (Côte de Jenkins Road) could be decisive coming at only 5km before the finish line.
Skirting out of Harrogate, with no time to stop for a Fat Rascal from the famous Betty’s Tearoom, the break headed towards Côte de Blubberhouses.
Cyril Lemoine led over the top of the Blubberhouses and took the single point on offer but as the peloton came over there were two crashes, the second involving Simon Gerrans again. BMC began to hang back and we soon realized that Tejay Van Garderen had also been involved and had to change bikes.
The main contenders were all riding closer to the front as they had learned from yesterday that the sudden narrowness of the roads meant that some riders lost out in the stop-start procession onto the hills.
Keighley Sprint Point
Another couple of small crashes at the back of the peloton meant that the gap had gone out again to 2:47 but as the break approached the day’s sprint point at Keighley the sprint teams began to wind it up.
The escapees didn’t contest the sprint with Kadri taking maximum points but behind Katusha, Lotto-Belisol and Cannondale were stringing the bunch out. Cannondale looked to have gone a bit early and tailed off before the line but on the replay we could see Roy Curvers (Giant-Shimano) clip a spectator who was holding a camera out and this had disrupted their flow. Greipel (Lotto Belisol) and Sagan were not putting too much energy into the intermediate, reserving their best efforts for a possible sprint finish and it was the Green Jersey holder Bryan Coquard (Team Europcar) who flashed forward to cross the line first.
The jump in pace had reduced the gap to under two minutes but it began to go out again as the race moved up the narrow cobbled climb in the village of Haworth, made famous by the Bronte sisters.
Côte d’ Oxenhope Moor
With Oxenhope Moor being classed as a 3rd Category, and the KOM jersey up for grabs, the break were watching each other but it was the Europcar rider Quemeneur who jumped them all and took off to take the two points.
Lemoine followed him over for the remaining point but back in the peloton there wasn’t much interest with the riders spread across the road. That didn’t stop some riders appearing to struggle a little with Rodríguez (Katusha) at the back, where he’s been for pretty much the whole of the day.
Côte de Ripponden and Côte de Greetland
It was situation normal over the next 20 kms with the break holding at 2:40 and the only excitement a couple of nervous crashes in the bunch through the feedzone.
As the breakaway riders came onto the climb of Ripponden David De La Cruz took off hoping to catch the others out and maybe take both Ripponden and Greetland and the points that went with them. It was too soon though and he was quickly caught. Busche then attacked to protect his teammate Voigt’s jersey but Lemoine was not to be denied and led over the top to put him on equal points with the veteran Trek rider.
Racing had now started in earnest back in the main bunch and riders were being put into difficulty at the back, most noticeably Rodríguez again who has not had the chance to ‘ride himself in’ on the race so far.
As the bunch came over the top the gap was down to 2 minutes but by the time the break hit the slopes of Greetland it had dropped to 1:36.
BMC was shaking things up behind as the peloton realized that Holme Moss wasn’t too far away. Riders were now shooting out the back on the climbs even though there was still 80 kms to race.
At the top of Greetland Lemoine and De La Cruz fought it out with the Frenchman taking the lead in the KOM competition.
There was no concerted chase but all of the teams were so keen to protect their positions as they approached Holmfirth that the gap was now down to 42 seconds. Sagan was coming back through the team cars and his team was waiting for him.
A crash involving Richie Porte (Team Sky), Nico Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Petacchi (OPQS) with Porte needing a new bike and with blood on his elbow. Danny Pate (Team Sky), Porte and Roche were chasing the main field but were more than a minute down as the bunch were now just starting the climb, 10 seconds behind the break.
Kadri attacked as the rest of the break was being mopped up by the bunch but the action was at the back as Sky split their team between Froome at the front and Porte at the back.
Various riders tried their hand including Tommy Voeckler (Team Europcar) but Kadri was still away on his own. Froome (Team Sky) and his team attempted to slow proceedings to allow Porte to get back on. Voeckler was homing in on Kadri as behind Tony Martin (OPQS) attacked off the front.
Kadri was fighting through the huge crowd as Voeckler made contact but again Sky was controlling things behind which shows just how much Froome relies on Porte. The Yellow Jersey was now off the back and possibly kissing goodbye to his lead, especially as he then suffered a puncture.
There were spectators all over the hill as Holme Moss resembled Alpe D’Huez. Kadri had gone again determined to get the jersey as Voeckler faded and was caught and passed by Edet (Cofidis) just before the line.
Kadri was on his own on the descent followed by Voeckler, Edet and Martin who had made the junction. The Yellow Jersey group crossed the summit 3:25 down and it was going to be a long chase for lots of riders. Kadri now had 1:17 over the peloton with less than 50 kms to race as a few more riders linked up with the Martin/Voeckler group on the descent.
Blel Kadri was now trying to time trial to the finish ahead of a 5-man group also containing Marcus Burghardt (BMC) but as his deficit to the chasers disappeared so too did their advantage over the peloton with Saxo-Tinkoff driving on. The bunch, marshalled by Mick Rogers (Saxo-Tinkoff) was motoring and picking up all the riders between the leader and the main race.
As they came up Midhopestones Kadri was caught as the bunch was now racing.
Back into Yorkshire
Garmin led over the top of Midhopestones and strung the bunch out on the descent, as the riders knew there would be a new Yellow Jersey tonight; Kittel was now 7 minutes down. With the pressure, and a strong crosswind, gaps were appearing and the race was being torn apart as riders lost contact. With 29 kms to go the lead group of 30 riders was tearing along with some riders scrambling to get back on.
Over the top of the Côte de Bradfield, the crowd enormous once again, and Grivco (Astana) took the summit. More riders had joined back on as Sky continued to push.
Côte de Oughtibridge
Up the penultimate climb and we saw our first sights of Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida) and Pierre Rolland (Team Europcar). Rolland took the points with Peraud (AG2R-La Mondiale) just behind him. They stretched their legs on the descent as the race headed towards possibly the decisive climb of the race.
With Peraud not working, Rolland took off on his own as the teams behind were still thinking about organizing themselves for Jenkins Road. Sagan was now thinking about Yellow.
Final 10 kms
Cannondale was now stretching the peloton and they chased Rolland who was sitting ahead by 10 seconds. With the climb less than 5 kms away, and into the streets of Sheffield now, the pace was high and Rolland decided it was all over.
Orica-GreenEDGE and Sky now took up the running as they sped towards the Battle of Jenkins Road.
Côte de Jenkins Road
As Sagan struggled to hold on, Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Nibali (Astana) appeared at the front. Froome was forced to cover as the Spaniard pushed the pace. Sagan came to the front but this time it was Froome who attacked as Contador scrambled to hang on.
They were over the top and Sagan had managed to stay at the front so was now the favourite for the win.
3 kms To Go
And Sagan stretched the whole race to show how much he wanted it. Attack followed attack but at 1.8 kms to go it was Nibali who attacked for home and Yellow. Nobody else wanted to chase and bring Sagan back and Nibali was holding on.
Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) and Froome tried to chase him down but it was too late as the Italian Champion kicked for the line and took the stage. Froome and Rui Costa were caught and Van Avermaet (BMC) took second.
Riders were all over the course and were finishing in small groups so unlike other years there are now time-gaps among the favourites.
The day belonged to Vincenzo Nibali as he outsmarted everyone else and now starts the third day of this race in Yellow.
Keep it Pez for Gordan’s latest Roadside Report up later.
Tour de France Stage 2 Result:
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana in 5:08:36
2. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC at 0:02
3. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale
5. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Belisol
6. Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEDGE
7. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp
8. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin
9. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC
10. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale.
Tour de France Overall After Stage 2:
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana in 9:52:43
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale at 0:02
3. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC
4. Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEDGE
5. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky
6. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin
7. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol
8. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo
9. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC
10. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana.