Tour de France Stage 2 Preview

There’s hardly a flat bit of road in today’s stage and when the roads climb or descend they’re irregular with varied gradients and tight descents. Today’s stage offers a tricky course and it’s hard to pick a winner but Marcel Kittel seems bound to surrender the yellow jersey.

Stage 1 Wrap
The Tour got the Royal “oui” with a start that put the grand in départ. Once the ceremony was out of the way the racing began as Jens Voigt, Benoît Jarrier and Nicolas Edet went up the road in a bid to get the mountains jersey for a day. The bunch was happy to let the trio go only Edet and Jarrier though were unhappy to see Voigt go: he went for the intermediate sprint and just kept going leaving the French pair humiliated live on TV, the pair unable to chase. Behind Bryan Coquard won the intermediate sprint in the peloton, note Marcel Kittel didn’t contest it.

Voigt took maximum points on the next two climbs and then sat up but during the chase behind some riders were tailed off on the narrow roads, reduced further by the giant crowds including GC contenders like Thibaut Pinot. The Frenchman got back but with a reminder not to linger at the back. Voigt takes the mountains jersey for the second time… he wore it for a day in 1998.

A sprint finish was inevitable and we had sprint trains charging to the line, each seemed to go to early and Fabian Cancellara tried a late attack. But the Spartacus rebellion was extinguished and Marcel Kittel was perfectly-led out before launching with 250m to go.

Cavendish woke up in the morning wondering if he’d wear yellow but finished the day dressed in bandages after crash in sight of the finish line. A tangle with Simon Gerrans saw the Aussie bump Bryan Coquard and Cavendish and Gerrans went down. The immediate cause was Cavendish trying to get into a gap that was closing but it had more factors, OPQS went early in the sprint and seemed disrupted by the hills; earlier Alessandro Petacchi had been dropped meaning one less lead out.

For the TV viewer the whole thing live might be too much given the action was largely reserved for the final kilometre but if Kittel won but there was a British victory of sorts with the crowds, a joyous sea of humanity – the police said two million people which means over 10,000 per kilometre. The riders loved it, although some complained of ringing ears and others found it hard to get a private spot to pee.

The Route

  • Km 47.0 – Côte de Blubberhouses, 1.8 kilometre-long climb at 6.1% – category 4
  • Km 85.0 – Côte d’Oxenhope Moor, 3.1 kilometre-long climb at 6.4% – category 3
  • Km 112.5 – Côte de Ripponden, 1.3 kilometre-long climb at 8.6% – category 3
  • Km 119.5 – Côte de Greetland, 1.6 kilometre-long climb at 6.7% – category 3
  • Km 143.5 – Côte de Holme Moss, 4.7 kilometre-long climb at 7% – category 2
  • Km 167.0 – Côte de Midhopestones, 2.5 kilometre-long climb at 6.1% – category 3
  • Km 175.0 – Côte de Bradfield, 1 kilometre-long climb at 7.4% – category 4
  • Km 182.0 – Côte d’Oughtibridge, 1.5 kilometre-long climb at 9.1% – category 3
  • Km 196.0 – Côte de Jenkin Road, 0.8 kilometre-long climb at 10.8% – category 4

Today’s stage has an air of Liège-Bastogne-Liège with its hilly route and the succession of short, steep and irregular climbs plus it ends in a town called Sheffield that’s seen its steel industry shrink. But it’s neither April nor a one day race so the tactics are different. The opening part all the way to Holme Moss sees the climbs spaced out but note there are many more ascensions along the way than their are categorised climbs, ASO have had to pick a few climbs for the mountains competition but there are several unmarked climbs.

If the unmarked climbs can surprise so can the marked ones. This is not the Alps where regular engineered ascensions are the norm, here the average gradients are meaningless as roads pitch up, level out, rise and repeat. It’s not worth breaking down each climb because it’s their addition, the combination that will tire the riders.

The Finish: pan flat for the last four kilometres. But there’s short climb of Jenkin Road to scale and the caption above does it no justice. Visibly nondescript, it passes brick-built houses but all aligned diagonally upwards. ASO say 800m at 10.8% but others say 11 or 12%. The typical gradient is 15% and it has parts at 20% marked by the white handrail to help vertiginous pedestrians and the average is only reduced by a short flat section near the top which just annoys, no time for recovery. There are steeper roads in cycling but this is special for the Tour. The descent’s manageable and the flat kilometres after don’t suit an attack on the climb if there are enough riders with team support to chase.

The finish line itself is flat and wide using one side of a large dual-carriageway.

The Scenario: off the front or out the back? The route is selective so it’s a question of whether riders use the terrain to get the jump on their rivals or instead the repetitive efforts simply prove too much and see the contenders ejected from an ever-shrinking bunch. There are so many climbs today that many riders will fancy going in the break: win the mountains jersey and it’s yours for several days.

It’s a tough course but hard to imagine a battle between the GC pretenders as whoever attacks first risks being brought back by the others and their teams and exposed to a counter-attack. But should lesser riders try their luck the promise of the yellow jersey means nobody wants to give them any room.

The finish is complicated by Jenkin Road. If there’s still a large group we can expect two sprints, one to the foot of the climb to fight for position followed by an intense effort uphill before the third final sprint. What’s certain is that the yellow jersey will change.

The Contenders: the prototype rider for the stage has to cope with climbs and then pack a sprint good enough for the finish.

Simon Gerrans won in Liège earlier this year and would be a good pick but his crash yesterday will have repercussions even if the word is he’s ok to ride. If not Orica-Greenedge team mate Michael Albasini is a handy back-up but less prolific at this level.

I’m in two minds over Peter Sagan. He’s widely tipped but personally I think this course could be too much for him, after all another sprinter who can scale a few climbs is John Degenkolb but he’s ridden the route and promptly ruled himself out although if it’s a cautious race both he and Sagan can profit. If not remember J-J Rojas, the sprinter who never wins because the finishes are too fast, maybe today is his time to wave goodbye to the others?

But if Rojas is there, it’s likely his boss Alejandro Valdverde is too. Valverde made the podium in Liège and is a good pick if the tough get going. He’s got bigger goals but if a stage win is there for the taking it’ll go. Among the GC rivals there’s not much of a sprint for Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali, it’d be fun to see but they might be accompanied by team mates and Geraint Thomas, Nicolas Roche and Maxim Iglinskiy are all faster team mates for this finish. Then again Chris Froome was sixth yesterday; you can’t imagine him sprinting to the win but an attack on Jenkin Road? If this sounds far-fetched remember he attacked on the final climb of Stage 2 last year into Ajaccio, a steep hill a few kilometres before the finish.

Tom-Jelte Slagter is just the punchy rider for this course, his stage win in Paris-Nice is witness to this where he simply rode away from the field on the steep and irregular slopes of Mont Brouilly. Team mate Ramunas Narvardauskas is also worth watching, a force of nature.

Tony Gallopin is the stealth pick. Not a famous name but the Lotto-Belisol rider was climbing very well in the Dauphiné and in times past saw himself as a sprinter, winning French Cup races as a neo pro; team mate Jurgen Roelandts is handy too. Greg Van Avermaet is another name to conjure with but more on reputation than form, recent results don’t show too many high finishes and if you’re betting sort remember he’s a very rare winner outside of Belgium.

Arthur Vichot could be a pick but FDJ haven’t scouted the course so they’re at a disadvantage. Ag2r’s Christophe Riblon might be a better bet, the Alpe d’Huez winner has a track background. Finally there’s always Thomas Voeckler.

Alejandro Valverde, Simon Gerrans, Tony Gallopin
Greg Van Avermaet, Simon Špilak, Nicolas Roche, Rui Costa, Peter Sagan
Peter Velits, Rein Taaramäe, Christophe Riblon

Weather: cool and cloudy again with the temperatures reaching 18°C.

TV: live from start to finish again. The official start is 11.20am UK time / 12.20pm Euro time with the finish expected for 4.30pm. The hilly route should mean more suspense but if a move goes and is left to get a lead, feel free to go for a ride and tune back in for the final hour.

Côte de What?Côtemeans several things in French from a “rib” to the “coast” but it also means a “ridge” and when paved, a “slope “or “climb”. It’s the latter definition that in use to describe the climbs along today’s route and is distinct for a col or a mountain pass. Locals might find it amusing to see such anglo-saxon locations appropriated by the Tour de France and the names are odd.

The Tour does this to the French landscape too. A hill on the route will often have a local name but the Tour’s planners ignore it and often name it after the nearest village. Today is a handy example with the Côte d’Oughtibridge. But think about it, the -bridge suffix sure signals the river crossing in the valley below? The real name of the hill is Jawbone Hill.

It’s testimony to the Tour’s power that it appropriates geography, temporary renaming places for its daily conquest of the landscape.

48 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 2 Preview”

  1. Luca Paolini or Purito Rodriguez? The way Rodriguez sat on the back of the dropped 2ndsome chase group, with no effort to help the chase, makes me think he really is just stage-hunting this tour…

  2. What a shocker of a sprint from Cav. Claimed he was “going for a gap” when the footage clearly showed him leaning with head and shoulders all over Gerrans and there clearly being no gap, just a rider where he wanted to be. Startlingly similar to the head butting that cause Renshaw to get ejected from the Tour from few years ago. A bit of argey-bargey is fine but that was a joke.

    • So what was Cavendish’s penalty? He took out Gerrans, injuring him (lucky not to be a lot worse) ruining his race and rest of his season. I mean it’s not like Gerrans was targeting stage 2 or anything. And it’s not like him winning the yellow jersey (a likely occurrance) would benefit his career and bank balance.

      Oh…there wasn’t one? Fair enough, I mean it’s not like the race being on English roads made a difference to things.

      What is it with the protected species in this sport? Pathetic.

  3. Cav was stupid. Risking his health over that was just not worth it. With his whole team dedicated to his goals, with Pettachi and Renshaw signed just because of him, he should be more careful with that.

    As to stage 2, I understand your reasoning, but no “stars/rings” for Sagan? I think he gets it. As always, great article!

  4. Cavendish’ action reminded me of his altercation with Tom Veelers Argo-Shimano last year. This time he hit the tarmac himself good for him.

  5. Rather easy treatment of the Manx Missile in your review and zero mention of the unruly crowds as well? Can’t help but think if this was the Giro there would be plenty of wailing about the “tifosi”.
    I wonder about the marketing money-making machine that is today’s Mark Cavendish – did it get the better of him when the big plans for the Yellow Jersey started to look lost?

      • “going into a gap that wasn’t there” means hitting someone. Which he did.

        Was it Spartacus long-range effort which caught everyone by surprise and perhaps OPQ didn”t quite have their game sorted early enough so Cav tried to barge through. Whatever, it was a schoolboy effort for a racer of his calibre. Moreover, in getting greedy for yellow he may have thrown out the green by accident. Early days though.

  6. It was probably more that he had been under (self inflicted) pressure for almost a year to win this one sprint, and he was getting desperate.

  7. Froome impressed yesterday with his 6th, keeping out of trouble.
    can’t help thinking today could be a Cancellara day!? Power climb on Jenkin Road (not too dissimilar to a berg, with no cobbles) and a real prologue style TT to the finish.

  8. Once again team sky appeared under a little pressure, with several riders distanced at one time. They were also noticeable by their absence at the front when attention was required. A strong team is essential for a GT, and for the second year running sky appear to have questions to answer about their selection. Time will tell, but Froome could find his hands full if these performances become the norm.

    I thought the crowds were generally well behaved, with only a few idiots trying to run alongside the riders. There was certainly a problem with the crowds spilling onto the road, but this is probably because of the presence of dry stone walls bordering the road – an estimated 60.000 on Holm Moss today should be spectacular rather than dangerous.

    • Eh? This is taking criticism of Sky to a whole new level. Saw plenty of interviews with Sky riders after the stage and NONE of them seemed remotely concerned about the day’s performance on what was a pretty nondescript and unremarkable Tour stage really. What is it you think that Sky were meant to be doing that they didn’t do? You did notice that Froome finished 6th and without any incident whatsoever? Nothing was going to be won or lost on stage 1. Staying in the bunch well aware that there will be much more important days than a roll through the hills seems exactly the right tactic to me.

      • ACV With respect. Every day in this first week is important for potential winners. The race may not be won but it sure can be lost. The fact that sky at one time had three riders in the second group on the road SHOULD be of concern to anyone who considers the team one of the strongest. I apologize in advance if this sounds a little hard, but you need to become a little more knowledgeable about the sport before defending the indefensible.

      • There was nothing to gain on a stage like yesterday’s but there’s always everything to lose at any time in Le Tour and it didn’t strike me that they rode in exactly the sort of way a team with a GC contender would ideally want to. Well done to Froome to get a sixth place, and no one is doubting him, but as a unit it was a weird and somewhat under-par day for them, regardless of whether in the end nothing was lost. The point BC was making was if they rode like that on a stage like yesterday’s how are they going to ride in the mountains? Speaking as a neutral I think it was a fair question.

  9. Chris Boardman made a very good point (I thought) about stage 5, and dependent on positions on GC prior to that stage would determine car order which could be crucial (ie puncture in the wrong place on a cobble section and if your car is towards the back then you wait ages for a change). Anyway, couldn’t help but think of that when froome got the 6th position. Although agree in principle with posters above and Sky were nowhere to be seen whereas saxo and movistar seemed to be keeping their GC riders in the front at the end and out of trouble.

    RE Cav – he was in the wrong, but reading a Guardian article when asked about it he said “It was all my fault and I’ll personally apologise to Gerrans when I get the chance” – can’t think of many other sportsmen who don’t look to the pass the buck but just stand up and take it on the chin.

  10. A question about the jerseys. Sagan i second in the points classification and first in young rider. Kittel is obviously not wearing green today having been awarded the higher ranked maillot jaune. But I thought the green jersey was higher ranked than the white. So why is Sagan wearing white today?

    Thanks for great write-ups!

  11. I didn’t think the crowds were unruly – just large and not used to watching cyclists coming towards them at speed, hence the crowding on the climbs and people getting in the way. Not many trying to run alongside though.

    • I noticed on two occasions that the peleton halted not due to the crowds but because of cattle grids. The crowds seem to be getting the blame, though.

    • It was no worse than any of the crazy mountain stages on the continent (are they trying to say it was worse than Dutch Corner?), and there were far less fat people trying to run alongside the riders than we see in the Vuelta.

  12. Hello, great preview again.

    As an Australian I hope Gerrans can win tonight despite his fall yesterday, and with the extra mountains and prizemoney there’s a chance Gerro can take the lead in the Prizemoney standings and overtake Kittel’s €8,350 and Sagan’s €4,800 Stage 1 prizes (full listing on my site,

    • Talansky had a puncture, not sure exactly what happened with the other two, I think Kwiatek had done his turn in the OPQS leadout, but perhaps stopped to tend to Cav (who also had a provisional loss of 3+min); in addition to the crash in the finish, lots of times were adjusted by the jury as riders behind the main peloton were caught in crowds and traffic.

      Also, do people not know about procyclingstats? All the results (provisional in near real-time and then official), rankings and, well, stats…there’s a link under “Shift Gears” in the right-hand column. There you can see the official GC times.

  13. As a Sheffield boy, I’m very excited about this stage. The last part goes through some, shall we say, ‘choice’ locations, but Jenkin Road is a suitable test. I’ll be at Cote d’oughtibridge, aka Jawbone Hill.

  14. Admittedly I didn’t follow the stage closely but if Froome finishes sixth and Team Sky leads the team classification surely CF and his lieutenants did a good job of sticking together and staying out of trouble?

  15. Nobody mentions Jan Bakelandts? Cav is out so I’m sure he or Trentin (or maybe even Kwiato) will go on an adventure today. Winning the stage + taking one or two jerseys would salvage a lot for #OPQS Trentin and Bakelandts are both able snipers and have won in the lead-up to the Tour, mark them.

  16. A lot of Anti-Cav spectacles being worn in the comments today. You can clearly see Gerrans coming over from the left to the right to get onto Sagan’s wheel. To me, it was more 50/50 than previous comments are suggesting.

    • Dude, Cav admitted to the press it was his fault and then called Gerro to apologise. I think that settles it.
      Sadly, hes’ also out of the race too and didn’t start today; a loss for everyone except Sagan & Kittel.
      What will OPQ focus on now?

      • I think you can clearly see Cav spot up a gap, but realise he can’t make it legally so headbuts his way through.

        Cav was behind. The crash Cav caused was on a bend, if anything Gerro was following that line but he wasn’t veering across Cav’s line that’s for sure.

        The French Coq on the outside jams Gerrans in, using his elbow. Legal, and probably wise in the circumstances (self preseervation, and rubbing’s racing in a sprint), but doesn’t look great when that is the last thing before Gerro goes down.

        Cav should consider himself lucky he isn’t fined and banned, but we know the Poms won’t let that happen to their boy on their roads.

  17. Cav is always brutally honest. This is why some people don’t like him. However, yesterday was an instance where perhaps his honesty redeemed himself. Having said that, he couldn’t really have got out of it – even at the first viewing you could clearly see Cav jerk himself into Gerrans, reminiscent of Renshaw (although not as bad). Gerrans, on another day, stays upright but on this day…but yeah, if you barge into someone at 50kph, they’re gonna fall off.

    All in all, a bit weak from Cav, but often his ‘winners mentality’ means he takes defeat very badly. Just because Kittel is going to outpower you again, no reason to start trying to smash people up. Petulant and very reckless. And given how badly he fell, hopefully it’s a lesson learned.

    Do I really have to put up with Carolton Kirby for another 3 weeks? I’ll do it, but I’d rather not. On full-length stages he’s just about unbearable. His delivery is positioned exactly between Alan Partridge and Tony Blackburn. I don’t want to personally attack the guy but as a professional he’s awful.

    • With all the TV technology why can’t we choose to have just the ambient sound of the race without the sometimes inane commentary? Language choices would be good too on the Eurosport type broadcasts where they have commentators from all over describing the action in different languages. I hate it when I get to a hotel in the mountains in July and find only Eurosport in German for example.

      • Old technology. We used to be able to choose which language with analogue satellite receivers in the 90’s for Eurosport in the UK.

        I’m definitely for ambient sound whenever Kirby speaks. Would like to hear Kelly though.

  18. “why can’t we choose to have just the ambient sound of the race without the sometimes inane commentary?”

    This has been available at times on the Eurosport player web-app thingy recently I’ve noticed… might have been the Giro

  19. Two years ago, nobody would have caught Spartacus. Brave move, but sad to see time take its toll on a great and very entertaining rider.

  20. We have feed zones. Why not pee zones?

    Hessian off an area or two along the route so riders can ride through and do their business in relative private and avoid public viewing. Signage to advise riders it’s 5km / 1km up the road, some hay to absorb and be cleaned up afterwards.

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