Tour de France Stage 2 Preview

Mirror, mirror, up the wall, who is the fastest of them all? Today’s stage is 180km to an uphill finish via the Côte de la Glacerie, “Glassworks Hill”, with its 14% section just before the line.

Stage 1 Review
Last in, first out: Leigh Howard got a late call-up by IAM Cycling and was the first rider to attack at the KM0 point. He was joined two Bora-Argon 18 riders, Paul Voss and Jan Barta while behind Anthony Delaplace (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Alex Howes (Cannondale-Drapac) tried to chase. The Bora-Bora duo had no interest in letting the two chasers get across and kept on the power. As the trio approached Avranches for the first King of the Mountains point Voss jumped away and Howard could not react leaving Voss to collect the sole point on each climb, a wily move, a Schlaufuchs.

The break were kept on a tight leash, never more than four minutes and with 100km to go they had just two minutes, in time Howard, Voss and Barta left Howes and Delaplace to it. The persistent headwind made the bunch nervous and once they hit an exposed section with 80km to go the speed jumped up. Alberto Contador crashed on a corner, shredding his shoulder unlucky but it could have been a lot worse given the speed and the nearby kerb. Soon after the bunch looked less feisty but it was still nervous with riders occupying the width of the road and several logjam moments when it narrowed.

No moves went but the bunch was nervous and charging into the finish. Mark Cavendish has a theory that long finishing straights tempt others to launch their sprint too early because they can see the finish line and the arch from afar and jump too soon. Peter Sagan jumped with 300m to go and Cavendish surged to get on his wheel and benefited from the shelter before launching his sprint to overhaul the Slovak and win the day and the yellow jersey, one of the few prizes he’d yet to claim during his career.

Mark Cavendish Utah Beach

The Route: 183km across the Cotentin peninsula. Three early climbs incentivise a breakaway before more riding across the Normandy bocage and more of the same terrain as you saw yesterday. The race passes through Coutances, which as a reader pointed out yesterday, was were the journalist Albert Londres met with riders Henri and Francis Pélissier and Maurice Ville, which Londres wrote up in his book Les Forçats de la route, “The convicts of the road” which is part of the canon of eternal cycling literature.

The final 100km are coastal, the race picking up the coastal road just where it turned in land elsewhere. It gets hilly too, a series of rollers for the last 40km. None of this is going to drop the sprinters especially as they’re all in top form but it will wear them down as they head to the finish.

The Finish: the race tackles the climb over Octeville, 1.3km at 4.5%, and drops into Cherbourg, all on a wide road used to speed traffic in and out of the town. They roll past the quays and turn back inland to start the climb to the line, the Côte de la Glacerie, named after the old glass factory that used to supply the hall of mirrors in Versaillles among other places.

The climb begins on a big wide road and the gradient is gentle enough, 5-6% as the road sweeps around wide bend. After 1.3km there’s a roundabout and the road turns left onto a smaller road lined by rowhouses, this is where the 10% gradient arrives. The 14% section cited above? Perhaps if you take the inside line on one right-hand bend it’s there… but it’s not that steep, the finish is mostly 5-6% all the way.

It’s an odd moment, the biggest race in the world diverted into a nondescript housing estate in order to hunt this steep road, this international race taking the backroads among Cherbourg’s suburbs. A brief descent and the race rejoins the main road, a long regular straight that’s got an even 6% slope to the line.

The Scenario: a big showdown at the finish. It’s improbable that a break rides into Cherbourg to contest the stage win, too many teams want to try and set up their leader for the finish today so they’ll chase down any earlier moves. Once the climb starts it’ll be very hard to use the steep slopes in the finish to jump away, the brief descent and then the long run to the line means a rider will flounder here while the bunch will have a good view on anyone ahead.

Note the 3km rule does not apply today (click here for an explainer from 2011) meaning the GC contenders have to join in the fight for the stage win or at least aim to be near the front as the field splits up on the way to the line.

The Contenders: Peter Sagan is the obvious choice. Too obvious? If anything his sprint yesterday was so strong that it confirms his position as the prime pick. He might not have won but he was still able to put out the power in the wind. He showed in Switzerland he was climbing well when he jumped away for the stage win, he was simply untouchable then. Consequently his problem will be the riders queuing on his wheel.

Greg Van Avermaet

Who can beat Sagan? Greg Van Avermaet did it last year and he’s aiming for this stage. He says this is his “only chance”. There are surely other opportunities for him but this is his best chance, he’s won several uphill finishes during his career.

Who do Etixx-Quickstep back? Julian Alaphilippe is an obvious choice and Dan Martin is a contender here too. Petr Vakoč is a powerhouse for a finish like this but I suspect he’ll be on duty for the first two.

Another team with a dilemma is Orica-BikeExchange, both Simon Gerrans and Michael Matthews. They’re both suited to a finish like this and they’ve had issues in the past about who should work for who. Team management will iron this out, ideally one can try to fire off with 500m to go or cover others who do, while the other can sit tight for the sprint.

Tony Gallopin‘s got a good jump and is targeting stage wins this year. Like many this is one of the few chances he’ll get. It’ll be interesting to see how he approaches it, sometimes he gets nervous in finishes like this. Don’t rule out André Greipel, a win would be be wild but he might fancy trying to hang in there to take points.

Alejandro Valverde could do well here. The final section to the line on the big open road isn’t ideal, he’d surely prefer a much steeper ramp up but he can and should feature. Adam Yates is one of the GC contenders with a fast finish.

Boasson Hagen

Edvald Boasson Hagen is a good pick, he won an uphill sprint in the Dauphiné but went down in yesterday’s crash and could be sore.

Bryan Coquard‘s had this stage marked in his diary for some time, he’s a sprinter who weighs less than 60kg so he’ll hope to float up the hill. As ever the quality of the field is his big problem but he’s got to strike some time.

Ag2r La Mondiale have two options in Alexis Vuillermoz and Samuel Dumoulin. Vuillermoz took a flyer last year but this time the road probably isn’t steep enough for him while Dumoulin’s got too much competition.

Peter Sagan, Julian Alaphilippe
Michael Matthews, GVA, Tony Gallopin
Valverde, D Martin, Gerrans, Boasson Hagen, Coquard, Herrada

Weather: damp and cool, a top temperature of 19°C. It won’t be so windy, typically 15km/h from the south west.

TV: live coverage from 2.15pm and the finish is forecast for 5.20pm Euro time. No other race attracts as much TV coverage but if you can’t find it on TV at home cyclinghub serves up a pirate feed.

53 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 2 Preview”

  1. So chuffed for Cav! And loved his post-race interview with his daughter… “What did Daddy win for you?”, “Flowers!”

  2. Funny thing is Cav won because he was the fastest. Kittel had position and just got beat by the Manxter. Haven’t seen that type of sprint from Cavendish in 3 years at least.

  3. Hopefully things get going on Côte d’Octeville, then this will be a very good stage, as we’ll see the pretenders and domestiques dropping away leaving the big boys to fight for position with one or two teammates.

  4. Seemed to me that Kittle had a mechanical issue on the final run-in. Just a hiccup of some sort – he l9oked down as he crossed the line. No matter what I was happy to see the Manx Missile finally take the Maillot Jaune as he nears the end of his career as a top sprinter. Vive LeTour!

    • I was wondering if he thought he’d run out of gears, that he wins spinning out his top gear and looking for an extra gear thinking there was a shifting problem. All riders were in a very high cadence given the tailwind.

    • Don’t think Kittel had a mechanical (he certainly didn’t mention anything) – he looks down when he runs out of gas and Cavendish is still going away. Looked more like a sign of annoyance to me – did he go too early, perhaps?

        • They’re all running the new Dura Ace aren’t they?
          If there was a mechanical, no one’s going to say anyway.

          I just re-watched the last km on NBC’s coverage, which gives a fantastic angle of the sprint and really shows how clever Cavendish was in getting this win.
          But are NBC’s pictures off a different feed, as the live pictures to ITV4 yesterday were not the same?

  5. Think that Côte de la Glacerie refers not to a glass factory, which would be a verrerie, but to an ice making plant and essential at one time for a fishing port.

    Surprised and delighted for Cavendish, and thanks inrng for enhancing my tour.

    • It’s a place where you make mirrors but “mirror factory” didn’t have the same ring to it. It’s definitely mirrors and not ice, all over the town there are signs reflecting the historic identity, statues of men working with mirrors and the town’s crest features two mirrors etc.

  6. Dutch journalists rode this and said it was much harder than it seems on paper, didn’t expect this to be Sagan territory, more Alaphillipe and Valverde.

    • I didn’t find it so bad, the steep section is short and it’s 10% for 400m (one preview elsewhere on a well-known cycling news website says 14% for half a kilometre which doesn’t exist). Last year Sagan survived 10% for over a kilometre on at Mûr-de-Bretagne so I’m thinking he can manage the shorter effort here. It’ll be an exciting finish, the changes in gradients, corners and rise to the line make it very different to the Mûr-de-Bretagne.

        • Cherbourg and La Glacerie stand out for being the least scenic, the place not to be jealous of. One of those places where the industry and jobs vanished, the skies seem to hang low and the finish is a Route Nationale for 364 days of the year with traffic roaring up and down it.

          I’ve ridden the unknown routes and finishes, ie no point returning to Ventoux or the Tourmalet. It’s instructive and above all good fun.

  7. As someone who had written Cav’s sprinting obituary over a year ago, I am more than happy to eat humble pie. Fantastic to see him produce a fantastic win and take the yellow jersey to boot.

  8. Just watched a video by BBC reporter OJ Borg who had just ridden up the final climb and he says he’s sure it will tail off all the pure sprinters and create a few gaps. It reminds me a bit of the run into Sheffield a couple of years back. Of course, that day Nibali took a flyer.

  9. I’ll be honest I’d written Cav off but happy he proved me wrong and finally got to add the yellow jersey to his palmares to complete the set for the grand tours.

    Hoping Contador is not too banged up.

    Seems its just skin so what will it be a week to heal up? So depends if he can limit losses but will tough sleeping to recover.

    That said he’s sometimes most dangerous on back foot with long range attacks. Although even without crash think it was going to be between Froome and Quintanna but today shows accidents can happen at anytime.

  10. If Orica allow Matthews and Gerrans to get in each other’s way it’ll be farcical. Surely the plan must be to fire Gerrans off with whoever goes early on the first bit of the climb and sit Matthews on Sagan’s wheel. What about Nibs as a one ring outsider? He’s going for stages, can do Ardennes style hills and loves a kamikaze attack.

  11. Any news on Kontador? He looked badly injured. Hope he gets well: in such a route as this year’s, his disruptive attacks could be very interesting to watch and also may also make some other favourites to take some risk.

    • He seems to be fine, deep abrasions which means he won’t sleep at night. I am wondering if this is spun by his team, ie he could be hurting when they say he’s ok. It’s happened before in the Giro and Vuelta.

      • Personally I wouldn’t trust anything coming from the Tinkoff PR Dept. He slid along the road on his shoulder and hit the curb. Must be a worry. If I were some of the others I’d be looking to gain a few seconds here and there and test his fitness while he has any vulnerability at all although I expect Quintana and Froome will prove a level above him anyway.

  12. Matthews went down yesterday. Hopefully not too bad but might sway the team decision.

    Earmarked Alaphilippe when I first saw this stage profile but could realistically be one of 20. Should be a great finish.

    Surprised Poels doesn’t get a mention after Liege.

  13. Cavendish had been overly insistent yellow wasn’t a goal, I’m not sure he fooled anybody. I think yesterday worked to his advantage – tail wind meant high speeds, his track work for Rio meant he had been working on high leg speed. When Kittel is looking for another gear to monster Cavendish just ups the cadence.

    +1 for hoping Contador isn’t too hurt as he enlivens races, and he and his team have previous for bluffing and overstating illness and injury.

    • Which “previous” are you speaking about, exactly? They often play mind games, and from time to time they happen to take advantage of slight confusions in timelines and so on, but I can’t recall them actually *overstating* illness and injury.
      What I recall quite well is that a lot of commentators (and journos, too) went wild with deliberate misinterpretations and gratuitous assumptions about things that hadn’t been said or hadn’t been said like that.
      Most of the cheap talk on the subject was debunked on this same website.

      • I – below – was thinking about the 2014 Vuelta where he said he wouldn’t be riding because of the fracture in his leg.

        • If you can find the comments about that specific subject here, a full reconstruction of the communications and events timeline changed a bit the commonplace perspective on it.

          • 5 August 2014: His press officer Jacinto Vidarte – ‘There is no possibility that Alberto can ride the Vuelta.’
            About a week before that, Contador had said ‘Bad day, the wound healing gets complicated. I’ve no date to take the bike. Goodbye to the Vuelta.’

          • The Vuelta started nearly three weeks after the Vidarte release. And the worries about the wound situation were justified, according to medical sources (new and separate surgery required, if I’m not wrong).
            I’m not going to look for all the info again, it should still be here on inrng.

  14. If Sagan places on the podium today, they may as well (barring a crash / illness) reserve another Green Jersey in his size for Paris.
    He’s been on top form all year, and still looks as strong as an ox.
    If he were to get Yellow also today, perhaps he should have went in the break yesterday and took the KoM point for the Polka Dot as well as he was certainly capable of that!

  15. Very interesting to see Voss’s tactics to take the polka dot jersey – the highlight of the day other than the finish. That’s the benefit of seeing the whole race (I’ll admit I fast forwarded through quite a lot of the rest, though – all the chateau shots are less dull at 16x).
    Really hoping that Contador recovers well and quickly. With his history of disingenuousness about injuries, we have no way of knowing how he actually is.
    I’d say Sagan’s biggest risk of not winning is not keeping his ego in check and going too early in an attempt to win in a domineering style.

  16. Great – mr. Inrng is introducing me to new words in my own language. Didnt heard schlaufuchs before, but i googled it and it is really listed in the duden (german language wordbook).
    Good work on all fronts mr. Ring.

  17. Comparing Sagan and GVA always reminds of me of the old Irving Berlin song:
    “Anything you can do I can do better, I can do anything better than you”.
    GVA: can you climb? Sagan: Yes I can.
    GVA: can you sprint? Sagan: Yes I can.
    GVA: a time-trial? Sagan: Yes I can
    GVA: in the wind? Sagan: Yes I can, yes I CAAAN.
    GVA: I can drink my liquor faster than a flicker!
    Sagan: I can do it quicker, and get even sicker!

    • That was pretty bad luck for sure, but also where was a teammate to give him a bike/wheel? He looked like he was all alone, but if he’s a designated captain a domestique should always be with him.

      • well at least he did not take a wheel from some aussie from another team this time. so at least there are signs of improvemnt

      • Agreed, the neutral service is always slow given the complications of having to sort out the skewer for different bikes, it’s surprising there wasn’t a BMC Racing team mate next to him. But these things can happen, you can lose a wheel, puncture but it’s a fast descent so it’s hard to use the radio one handed, team mates can’t hear over the crowds and helicopters etc.


    Talk about all the Hitters out! Thouroughly enjoyed that and it added some fun to a long stage of not much else.

    (breakaway excitement excluded^)

    Other talking points:
    -Stoked for Sagan on the win. He’s having a great year and wears the rainbows well
    -Things in the bunch must be very tense / hectic for him to come out in the press immediately after a win and criticize everyone for riding ‘without a brain’. To me this gives an indication of how the peloton must be feeling
    -Richie! – what bad luck. With the above comments that there are lots of noises and distractions and can be tough to get a radio call– all true. But shouldn’t his team mates know better? Troubling to see that there wasn’t someone with him.

    But at the end of the day it’s racing and anything can happen…

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