Tour de France Stage 2 Preview

Another likely sprint finish for sure. A hectic finale? Possibly, because the wind will get up later in the stage.

Fontenay-Les-Comptes: three riders took off and were kept on a short leash, just two minutes for much of the stage but just enough to contest the day’s sole climb where local rider Kévin Ledanois took the polka-dot jersey. So far, so formulaic but finale got frantic. First a crash that took out Arnaud Démare, no harm but he sat up and would miss the sprint. By contrast Egan Bernal fell but persisted in his chase like he couldn’t afford to lose time. The peloton had split with some riders caught on the wrong side and amid the jostling for position Chris Froome went cartwheeling into a field. By which time Nairo Quintana had smashed both wheels on a traffic island and had to pull up just short of the three kilometre to go point for help. It all meant significant time losses for the three top contenders, 51 seconds for Froome, Porte and Yates, 1m15s for Quintana. Consequential? Time will tell but it’s a lot of time to make up. One immediate effect will be felt on Monday’s team time trial. Mitchelton-Scott are last on the team competition with Team Sky second last and Movistar third last, normally the team prize isn’t a big deal unless you’re a manager or sponsor but it decides the start order in Monday’s team time trial so these teams will be off early.

In the sprint Quick Step ran a big train and dropped Fernando Gaviria perfectly into place with few other sprinters in contention and the Colombian made a long sprint to hold of Peter Sagan and a fast-closing Marcel Kittel.

The Route: it’s only a 50km ride from the start to the finish but the race takes a long loop around to the north. The start is hilly with the climb to the town of Pouzauges listed as 1km at 3.9% but it’s both a bit longer and the second half tightens up a bit. Hardly terrain for the climbers to exploit, just that it’s a bit harder than it may seem at first glance. It offers the early breakaway an obvious incentive with one point on offer for the mountains competition (in case of a draw on one point between the winner and Ledanois, the best-placed on GC wears the jersey).

The Finish: after crossing the A87 autoroute there’s a long straight run into town and then a technical final five kilometres where the road twists and turns through the town before heading back out to the edge of town for a nondescript finish, the Tour is too big to visit the old town centre. Within the final kilometre the road drops down to a roundabout and takes a sharp exit to the right. Then after passing under a bridge with 550m to go the final metres are slightly uphill, 2-3%.

The Contenders: Fernando Gaviria (Quick Step) made it look easy yesterday and so did his team which strengthens his chance of a repeat win. Remember too that he won the intermediate sprint too. So he’s the obvious pick for Stage 2. Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) was quick yesterday, he just started from too far back so concerns about his form are lessened. Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Emirates) was close but how can he outsprint his rivals? Otherwise the likes of Dylan Groenewegen (Lotto-Jumbo) and Peter Sagan should be close. Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) missed out yesterday and is one to watch and Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) was a creditable fifth. Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) finished 36th yesterday and isn’t an easy pick but let’s see if he’s out of the picture today, ditto André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) who was 26th.

Fernando Gaviria
Marcel Kittel, Peter Sagan
Kristoff, Groenewegen, Démare, Greipel, Cavendish

Weather: warm and sunny with a top temperature of 32°C. The wind will blow from the North-East and is likely to get stronger, going from 10km/h to 20km/h in time for the finish which isn’t going to rip the peloton apart but it will make things more nervous.

TV: live from the start at 1.10pm CEST with the finish forecast for 5.35pm CEST.


80 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 2 Preview”

  1. What would have happened if Quintana had made it inside the 3 km mark before changing wheels? Would he still loose time because the it only matters where the incident took place?

    • The incident is supposed to happen within the final 3km but it’s been known to have the problem before and then declare it/act on it once safely past the 3km banner. How far you could pretend you smashed two wheels is up to you, it’s not so fair play, but a wheel could be damaged and then collapse later etc.

  2. I quite like that some of the GC contenders with weaker TTT teams (Bardet, Nibali, D Martin) have gained time on some of those who might be expected to gain time on stage 3 (Froome, Porte, Quintana). Meanwhile Dumoulin has lost no time, with Sunweb likely to be in the mix for the TTT win.

  3. I’m hoping that slight rise inside the last half a kilometer is enough to give Sagan a bit of an edge. When QS and Gaviria are on, they look unbeatable, but talented as they are they aren’t always “on.” I’ve had the sense that Cav is mostly done, at least as a guy would could readily win multiple stages of the TdF, and today is certainly pointing in that direction. I think it’s pretty clear Greipel is not nearly the threat he was, at this top-most level of racing.

    I really didn’t expect the first stage to generate so much drama and surprise. I guess there’s a lesson there – when every GC contender, and their team, tries to push to the front of the peloton to stay out of trouble, it’s bound to cause some trouble.

  4. If Gaviria is winning the intermediate sprints, what does that suggest?
    Is he going to give the Green Jersey a shot?
    Sagan v Quick Step III : Empire of the Sun?

  5. Maybe team politics within Sky as well as Movistar? Assuming Sky nail the TTT (and perhaps too much of an assumption) we could see Geraint Thomas in yellow and he would be a good pick to gain more time on stage 9, if he is a minute ahead of Chris Froome heading into the mountains what do Sky do? Fifty seconds is not critical at this stage (he was minutes back at the Giro) but when one of his rivals is a team mate that makes a difference.

    I suspect a bigger issue for Nairo Quintana, he has lost 25 seconds on his biggest competitors but a lot more to his team mates. Given that Movistar is likely to loose more time on the TTT he could be under big pressure before the cobbles let alone the mountains come into view. Advantage Mikel Landa?

    Another winner was Romain Bardet, he is likely to be able to keep his potential deficit after the TTT to a much more manageable amount, certainly to Chris Froome, Adam Yates and Richie Porte.

    It would seem quite possible that we will see more throws of the dice over the next week, could a few GC contenders be refocusing on stage victories (or supporting team mates) before any of the riders have climbed their first alpine Col.

  6. For those who are interested, there’s Velon footage of Froome’s stage 1 crash on Youtube (search “Tour de France 2018: Chris Froome crash”). It’s pretty interesting. From the view shown during the race, it looks like he maybe gets a shoulder from a Lotto rider. From this view, from directly behind him (camera on the bike ridden by Jasper De Buyst), it looks like Froome did it too himself, and nearly went directly into a steel pole. He’s lucky he didn’t end up worse off than Lawson Craddock.

    • One of the perils of road racing when he pointy bit get really sharp. One of my concerns is that people are going to see every crash by a sky rider as a deliberate “foul play”.

    • Thanks KevinK. The Katusha rider does seem to move to the right, but then they are doing >40km/h on two wheels in a pack of people. Also, you could advance the theory that Froome sprinting up the side of the road was not the wisest move.
      Does Froome get the respect previous winners have had? He didn’t seem to be getting much space in the Giro. Maybe stories of Sky’s unpopularity in the peloton are true.
      Not a great day for bike-handling with Quintana managing to ride into a traffic island. You’d imagine if he could have made it 300m further he would have.
      Froome losing time might make the race a bit more interesting, but it’s not a very significant amount.
      I think the idea of Sky now, or later, favouring Thomas is unlikely – how would Thomas not lose a minute to Froome over many mountain stages?

      • I don’t think there was anything in that spill; another rider (DDD?) moved right, as did Zabel, and the door closed on Froome and he ran out of road.

        Where was his team during this, and specifically Thomas?
        Is Thomas a lieutenant or a prince-in-waiting? From his interviews and soundbites, you get the impression of the latter. Which is all very unlike Team Sky at the Tour.

        Who is likely to lead Team Sky at the Vuelta?
        I’d have thought Thomas may be a strong possibility?

        • I think you’re right.
          Thomas is talking himself up, but the team probably have far more realistic ideas (look at the two riders’ respective GT palmares – the very idea that Thomas is anything more than a plan B is frankly silly), but have no reason to contradict Thomas in public – and you never know, if something happens to Froome, they might need to back Thomas.
          A lot of the team came back for Froome – you wouldn’t expect their no. 2 rider to do so.
          I still think Thomas will be made to shepherd Froome over the cobbles and not ride for himself – and he’s never seemed the rebellious sort.

        • Thomas has been told to ride for himself until the Alps. He certainly isn’t there to look after Froome in the first week.

        • Listen more closely Ecky. The only one giving the “co-leader” spiel is really Thomas himself. In the Sky press conference Brailsford was all about “supporting Chris” and I’ve heard interviews with Kwiatkowski, Moscon and Froome himself where it was never about “us” or “our co-leaders” but just Froome. Formally, there may be a co-leadership idea floating around the team but surely most think the road will decide in Froome’s favour.

      • Agree that 50 secs is nowhere near enough for Sky to change their plan, but the deliciously interesting question is how much time is enough?
        I actually think that even protected Froome could lose significant time on stage 9… his bike handling isn’t really up to it and when he falls he gets rattled and often goes down again – on that wet Giro stage this year and on a Vuelta stage last year. Could be interesting. And G by contrast, would have a real chance to take good time on 9.
        That said the cobbles are still a long way off, there’ll be more GC drama before then with stages 5 and 6, maybe some wind as well. Fantastic parcours this year…. think we’re in for a treat!

        • Froome did very well on the cobbles last time, in 2015 – finished in the front group.
          Might be different if it was wet.

          • But this time much gnarlier cobbles (Apparently. Are we talking Roubaix 5 star or…? I’m sure INRNG could confirm), much more cobbles, with the final section within spitting distance of the finish. Quite a different proposition.

          • Everyone finnished in the front group that day except T Martin.

            2015: easy cobbles, few cobbles, plenty of tarmac between cobbles sections and plenty after last sectour & dry.

          • The ‘Froome used to ride mtb’ thing isn’t quite right. He competed in the Comm games on a mtb, but in his book says that it was his first time on a mtb, was basically forced by the Kenyan association to do it and couldn’t really handle the terrain. If you’ve ridden a mtb you’ll know that the Comm games etc courses aren’t super technical

        • Realistically, no amount of time. Because Thomas is not able to make the podium. There are so many here that will consistently outclimb him. So tired of hearing this same rethoric about him. He’s the only rider I can’t wait to retire. He comes of so smug.

      • 1) Katusha rider was ahead of Froome who was trying to pass.
        2) Katusha rider turned when road turned, Froome didn’t (too much of the BC/Sky candy that will be banned in 2019?)

      • He gets respect if youre looking for a fat contract (or just a contract on a minor team with same sponsors), or if your on a minor team hoping to be in the breakaway in days to come.

        Froome & Sky is unpopular in the peloton and have been for quite a while. Pretty shure QS or Trentin will go falt out if it means damaging Frooms race after the Vuleta stunt.

        • Would you like to cite some evidence of them being unpopular. They seem to chat a lot with their rivals which seems to contradict that statement.

          • Nibali said it the day before yesterday.
            Look it up and you can find a lot of stuff on it.
            The arrogance regarding their ‘new methods’, the preaching about clean they were… from the beginning they wound people up. Even their bus brought complaints.
            Revelations of the last couple of years have almost certainly not helped.

          • Care to elaborate on this statement…or do I not want to know? I’m still puzzled at the Anglo-Saxon derision thrown at The Shark of the Straits. Pantani is dead, so is the hatred now just aimed at best Italian, no matter who he is?

          • There is no ‘Anglo-saxon’ derision of Nibali Larry, move on. How do you know the people commenting are ‘Anglo-saxon’? You’re called Larry so presumably fairly ‘Anglo-saxon’. What is an ‘Anglo-saxon’? If you mean English just write that. Nobody refers to Nibali as Roman or a Moor! Should we start referring to you as ‘the Mohawk’?

          • It’s basically another way of saying Anglo-American, and more (or maybe less) specifically a way of contextualizing the ages-0ld English/Germanic language-speaking Northern Europe vs. Romance language Southern Europe (+ more recently South America) divide that is for whatever reasons so pervasive in professional cycling (the French, as always, kind of off on their own aloof trip). It’s imprecise to be sure but Larry’s hardly the only person to do it and complaining about it is the equivalent of Larry complaining about people calling Nibali Nibs.

            As to His Nibs – for one, while obviously a fantastic bike racer, he comes across as a singularly sore loser and ungracious winner. There seems to be at least as much smoke as there is for most top guys (Astana, the miraculous 2016 Giro turnaround, the Vuelta car tow, etc) but he’s very holier than thou, which is his prerogative but doesn’t exactly make him likable. He’s also – and tbf this one isn’t his fault – the darling of the extremely irritating panache brigade of cycling fandom, with their endless complaining about the good old days before power meters and whatever, which makes it harder to root for him if you don’t have nationalist feelings motivating you. Those are my reasons anyway, but I suspect they’re pretty common.

          • Thanks Barba for the explanation but I’m still unclear on the cause – where is this “sore loser” example? As to the car tow, most of the Nibali haters seem to overlook when their hero Froome did the same thing back-in-the-day, so that’s no excuse. As to “smoke” are you making doping allegations against Nibali? And where does the “holier than thou” stuff come from? Is someone translating (or am I missing it with my very basic understanding of Italian) his words in some strange way? This may be the case as I noted years ago when a native Spanish speaker pointed out the nasty things BigMig was saying were translated into much nicer terms in English – could there be a reverse situation with The Shark of the Strait” going on here?
            I really don’t understand this so I chalk it up to the British (there, I wrote it!) love-hate relationship with all things Italian. When I write Anglo-Saxon I mean English speakers, since so much of what American cycling fans think is colored by ol’ Shill Phiggett and Co’s blinkered viewpoint and I think the folks down in OZ kinda get the same thing based on the derision I see from them about Marco Pantani and Italians in general.
            As someone who runs a business around cycling in Italy for what are almost universally English-speakers I have a particular interest in this subject and really want to understand where these ideas and emotions originate.

          • Larry – I’m English and I love Italy and his Nibs (I actually think he’ll win this thing if the TTT goes off not too bad today) – so pls just be careful with generalising (I find it generally says more about the person generalising than it does about the generalised)

          • Please note I wrote love-hate relationship rather than claiming Brits in general hate Italy and Italians as it seems you imply. Are you saying E.M. Forster had it wrong in “Where Angels Fear to Tread”? Those kinds of sentiments pretty well match my experiences with Brits and Italy…in general.

          • Richard S – does this mean that YOU know what David is posting about? If so please feel free to explain it to me. I could write ENGLISH but that leaves out the rest of the English-speaking world of cycling. Should I change it to English-speakers instead of Anglo-Saxons? (PS I don’t think Nibali is either a Roman or a Moor, he’s a Siciliano from Messina)

  7. I am certainly looking firward to three weeks of wild speculation. I’m considering starting a petition to get the first stage rerun, as a reconciliation project for presently divided England and Colombia.

  8. I’d like a ban on all football-related comments.
    I just don’t care.
    (Do people go on football websites and talk about cycling? No, because only football is so all-pervasive.)

  9. Great insight! The comment about the TTT start order is why I (we) read this blog. Weather tomorrow seems fine – no rain predicted to have different teams ride in completely different conditions, but maybe the wind can play a role…

  10. Well, well, a little more interesting but no biggie so far. This is only the second time since Froome first won the Tour in 2013 that he has been more than one minute down on GC (currently +1.01 to Gaviria). The only other time was in 2016 when, yes, he eventually won anyway. In a way Froome was even quite lucky with his grassy tumble yesterday if you take the view that Porte and Quintana are possibly his closest rivals and they both suffered equally or even more. Most of those gaining 51 seconds should find themselves behind him after the TTT anyway. So, as others have said, no panic in Team Sky as yet.

    Was also happy to see Gaviria take the win, not least as he is my favoured sprinter and green jersey favourite for the race. Since deeper into the race Sagan may chase more points than he, he needs to make sure of wins rather than places if he wants the green.

        • On the grounds the european champion, not being either a national or world champion, can’t opt out of the green jersey?
          Maybe the TdF rule relating to jerseys will get an overnight rewrite. It seems odd that national and world champions can opt to wear their jerseys, but not continental champions who presumably rank between the two.
          Next after Kristoff is Demare, a Frenchman entitled to no jerseys other than his team (and any race) jersey.

          • Because Sagan wasn’t leading the green jersey competition but was only loaning the Jersey from Gaviria, his WC stripes took priority.

            Not clear if European champs jersey has any special status.

          • I didn’t think about Kristoff having the European Champion’s jersey. I think Sagan didn’t want to wear the green today because he thought he’d earn it outright soon enough, and the WC jersey “the” jersey to have on any occasion. I suspect for Kristoff, who is very unlikely to win the points competition outright, might well enjoy a day or so in green. Why not?

            I’m not clear on why Gaviria would prefer the young rider’s jersey to the points jersey, though. It seems to me the green jersey has more prestige than the white. The former says “accomplishment” while the latter says “potential.”

          • I don’t think Gaviria has any choice in the matter. He is actually leading the White jersey competition, so it takes priority over wearing the Green jersey on loan from Sagan. *If* Gaviria was leading both competitions, he would wear Green, because the race rules stipulate Yellow > Green > KoM > White.

  11. Saw Kévin Ledanois win the U23 race in Richmond, Virginia. It was really fun to turn on the TV and see him take the polka dot jersey!

  12. And just like that, Sagan is back where he belongs in the Green Jersey competition, with the bonus of a day in Yellow. His brother Jural let slip that Sagan’s goal was to win Green and also (briefly) wear the, and there it is. His fantastic positioning abilities and bike handling skills serve him well yet again.

  13. The trident seems to be coming apart pretty early. There was no one for Quintana when he broke his bike, he had to get a Mavic, and get back to the peleton unaided. Meanwhile Landa presses on, but I feel Valverde is going to out think him ( maybe not that hard?). He is hunting for himself this year, not acting as quintana’s out sourced brain.

    I saw somewhere that Valverde was th Movistar road captain.?hmmmmmm

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