Tour de France Stage 2 Preview

More Brittany and the finish at Mûr-de-Bretagne. It’s a small climb but in recent years it has bothered several GC contenders like Tom Dumoulin and Vincenzo Nibali.

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A la Julian: watch enough cycling and you learn foreign language vocabulary. Etape, bidon, col and so on. Yesterday perhaps supplied you with some new German: Opi and Omi, informal, diminutive words for grandpa and grandma, terms used in the Netherlands and Flanders too. They were brandished on a cardboard sign by a spectator so keen to be spotted by her family that she failed to notice the peloton and felled Tony Martin. He took down so many riders that the peloton looked like like a game of Mikado. It took time to regroup with a peloton that slowed, but didn’t stop. Then there was another giant crash with 8km to go just as the road was descending, this time with no outside provocation and another messy scene with many riders on the ground and others blocked by the carnage. The evening’s medical bulletin reported 21 riders required treatment from the race doctor, probably double that needed help from their team medics and soigneurs.

Deceuninck-Quickstep team got to work on the steepest part of the Fosse-aux-Loups climb, they had a plan to spoil things for the sprinters and while Davide Ballerini and Matteo Cattaneo didn’t last long, Dries Devenyns gave a big uphill leadout to Julian Alaphilippe. The world champ attacked with 2.3km to go and nobody else could, or would, respond at first. Pierre Latour tried soon after and looked strong couldn’t bridge across, he’d moved too late. We should note Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič, marking each other for a moment in the chase and both clear of the rest. They’d be caught but Roglič still managed to sprint for third. As for van der Poel it wasn’t to be, no tribute to his Opi, despite the special jersey, and he says he’s not got the form he had in the Tour de Suisse but he didn’t look clinical either, out of position and making big moves from far back. Alaphilippe stayed away to win and celebrate, sitting up for a long victory celebration that might have cost him a couple of seconds in time but was too good to miss, he’s a showman first and foremost.

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A group of 20 came in behind Alaphilippe at eight seconds and then big time gaps started appearing. Miguel Angel Lopez and Ben O’Connor lost 1m49s, Richie Porte 2m16s, Alejandro Valverde and Tao Geoghegan Hart 5m33s. With this Ineos’s plans for any 1-2-3-4 attacks go out the window; instead they can either hold tight as mountain helpers or go in breakaways as luxury relay riders if Thomas or Carapaz can bridge across.

The Route: 183km and not as a hilly as yesterday. It’s along the coast for the first 100km although not always the sea front as the road is often in land as it tracks the shore. With 20km to go the race reaches a climb at Mûr-de-Bretagne, it’s the road into the town, then it’s out, down and onto the main road climb which is passed once for a finishing circuit. It’s a long open road and not a particularly technical climb but climbing it twice will thin down the peloton and blunt the legs of some of the heavier riders. There’s a special time bonus point with 8-5-2 seconds for the first time across the finish line.

The Finish: a different approach, in the past and indeed earlier in today’s stage the race has come out of Guérledan on the main road and taken the road down which runs straight into the climb which has allowed riders to begin the climb with some momentum. Not now, there’s a right turn onto the foot of the climb to slow things. It’s 2km at an average of 6.9% but this isn’t an average climb, it’s got 500m at 10-12% before the 1km to go point and then the slope eases off to the line. It’s all on a wide road without anything technical.

The Contenders: with half the field over five minutes down already there’s space for the right breakaway but how to pick riders who lost time but aren’t sore with injuries? This should still be a relatively controlled stage, several teams will want to set a sprint finish of sorts. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) was the best yesterday and can do the same again. Only this time he doesn’t have to attack. He still can, but this time he can mark rivals and cover moves before trying to round them in the finish which will deliver more bonus seconds. Michael Matthews (Bike Exchange) was the best sprinter yesterday and can feature again. Primož Roglič (Jumbo Visma) is already hustling for time bonuses while he has two team mates in Wout van Aert and Jonas Vingegaard who could win, WvA used up a lot of energy in the chase after a crash so can do better than his sprint yesterday suggested. Mathieu van der Poel could still strike but he was well out of the picture yesterday so just placing would be a start.

Julian Alaphilippe, Primož Roglič
Michael Matthews, Wout van Aert
Gaudu, Pogačar, Higuita, Latour, Vingegaard, MvdP

Weather: sunshine and clouds with the chance of rain, and a top temperature of 15°C. A light tailwind of 10km/h on the finishing climb looks likely.

TV: the start is at 1.20pm CEST and finish is forecast for 5.45pm CEST. Tune in for the race to the finishing circuit around 5.00pm.

Further language lessons: we’ve done German grandparents, now for local geography. Mûr-de-Bretagne is a town. Yes mur is French for wall and in cycling it can mean a short, steep climb, think of the Mur de Huy (similarly the Muro di Sormano in Italian). But here it’s Mûr with an accent, not mur and it’s a place name, not a wall, what linguists sometimes call a false friend. So today’s stage finishes at Mûr de Bretagne, rather than on the Mur de Bretagne. It doesn’t matter that much, just as if you said the Alpe de Ventoux enough people would know you probably meant Mont Ventoux (even if it isn’t in the Alps) ; or if you talked about the Koppelmuur in Geraardsbergen instead of the Kapelmuur. Still, if you really want to sound like a local call it the Côte de Menéhiez.

55 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 2 Preview”

  1. After his first and second places at the last two editions to finish here, would Dan Martin not be worth a chain ring?

      • Probably the best Martin today ahead of Guillaume, Rordriguez and Tony and by some way. Michael Woods also has a chance, both could take a flyer early on the climb and hope to stay away and don’t have to be closed down. But still, a tough ask against Alaphilippe and Roglič.

  2. Interesting to watch both Roglič and Pogačar start to chase and close on Alaphilippe, then look at each other and sit up, hope they don’t mark each other out of GC

    • If it had been Thomas or Carapaz, or anyone dangerous from Ineos etc, they’d have chased together.
      Ineos do not have the strength to trump these two, in my view.
      Chris Boardman felt it’s perhaps the strongest ever Sky / Ineos team they’ve sent to the Tour.
      On paper, maybe.
      But I feel they lack the decisive last piece of the jigsaw, namely a prime Chris Froome.
      Thomas can get a podium but he’s not riding away from the Slovenians.

      • There’s certainly a lot of gamesmanship at this point. Roglic and Pogacar are probably happy to show their hands or at least mark each other at this point in time. No serious contender wants the burden of commanding yellow at the moment.
        If Pogacar and Roglic had closed the gap to Alaphilippe then I think you’d see a harder chase by the rest. DQS don’t really have a serious GC rider and so Alaphilippe is an ideal candidate for most GC riders to carry the jersey for the first week, if DQS want that.
        I accept that Roglic could have realistically been serious in trying to win the stage, but I think that when he saw there was no time benefit backed out.
        For me, the disappointment was that MVDP was so poorly positioned onto the climb that he lost about 100m to JA straight off the bat. Maybe he was being sandbagged, but if I expected anyone to jump with JA it was him. A perfectly executed win by DQS

  3. I have a student at the moment who, when I asked the group where they came from, said Meaux. My immediate reaction was “Wow! La chute massive! The huge stage 1 crash!” even though it was, I think, the centenary tour, 18 years ago.
    My point being that some stages live long in the memory for the wrong reasons. I wonder what yesterday will be remembered for: Ala or “Allez…” ?

  4. Regarding the young woman trying to attract the attention of her opi and omi, was she wearing a costume? She was dressed in a big floppy hat, old fashioned yellow rain coat, baggy pants and what looks like an oversized red-and-white striped shirt. She looked a bit like a cartoon character that I can’t quite place. Or maybe she had her own funky offbeat style.

    Here in the Netherlands even the expats know “omi” from the omafiets everyone rides. When I first arrived a Dutch guy told me he was riding his “grandma’s bike” because his nice bike had been stolen, and I thought it was literally his grandmother’s bicycle. I already knew that omafiets was the word for the heavy, upright, clunky but strangely elegant bikes most people ride here, but I hadn’t actually done the translation.

  5. I wonder sometimes after seeing the various scenes of carnage, not just amongst the riders but the roadside spectators too, whether watching cycling is a bit too much like watching the gladiators in the Colosseum, the crashes are just another form of entertainment.

    Chapeau to Julian Alaphilippe, he had hardly crossed the line before Bradley Wiggins was asking whether he can keep yellow all the way to Paris.

    Not sure Inrng’s Triglav tandem is in full working order, the chain seemed to come off before the finish yesterday. The effects of last year’s final stage might last the entire race this year.

    I suspect the various cuts & bruises will have a long term influence. JV had three obviously bashed up riders slowly making their way to the finish. Marc Hirschi looks like a doubtful starter and there were other UAE riders down. Both Primoz Roglic & Tadej Pogacar were involved in the pile ups, adrenaline and anger can cover up the immediate pain but the more difficult when it comes to a TT.

    The claim that Ineos had four leaders proved to be media invention (even if aided and abetted by the team). Not sure what happened to TGH but no one went back to help him despite him being only 45 seconds behind the peloton. Richie Porte was towards the back of the bunch even before the second crash, not where he would be if he were thinking of GC.

    I hope Chris Froome can continue, not sure he should have been at the race but it would be a sad way for his TdF career to end.

    I suspect Julian Alaphilippe will win again today, he likes putting on a “show” though not sure that is the best strategy if he really wants to win the race.

    • Aided and abetted? All they did was avoid talking about leaders much, although Carapaz mentioned several times that he was a co-leader with Thomas. So, it was a total media invention.

  6. Have to agree that he didn’t look right on the ride to the finish. Won’t be surprised if he’s DNS but quite a leap to think this is Froome’s last TdF.

    • It was really sad to see. More than not quite right, he looked very wrong riding to the line – frail and broken even. He’s an exceptionally determined human, but th body has limits

  7. Horrific crash scenes which once again reignite the debate about roadside spectators. One the one hand, the tour is the most accessible elite sports event in the world which allows seasoned fans to follow their favourites and less well acquainted to get within touching distance. OTOH we get the ‘hello mum/grandma/grandad’ element who are unaware of the risks involved. Hopefully those on the slopes of the Alps/Pyrenees/Ventoux back off just a little bit. I read that ASO we’re planning to sue the lady with the sign. One would hope she learned her lesson after having images broadcast globally.

    Really feel for Froome limping over the line in his comeback tour. Hopefully we didn’t see his swan song yesterday.

    Interesting debate about whether disc brakes contributed to the pile up – just glad they weren’t wearing toe clips.

    A shake up of sorts for GT: JV look the most affected, and I guess Movistar will ride for Mas now. Thought TGH stood an outside chance but looks set to return to ineos’ ranks of grand tour winning bottle collectors (perhaps why he was at the back of the group in the first place).

    Thanks for the write up Inrng.

    • There were some comments on The Breakaway yesterday about disc brakes contributing to things, but I really don’t understand that – the first crash obviously had nothing to do with disc brakes, and the second crash was caused by a B&B rider losing his front wheel as somebody moved across him…not sure how rim brakes would’ve solved either of those incidents!?

    • Note ASO probably aren’t suing the cardboard Dummkopf, something has got lost in translation. It’s more a procedural step, a legal formality in France than a “see you in court” declaration. It allows the police to look into things.

      • What about the teams and their insurers? There were a lot of damaged and totalled bikes and of course lots of personal injuries as well. In the ‘normal’ world you would try to get the yellow raincoated granddaughter’s liability insurance to pay for the damages, but I don’t know if that works for professional bike races.

        • Teams get the bikes and a continuous resupply on demand. The manufacturers pay them usually in-kind, plus or minus cash; depends… but it’s all at cost price, lost in the marketing budget. Leading riders get ‘specials’ only where the cost is more than recouped by brand marketing.
          What was amazing was how many rear stays were completely smashed out (carbon pea-sticks, anyone?) There was even one rider who crossed the line with just the drive-side stay in place. Strength + lightness seems to equal brittle.

          Ouest France says the Police have failed to find the suspected culprit but the case is open and the Tour organisation also has an action going on. There’s a risk of fine and imprisonment but it’s unlikely. The last case to succeed was by Merckx for the 1975 ‘sixth tour’ where he got a killer punch to the liver, with the perp getting a suspended sentence and banned off bike races for a couple of years.

        • It’s rare to sue the public, the sport relies on a communion with the public. One rider did talk about suing a fan at another grand tour after he leaned out too far across the barriers and knocked the rider down in the finishing straight. The result? The rider became a negative for any team wanting a wildcard invite and his career ended soon.

          • Not sure what the point of a lawsuit would be anyway. The “fan” is probably mortified and too ashamed to show her face in public (and maybe also afraid of being lynched by a bunch of Bretons with pitchforks). She doesn’t need an extra punishment to know how wrong it was, and to never do it again.

            As for the idea of “sending a message”, the message was sent – we’ve all seen the images, and it comes as yet another reminder of how stupid mistakes on the side of the road can cause grievous harm and threaten careers. I think there will be many more eyes on the TV today than readers to follow up on the possible fine in a year.

  8. Let’s hope the yellow coated goon doesn’t go with 50miles of a bike race again, these sort of f$in idiots get other people in the shit.

  9. There were 6 Ineos ahead of the 2nd crash. Were Tao & Porte the two missing?

    Tao was affected by the first crash and held up behind the 2nd. I hope he is okay and would be launched as a rally for a Carapaz attack and in doing so get some time back.

    • Almost certainly reading too much into it (could have gone back to the car for something), but are there examples of bet-hedging with positioning of riders are in a nervous peloton? You wouldn’t want all your co-leaders taken out in a single crash towards the front, but then again, being at the back means you are almost certain to be held up by such crashes.

      • I don’t think teams do that. I know Pantani used to sit at the back, but he was in a weak team.
        The thinking is most likely that you are one of three categories: a) riders unaffected, no time losses, b) riders who crash and are either injured/unaffected, and with time losses and c) riders who don’t crash but suffer time losses (I’m not talking about finishing times, but splits with the possibility of different finishing times).
        You want your riders to be in a), and the likelihood of that decreases the further from the front you are. You may still be in a) in the middle of the peloton, but you increase your chances in being in b) and c) – which brings us to the fact that teams will try to ride on the front to mitigate circumstances.

  10. You could see TGH be held up by the first crash. He was on the back of the Ineos train and as the crash moved across the peloton he just got caught up with a rider crashing beside or behind him. He didn’t go down just had to untangle himself. Didn’t see what happened after that so not sure why he didn’t make it back to the bunch when others who came of worse did.

  11. A thanks in advance to INRNG for these previews and all the work that goes into running this blog. The level of excitement i feel for the return of the tour never dims and reading this preview over morning coffee has become part of the tour routine. We are really spoilt for coverage on the tour from podcasts to TV but your content holds it’s own. It seems a long way from the pre internet tours where in the UK you had the slim pickings of a short highlights show and Ceefax and had to wait for print content that would be out of date by the time you got it

  12. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in my watching bike racing since the mid 80s I’ve seen any number of crashes caused by spectators and, quite often, vehicles in the race convoy. [Readers might member the Hoogerland incident from 10 years ago, for instance.] The latter usually just get kicked off the race – even if injuries ensue. The former are usually briefly remarked upon before slinking away to go back to their lives. So why is this woman so different when, in the past, we’ve had guys punching riders in the gut and, in the more distant past, even shots fired at riders by fans of their opponents? I’m not saying the woman was without fault, she clearly wasn’t, but I think her offence merits somewhat less than a full on crucifixion in context. More to the point, if you are going to have a sport where tens of thousands of randoms are within touching distance of the competitors then such incidents are unavoidable on a long enough timeline. Just ask all those dogs who have wandered out into the peloton over the years.

    • Yeah, but would it not make sense to fine her, as an example? To me, all dangerous behaviour towards the riders should be fined as a traffic incident by the police, even if it does not cause an accident. Things like crossing the road right before traffic, or standing on the tarmac in general with an approaching peleton. I would be curious if there is legislation to do this – it’s racing on public roads after all. If I cause an accident because of erratic driving, cycling or walking behaviour, I’d be punished and liable for damage.

      I am not saying she should be crucified and sued for damages. To me, the media attention is punishment enough as I guess she never wanted this to happen.

    • She was a dick and deserves to be told she was a dick. By about 30km in to today’s stage everyone will have moved on to the next melodrama. Why waste your energy sticking up for her?

      • And why waste energy taking legal action against her? What’s done is done. It’s everyone’s worst nightmare most of all hers.

          • The video will have gone viral, the court verdict surely not? I’d suggest nobody will notice apart from people reading cycling pages in Ouest Franc etc, the kind of people who know what to do by the roadside anyway.

          • Maybe this is an effort to deal with an increased problem of fans behind phones. Granted there are no phones in this, but it’s this ever present situation of fans thinking about social media and not actually spectating. I don’t know if this is true, but there have been complaints about people not enjoying the moment and poking phones in faces and possibly endangering riders.

    • Perhaps worth noting that Juan Antonio Flecha reportedly brought and won a criminal case against the driver of the car that hit him and Hoogerland

      • Strategically unsound move by the granddaughter. If she’s waving a sign and Grama and Grampa that suggests they are race fans. Therefore, deliberately standing in the road in front of the race waving a sign at them is grounds for getting written outta the will, where I come from…

  13. I mentioned this yesterday – MvdP doesn’t have many weaknesses, but positioning in a technical finale definitely seems to be one…his teammate seemed to be trying to move him up with 5km or so to go but he didn’t follow, and so instead he had to make a huge effort on the steep part of the climb to get to the front…then just as he arrives in 3rd wheel, alaphilippe took off for the win!
    I wonder if he’s used to being able to rely on his strength so hasn’t had to worry about perfect positioning, or perhaps he just feels more comfortable a little further back where there’s less tension and fight…

    • It seemed he was forced to take a roundabout the wrong way, but he’s clearly not at his best. You could also theorize that his poor positioning was a gamble, because he felt he did not have enough matches to move up. The moving up on the climb and attacking later on clearly told a different story though.
      Also, most of his team was on the ground in the last crash. They were drilling it next to Quickstep up to that point and things might have looked different if they kept their integrity as a team intact like QS did. QS did a wonderful job though.
      I don’t know about the poor positioning narrative that’s popular in the media these days. He has his poor moments, but so does everybody else. There are examples of him positioning really well and never missing a beat, in big races like Flanders. There are also examples of sheer brilliant moving up moves when he needs to and he really seemed to have a knack for that. Being used to that might be part of the problem: In the biggest race of all that is the Tour, there’s even less room.

      • I noticed he was was wearing two short sleeve jerseys yesterday, even after he’d taken off the long sleeved/arm warmers. Maybe he’s not completely over his virus from Tour de Suisse. Or maybe he just had a special special edition jersey!

  14. By the way, mr. Rng: “opi” / “omi” isn’t used in the Netherlands. Its “opa” / “oma”. It’s ruled out the woman is Dutch.

    • In german it is Opa and Oma. The -i is a diminuitive form, like -chen or -le (although the -le is found mostly in certain areas). Someone called Julia can be called Jul-chen or someone called Kristin can be called Kristin-chen or someone called Robert can be called Robert-le. The -i works in the same way: Michael becomes Mich-i.

      • yes, but in dutch, “opi” and “omi” isn’t used. The diminuitive form would be opatje and omatje, very seldomly used though.

  15. Commentators on the tube/web seem not to have learned the linguistic lesson you’ve offered. It’s “who will win on the mur de Bretagne?” “When will they attack on the mur de Bretagne?” “The mur will decide…” etc.
    Why can’t they take advtange of the golden opportunity to use a rare false-friend-pleonasm? “Will Alaphilippe win on the mur-de-Mûr-de-Bretagne?

  16. After Stage 1

    Total points
    10   Deceuninck–Quick-Step
    6   Team BikeExchange
    4   Team Jumbo–Visma
    3  Team Bahrain Victorious
    2   Bora–Hansgrohe
    1  UAE Team Emirates

    Over the last or so I’ve come to the belief that the Team competition doesn’t reflect the race. At present it is based on a team’s best 3 riders times for each stage. This leaves much of emphasis on the mountain stages. What I would prefer a points system that treats each stage equally regardless of whether the stage is a time trial, flat, intermediate, mountain or even a team time trial. The reason for this is that cycling is a team sport where the individual gets all the credit. I am thinking of a sprint train or a mountain train have the same effect in working for the teams objective of the day.

    I would love to see a points system based on the F1 during the 1990s. 1st -10pts, 2nd-6pts, 3rd-4pts, 4th-3pts, 5th-2pts & 6th-1pt. Each stage has the same points. It is only the top 6 positions because it puts the emphasis on finishing very well rather than just being consistent. Plus it follows the bonus seconds for the first 3 in each stage. I will try to update the list each day to show how it could work.

  17. Have to say, Ineos wasn’t making sense today. Were they hoping their train can neutralise attacks on today’s short but sharp finish? It makes sense to lead onto it, but keep plowing away rather than conserve to protect their leader is crazy. Only explanation is that they were trying to launch Carapaz.

    Ironically, by Thomas losing time, now there’s less point for Carapaz to help him. Maybe management is subtly show Thomas the door?

    • This probably says more about Bernal’s continued recuperation. Had he been fully fit, I suspect he would have been #1 rider for the tour leaving Thomas to lead either a giro or Vuelta challenge.

      I also think he’ll be retained by ineos for his super domestique status: would’ve thought he commands a lower salary than Froome who is a very expensive bottle carrier for any team.

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