Tour de France Stage 2 Preview

The Basque weekend continues, another scenic stage with plenty of climbing and a city finish.

Lasterketa bikiak: the early move never got more than 90 seconds’ lead and even if the likes of Jonas Gregaard and Pascal Eenkhoorn were sprinting for the mountains points like a rainbow jersey was at stake they couldn’t score enough points to lead the mountains competition but at least they gave the expectant crowds plenty to cheer, a sea of orange and ikurrina flags under the grey skies.

The polka dots went to Neilson Powless who was first to the top of the only second-category climb of the day, max points after UAE’s Mikkel Bjerg had done a giant turn on the climb. However this climb of the Vivero was to prove more remarkable on the descent because Enric Mas and Richard Carapaz crashed, the former DNF and the latter’s a DNS today.

The climb of Pike Bidea proved decisive for the stage. UAE kept up their work, this time Felix Großschartnerpulled so hard he briefly opened up a gap. Total’s Mathieu Burgaudeau made a small cameo on the front but then the big names came past with Tadej Pogačar, Jonas Vingegaard… and Victor Lafay, a surprise but not the first time he’s hanging out with these two in the pointy end of a race.

Two moments of body language. Pogačar wanted to press on but Vingegaard was shaking his head, he’d later explain he wanted to slow things so his colleague Wout van Aert could get across. While some hesitated, over the false flat Adam Yates and Simon Yates got away, this time Pogačar giving Adam an approving nod to get away. Yes they’re twins but the move was more than a fraternal gesture, it made perfect sense: Adam as a second card for UAE to play if Vingegaard was marking Pogačar; Simon as an attacker profiting from the marking. As brothers they were hardly going to hesitate once they’d got a gap.

In the uphill finish Adam just rode away from his cramping brother, opening up a small gap to take the stage, yellow jersey. Pogačar led 11 riders in at 12 seconds, a bigger group followed at 33 seconds. UAE seemed to have the most aggressive plan and got the rewards for it but Adam Yates’s yellow jersey won’t be a priority.

The Route: 208.9km and the longest stage of this year’s Tour and for the trivia the shortest ever longest stage. There’s 3,000m of vertical gain, less than yesterday and spread over a longer course so today’s course won’t see so many in trouble too early. Note the flat run across to the intermediate sprint at 40km, the sprinters and their teams might not want to let a move clear until after. It’s across the Basque country, maybe no landmarks – the course doesn’t visit Eibar, the town that’s arguably the heart of Basque cycling – but there’s Arrasate/Mondragón, home of Orbea bikes.


It’s up to Irun on the border with France and then turning back to Hondarriba where it’s from sea level to tackle the Jaizkibel climb, the western-most Pyrenean climb and a familiar mountain from the Clasica San Sebastian but tackled in the opposite direction today. Listed as 8km at 5%, that sounds almost like a big ring kind of climb but it’s better to break it down into three sections: first a gentler section of 3.5km where the slope reaches a max of 6% but is more gentle, second, a brief descent for a kilometre, finally 4.5km at 7-9% and so a much more selective ascent but all on a wide road and there’s the small 8-5-3 seconds time bonus at the top. Once over the top there’s a descent into San Sebastian.

The Finish: a small climb through the town, all on a big wide boulevard to 2.5km to go and it’s more than a bump in the road, it’s a kilometre at 4% and reaches 6% at one point. Then a drop down to the coast and under the flamme rouge and then a left turn on to the sea front.

The Contenders: another hilly stage, another decisive final climb. One difference today is that two thirds of the field are over five minutes down and almost half are 11 minutes behind, this means plenty have space to go up the road already. The other is that the Jaizkibel is a long climb compared to yesterday’s Pike Bidea, we’re unlikely to see Alpecin-Deceuninck pulling on the front of the peloton today like they did yesterday. Tomorrow’s stage is still Basque but this is already the last chance for Basque riders to get a home win so expect some more local action in the early breakaway after the likes of Omar Fraile (Ineos), Ion Izagirre (Cofidis) and others had a day to forget yesterday, ditto Movistar as a whole.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE) is the safe pick, strong in the finish yesterday and able to clean up in the sprint from a reduced group today. If he’s around for the finish then it just means others who can be quick like David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Pello Bilbao (Bahrain) or Tom Pidcock (Ineos) will find it so hard to win, especially as the Slovenian can count on team support.

Simon Yates (Jayco-Al Ula) was close yesterday, why not again today? This way UAE can unload the jersey but easier said than done getting him away but without gifting him lots of time.

It’s a touch harder to see Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) making the finish today given the final climb today is longer but if he can reach San Sebastian with the leaders he’ll be near-impossible to beat, he’s still a safe pick. With the opening stage done some of the tension has gone out of the race so he could be there, maybe Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) too but harder to see. Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quickstep) was out of the picture yesterday and his coach and cousin Franck is already talking about the Massif central.

Tadej Pogačar, Wout van Aert
Pidcock, Gaudu, MvdP, Cort, Van Gils, Aranburu

Weather: drying out, sunnier and 23°C with only a light 5-10km/h sea breeze from the north.

TV: KMO is at 12.25pm and the finish is forecast for 5.20pm CEST. Tune in early to see if there’s a battle to get in the breakaway, and be sure to catch the approach to the Jaizkibel and the finish.

51 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 2 Preview”

  1. The Yates family did well! Big break after the sprints point then what does UAE do? Give up the jersey or Pogacar gets itchy legs and goes for a win and some more bonus seconds? 2 sprint stages coming up, so Yates and Pogacar will be in for some post-race podium/PR time if they keep the jerseys.

    • Pogačar has lead the white jersey classification for the entirety of the previous two tours. I’m sure he’s used to the post-race podium/PR time by now.

    • For what I remember, it starts with a kind of false flat with fast curves, then the end is steeper and more technical: hairpins, within a wood.

    • It’s quite quick but down a regular road, wide. There are bends lower down as Irungo txuletak says but the trouble will be staying away after, to keep a 15 second gap in the flat streets.

  2. I’m often bemused by the reports of cramping. With all the magic potions endorsed by teams these daze and team helpers seemingly around every curve with fresh bottles and the DS constantly going on about eating and drinking via the earpiece I’d think this would be a thing-of-the-past?

    • Same reaction as you. In a long monument or after a hard day in a break, I would still understand riders are cooked, forget to drink,… but here we are in the 1st stage of a GT, which was essentially run in bunch, with high pace for sure, but still, for this level riders…

    • I think however that we don’t fully understand scientifically what causes cramping, as it’s multi-factorial with hydration, intensity, etc all playing a role. If it was just a nutrition issue, it would be less heard of.

      • Dylan Johnson has crawled through the papers. Whilst it’s not entirely unrelated hydration and electrolytes, they certainly play far less a part in cramping than previously thought. If anything it’s less relevant than general fitness.

        Apparently cramping is just your body’s protective mechanism when it felt it is over exertion. Apparently give your tongue some extreme taste (pickled juice or hot sauce) would significantly reduce cramping – when this happens, your body has more pressing matters to worry about (potential poison?) than preventing over exertion.

    • There’s still a lot we don’t understand about muscles, from growth/synthesis and wastage, to cramp. It’s hard to cramp in the first place, let alone see what’s happening inside the muscle when it occurs. It’s not always down to dehydration either, can be effort etc.

    • To be fair, we still don’t fully understand all the causes of cramping. Many can be eased or cured by salt/electrolyte intake, but that is not always the case. Simon also seemed to be doing more work than Adam, so simple fatigue might be the real reason, and cramp is a nicer thing to admit to the press than simple exhaustion?

      • My thoughts exactly. I expect the calculation went something like “I have the Vuelta jersey etc. and Adam has none, oh I guess I had better make these easy otherwise the family BBQs are going to be awkward”

      • That was my suspicion too, but if that was the plan, then Simon was foolish to lose time too (to both his brother and the chasing bunch) instead of just sitting on Adam’s wheel.

        • Yates has had the Yellow jersey before though in 2020, for 4 stages – he actually was talking about that in the pre-race interview. AFAIK, Simon is the one without the yellow jersey.

          When I was watching it, I was thinking that – if there was a pact – it’d be for Adam to let Simon taste the yellow.

    • But the drink-mix marketers spend fortunes on advertising to create the illusion it’s all been sorted-out and if you drink their brand (and only their brand of course!) you won’t have cramps/dehydration/etc. Meanwhile, post race (and not only there) TV shots show racers guzzling cans of Coca-Cola, Fanta or for Pogacar, a green bottle of Sanpellegrino…do they pay him to drink/endorse that?
      I wonder about the newly branded LIDL-Trek team? Since LIDL has knock-off or store brands of pretty much everything, are their coolers now stocked with “Freeway” branded products? We saw the team they formerly backed
      shopping there once but failed to notice much of what they were actually buying. I should have looked more closely at their shopping cart!

      • I have studied the scientific literatureaa few years ago to find out what is known about cramp and how to prevent it. From what I could find, there’s a lot of anecdotes and inconclusive studies and nothing really clear.
        Advertising is just that.

        • “From what I could find, there’s a lot of anecdotes and inconclusive studies and nothing really clear.
          Advertising is just that.”
          And this could be said about a lot more things than just cramping!
          The only times I’ve suffered from this have been pretty much tied directly to not consuming enough liquids. Legs often cramp-up in bed if I fail to drink some sort of “iso-swill”. I hate the mess the stuff makes in bike bottles so I’ll mix it up and guzzle it down post-ride..contrary to the maker’s instructions.

    • The research shows cramping is almost all the time not due to nutrition. It’s much, much more likely due to neuromuscular fatigue

  3. So happy for Adam Yates. Why do I care so much? I have no idea. Simon Y is a wily dude and I just don’t believe the cramp story. If you had 10 GT stages and your twin had 0, wouldn’t you let your twin win?? Chapeau to both of them for serious racecraft and guys.

    • If S Yates gave up a victory chance for his brother – and I think he probably did, how do Jayco feel about losing a possible victory which would have made their Tour?

      I had a mental long list of possible top ten GC riders and, even excluding the unlucky Carapaz and Mas, am surprised to see so many losing all chance on the first stage: Uran, Barguil, Powless, Martinez, Chavez…, or was it deliberate in some cases to create breakaway opportunities?

      • Not sure it was deliberate, especially for Martinez who only a few weeks’ ago was supposed to be Ineos’s GC contender. Although Barguil is up for a stage win, easier said than done, but we’ll see if he’s trying to get in the breakaway today, Arkéa-Samsic had a tough time yesterday and are already last among the convoy of team cars because every other team has someone ahead of them on GC, it’s normally a position to try and avoid.

        • Martinez has looked really poor since Algarve, a race he won almost by default. I’ve been surprised to hear of possible long-term, big money contracts being offered.

          • Are the possible big money contracts from Ineos?

            Martinez might come good so I’ll always wait till the 3rd week to properly assess. Ineos are a great team run by brilliant minds so expect them to turn the ship around in the near future.

            But it’s silly and fun to dive in with a day1 hot take so…

            I think Ineos are in a mess right now – I’m happy to be proved wrong but currently I do not see Pidcock as a GC contender nor as a regular Classics winner for me he’s a Kwitaowski-like rider who’s extremely good but lacks the strength in any one discipline to stand out. I’m not exactly sure why Ineos would be betting big on him from what we’ve seen so far. Martinez is a Bernal support rider and even before the accident Bernal looked a step behind the emerging Pog and Rog combo and that was before Vin, so again… Ineos have had multiple years to upgrade while they wait and see on Bernal’s recovery and don’t seem to have. Maybe Carapaz was that stop gap and like all the above is a great rider but very unlikely to compete with Pog, Rog and Vin so was also going to make Ineos second tier team if he were leader. Finally Rodriguez Cano who I’ve been expecting to come through for years and see as a podium contender this year but still current results make him seem like a midTop10 rider not Tour De France winning candidate without crashes/big luck.

            Which for nearly the fourth year running leaves Ineos without a real possible Tour De France winner in their ranks, and to only have one rider in yesterday’s front group made it seem even worse. It’s a pretty bad look for such a huge budget team and is starting to look like bad management. How they missed out on all of – Vin, Pog, Rog, WVA, MVDP, Remco and now Ayuso is remarkable… it really feels like they need to pinch maybe Cian Uijtdebroeks for next season or Jorgenson or Skjelmose… anyone who might be a proper Grand Tour contender to stop the slide unless Rodriguez Cano surprises this year.

          • @Dave, being charitable, you could look at it as they brought riders in with potential to be GT contenders but they have fallen short and one who actually succeeded (& looked good for a 2nd Giro maglia rosa in May) – Tao GH – is reported to be leaving. Rodriguez offers some hope at least.

          • I think there is something really wrong at Ineos. So many riders with potential not performing. I think other teams agree, chasing riders like Tulett and Martinez who are not operating to their potential.

  4. I really enjoyed the finalé to Stage 1 – the two big GC contenders out front then I nearly had a Britgasm when the Yates boys went away – definitely got me pushing a bit harder on the turbo trainer 😉

    A nice win for A Yates after the debacle of the air bridge in 2016 and decking it on the descent in 2018.

    I don’t have a moral judgement for whether his brother gifted him the stage – but – as Adam Yates went past on the last corner, Simon had a look back to see if the chase was close and I could swear I lip read him say “it’s yours”. Personally, I find the brotherly love touching.

  5. This looks to be a Vingegaard vs Pogacar show. UAE seems to have a stronger team this around. Who is coming third? Gaudu?

  6. I’m just about done with Alex Hutchinson’s “Endure” right now. Excellent book about the science of endurance sports. Suffice it to say that there is still a lot we don’t understand about hydration, electrolytes, heat, effort, diet, cramping, etc. Highly recommended.

  7. I don’t go for the gifting the win narrative ( pretty insulting to Adam btw). Yates major is a very competitive guy, and his team’s leader. I don’t see him sacrificing a yellow jersey for familial goodwill.

    In my sport ( NH racing) it’s accepted that every so often a not quite top class horse ‘has his day’. Often you can tell in the paddock, they have an extra sheen, extra bounce in the stride, they won’t be beaten ….yesterday was Adam’s ‘day’.

    • I mean yes but… course Pog didn’t chase cause he was being marked, it was a whole load of factors that led to Yates winning and making use of those factors to slip away is part of the luck and skill of Yates winning, there was obviously no gifting.

      At the same time, it’s fair to say if it were a one day race it’s unlikely Pog or Vin would not have been able to follow, they’re clearly the strongest and both Yates would probably agree themselves which is why the confusion but doesn’t take away from a good ride.

      I don’t think either Yates would think it was that rude people making slight thoughtless comments, no big deal.

  8. It’s a three-week race. Stuff happens in early stages that’s quickly forgotten. There’s plenty of time for things to develop from sub-plot to main motif. But wow, Movistar are in a fix and it’s looking a lot less good for EF.

    • That’s why the elated status of TdF in comparison to Giro and even other races is rather unfortunate. It’s just a race – but at the same time for just about any team it’s somehow an equivalent of Champions League final or Olympic Games. And if you lose your plan A in the first stage, it means a relatively common accident will somehow threaten your whole season. EF have other eggs in thrir basket, but Movistar seems every season a more and more hopeless and useless team, unfortunately.

  9. A very enjoyable opening stage and something a bit different. These things are always debatable but Simon (a multiple grand tour stage winner) did appear to do a long, hard turn inside the last kilometer, which fell short of an outright attack, before Adam rode away…

    Bad luck for Movistar and ex Movistar, wishing them a speedy recovery and a tilt at the Vuelta.

    Having watched my fair share of grand tours and The Least Expected Debacle, I mean Day, should we expect Movistar to get at least 2 riders in every potential breakaway stage hereafter and go full tilt for the highly prestigious Team competition…

  10. Good, TP got the time bonus. He wasted a lot of energy at different parts of the stage for no reason. TP needs to let JV and team do the work. Sit back, suck wheels, save energy, or TP is giving the race again to JV.

  11. A quick question for anyone who might know; are there any internet radio stations live broadcasting commentary of the Tour? It can be in English, Spanish, French or Portuguese (maybe even Italian, but I think I’d struggle with that). I’m stuck with the English commentary on GCN (either the British version, which is bad, or the US version, which is excrable). I’d like to be able to listen to some other commentary while watching, if at all possible.

    • On GCN can’t you change the audio settings?

      If not, for radio there are several options in France but they tend to dip in and out. RMC Info probably dedicates most of its airtime in the mid-afternoon to the race. It’s a different way of listening but can work well.

      • For every other race but the tour, GCN has alternate audio tracks in several languages. But not for the tour! I don’t know what the logic is, but it’s kind of a drag, as the the English commentary is so bad it distracts from watching the race. For stage 1 and 2, 1 had the audio muted with just Radio Tour on in the background. I’ll give RMC a listen, thank you for the recommendation!

        • Correction: it’s NBC/Peacock, not GCN (thought the English language commentary on GCN is pretty uniformly bad as well, with the exception of women’s races).

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