Stage 2: Bastia to Ajaccio, 156km
Jan Bakelants bagged his first professional victory in his rookie Tour after making the decisive six-man break which formed with less than 7km remaining. After riding away solo, he clung on by his fingernails to take the stage and the maillot jaune by a single second.
Lars Boom (Belkin) was once again was in the early break along with David Veilleux (Europcar), Blel Kadri (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Ruben Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi). But the peloton was in no mood to allow them too much leeway. Kadri went it alone until he was joined and overhauled on the Col de Vizzavona by Pierre Rolland (Europcar), with race leader Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) one of many already consigned to the gruppetto.
Rolland’s aggression aroused Sky who, assisted by BMC, set a ferocious pace on the descent. With everyone back in the bunch and 45km remaining, Cannondale took control to set up Peter Sagan. On the approach to the final climb, the Cote du Salario – short at 1km but steep at an average 8.9% – a number of teams jostled for position, encouraging a flurry of attacks including one from Chris Froome (Sky).
These moves were swiftly snuffed out, prompting birthday boy Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) to initiate the final attack, which included Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Leopard). They built a small advantage always looked insufficient until, with less than 2km to the finish, Bakelants soloed away and managed to resist the thundering peloton to finish just ahead of Sagan and OPQS’ Michal Kwiatkowski.
VeloVoices rider of the day
Belgian Jan Bakelants was doubtful for his team’s Tour squad after recent knee problems. A professional since 2009, he enjoyed plenty of victories as an amateur and came close in recent weeks with a third place overall in the Tour of Luxembourg and third in his national championships. The 27-year-old was understandably delighted that his first professional win was in the Tour de France as he recounted his emotions in the closing moments:
Maybe it will be the first and the last time in my career, but today I wear it [the yellow jersey]. I told myself, “Come on, hold this. It’s going to be the nicest day of your life!” It is so incredible for me to take this jersey and to give something back to the team after all the misery that I’ve had this year. When I crossed the finish line I was overwhelmed with joy.
Opinion & analysis
Someone hadn’t read the script. Informed opinion had Mark Cavendish pencilled in for yesterday and Peter Sagan today. But that’s the beauty of cycling, there’s no such thing as a dead cert. With everyone awarded the same time after yesterday’s chaotic finish, everyone was vying for the yellow jersey. Realistically, today’s parcours blunted the ambitions of the race leader and other sprinters, but not all. Whoever won the stage would win the right to be cloaked in yellow for potentially two whole days. Let’s not forget that wearing the leader’s jersey in the Tour de France can cement careers and double salaries – much was at stake on today’s stage.
Apart from Bakelants‘ audacious victory, there were two other noteworthy moves today. Pierre Rolland‘s pursuit of the King of the Mountains jersey was a highly unusual move this early in the Tour for the team leader of Europcar but given his fallibility in time-trialling perhaps he feels this is his best chance of standing on the podium. Rolland’s attack prompted Chris Froome to launch an equally surprising counter-attack. Was he just testing his legs, those of the opposition or was it in honour of the birthday of fiancée Michelle? In any event, he was hotly pursued by Cadel Evans (BMC) and that was the end of that. No doubt those nursing injuries from yesterday were glad to finish unscathed.
Oh, finally, a word from the wise. If you’re thinking of visiting the Tour, please leave your dog at home!
Stage 2 result
1. Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Leopard) 3:43:11
2. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) +0:01
3. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) same time
4. Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida) s/t
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) s/t
1. Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Leopard) 8:40:03
2. David Millar (Garmin-Sharp) +0:01
3. Julien Simon (Sojasun) same time
4. Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) s/t
6. Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t
7. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t
8. Sergey Lagutin (Vacansoleil-DCM) s/t
9. Christophe Riblon (Ag2r La Mondiale) s/t
10. Cadel Evans (BMC) s/t
Green jersey: Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano).
Polka dot jersey: Pierre Rolland (Europcar).
White jersey: Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
Team classification: RadioShack-Leopard.
Link: Official website