Vincenzo Nibali pulled off a surprise attack to win his first Tour stage and take over the yellow jersey. A difficult parcours taking in some wonderfully named Yorkshire hills – Côte de Blubberhouses, anyone? – prompted the top GC contenders into some brilliant racing over the final kilometres.
Over the côtes and away to Jenkin Road
With a route that was either up hill or down dale for the whole 201km, it was no surprise that a nervous peloton let a break of seven riders go away right at the start of proceedings. It was good to see three wild-card teams represented with David de la Cruz (NetApp-Endura), Armindo Fonseca (Bretagne-Seche), and Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis), who rode himself into the polka dot jersey by the end of the day.
With the break caught, the real attacks started on the cat 2 Côte de Holme Moss. Tom-Jelte Slagter and his team captain Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) really put the pressure on, and riders were dropped until only a select 20-30 were left.
The pace over the next three climbs was kept high and any attack was quickly neutralised, including a promising enterprise by the French duo Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale). All thoughts were on positioning for the final climb of the day.
With 5km to go the lead group hit the much talked about Cote de Jenkin Road, and, wow, did it live up to its reputation. Mur du Hur steep in places, it tempted attacks by Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Chris Froome (Sky). It truly was a wonderful sight to see the top riders mano a mano on a little street in Sheffield.
The descent from the summit to the finish line was no less exciting as attack after attack went. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) was still with the group and descended like a demon but was well marked. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) put in attack after attack forcing other teams to chase.
Then with 2km to go Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali broke free, Sagan and Richie Porte (Sky) hesitated, and that was enough to see the Italian over the line in first place and on to the podium in yellow.
In his post-race interview he remarked:
The beginning of the season has been a difficult one for me but I’ve trained hard with my teammates for the Tour de France and my confidence is now boosted by the two victories I just got, at the Italian championship and here today.
Looks like he is peaking at just the right time.
Just how spotty would Jens Voigt be?
That was the question I wanted an answer to this morning. Happily Trek did not go for the full, all-over spotted pox ensemble. As befitting a man of a certain age, Jens went for the classic look pairing a simple spotted jersey with pinstriped bib shorts. The polka dot helmet (thankfully not aero) added a playful touch to the accessories.
Chapeau, Jens. M. Rolland and Europcar please take note.
VeloVoices rider of the day
For sheer panache my vote goes to Vincenzo Nibali. In many ways it was a typical victory by The Shark, a surprise attack when no one was expecting it. I was also very impressed with the way the whole Astana team worked together to gain the result.
Stage 2 result
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 5:08:36
2. Greg van Avermaet (BMC) same time
3. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t
4. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) s/t
5. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) s/t
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 9:52:43
2. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) +0:02
3. Greg van Avermaet (BMC) s/t
4. Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t
5. Chris Froome (Sky) s/t
6. Bauke Mollema (Belkin) s/t
7. Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) s/t
8. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) s/t
9. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) s/t
10. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) s/t
Points leader: Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
King of the Mountains leader: Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis).
Best young rider: Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
Team classification: Sky.