In a fantastic pan-flat stage spiced up by crosswinds and driving rain, the quickest rider on the storm was Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) who shot off the wheel of Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step) to claim the stage win and the green jersey. But the storm-master was Fabian Cancellara (Trek), who kept his head amidst the chaos to take the yellow jersey.
Rider of the day
In the aftermath of such a gripping stage only one man can really be eligible for this accolade. All hail the Sacred Haunches™: Fabian Cancellara. He was disappointed after his third place in the opening time trial, fearing his chance to top the overall standings had slipped by.
However, as the predicted splits in the peloton emerged, Cancellara found himself in the front echelon with Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin). All three were within eight seconds of race leader Rohan Dennis (BMC) who had not made the cut. As the front group kept their advantage, the ten, six and four bonus seconds available at finish became vitally important. A top three finish would secure the jersey for one of them if they could beat one of Greipel, Cavendish and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Roaring up towards the finish with the three sprinters in the lead, Fabian came around them head down and driving for the line, just pipping a slowing Cavendish with his bike throw on the line. This is his 29th yellow jersey, and is so well deserved after his crash in March robbed him of a spring classics campaign. As he said himself at the post-race press conference
29 days in yellow mean a lot and 11 years after the first one is special. I was a little boy in Liège in 2004 and I had an amazing day. I’m kind of a veteran now and it’s just as special.
Three things we noticed
1. The gathering storm. You have to say chapeau to the course designers for this stage: pan-flat, but with all the excitement of a mountain-top finish. We all expected the wind to be a major factor today. I wanted a full-blown, rip-roaring, echelon-tastic stage because it provides fantastic, exciting racing – think Tour of Qatar but with sea instead of sand. What perhaps we hadn’t expected was that a storm front would also pass through. This image by Jered Gruber sums it up.
2. Winners and losers. Knowing that crosswinds will occur and being able to cope with them are two very different things. Etixx-Quick Step and Tinkoff-Saxo are brilliant echelon tacticians and they proved it again today, setting up the initial attacks with seeming ease. The stage-defining split came as the peloton left Rotterdam, a small crash on a roundabout, the sudden loss of the wheel in front, and the seconds turned in to minutes. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Chris Froome (Sky) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) made the front group of 25 riders, finishing nearly 1:30 up on the chase group. I wonder how much more that lead could have been extended if BMC has set their riders to work. In contrast, Movistar and Astana missed the split and had a day they will wish to forget. Nibali in particular had a nightmare: at one point he wasted a lot of energy trying to ride solo between the echelons, and then punctured in the final 24km.
3. Peter Sagan is just brilliant. The final frantic run to the finish line is not the best place to get a puncture. It usually means you can kiss goodbye to the front group and any thoughts you may have harboured for a stage win – unless your name happens to be Peter Sagan. With 14km to go, he was all but out of contention, but rode himself back to the group and into second place – impressive. I also loved that he was spotted with his mouth full of Haribo sweets at the end of the stage. It’s good to see him back.
Stage 2 result
1. Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) 3:29:03
2. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) same time
3. Fabian Cancellara (Trek) s/t
4. Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step) s/t
5. Daniel Oss (BMC) s/t
1. Fabian Cancellara (Trek) 3:44:01
2. Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) +0:03
3. Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) +0:06
4. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:33
5. Geraint Thomas (Sky) +0:35
6. Daniel Oss (BMC) +0:42
7. Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step) +0:42
8. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) +0:44
9. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) +0.:8
10. Chris Froome (Sky) same time
Points leader: Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal).
King of the Mountains leader: None.
Best young rider: Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin).
Team classification: BMC.
Link: Official race website
Featured Image: Race website © ASO