Stage two and a rare opportunity for the sprinters. Quickest of the bunch in a frantic, crash-disrupted finale was Gianni Meersman, who once launched from his Etixx-Quick Step train never looked like being caught. Bora Argon’s Michael Schwarzmann just edged out Magnus Cort (Orica-BikeExchange) for second. Michal Kwiatkowski held his nerve at the sharp end to take fourth place and ensured the red jersey stayed with Sky.
Rider of the race
When a rider’s day ends on the podium, it would be a tough VeloVoice not to award them this coveted prize. The peloton were content to take it easy for most of the day. But with sprint stages as rare as hen’s teeth it was nervous bunch that sped through the tricky last kilometres – which of course included a nasty little uncategorised climb for that extra tension. As the pace quickened and chaos erupted all around, Quickstepper super duo Zdenek Stybar and Yves Lampaert did not bat an eyelid or give ground. Gianni had the perfect wheel and finished with a perfect ending – his first Grand Tour win, the points jersey and his first win anywhere since March 2015. We’ve said it before, the Etixx GT teams KNOW how to put together a great win, and take absolute joy in the whole process. We love them.
Post race Gianni dedicated his win to his wife and family, and also added that he had a funny feeling this morning that the day would go well. We might have to rename him #MysticMeersman at this rate.
Oh what might have been
The excitement was palpable in the Danish quarters of VeloVoices Towers as the race neared it’s conclusion. At only six seconds behind race leader and finish to suit his skill set, it was entirely possible for lone Dane Magnus Cort to snatch the leaders jersey (can you imagine the scenes? Fainting couch and all the trimmings). Held up by a crash in the last kilometres, he came roaring back. Surfing wheels, looking for the gaps and blasting through them. Collective breaths were held. With bonus seconds available on the line a second place would see him in red. In the end he took a fine third place by the slimmest of margins -but oh, what might have been.
1 Gianni Meersman (Etixx-Quick Step) 4:16:39
2 Michael Schwarzmann (Bora-Argon 18) (same time)
3 Magnus Cort (Orica-BikeExchange) s/t
4 Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) s/t
5 Jonas Van Genechten (IAM) s/t
1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) 4:47:16
2 Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) same time
3 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) s/t
4 Chris Froome (Sky) s/t
5 Salvatore Puccio (Sky) s/t
Points leader: Gianni Meersman (Etixx-Quick Step)
King of the Mountains leader: Laurent Pichon (FDJ)
Combined classification leader: not awarded
Team classification leader:
For full stage review: Cycling News
Header image: Michal Kwiatkowski in red. Image from race website © Unipublic