Tour de France 2017 : Stage 2 – Kittel throws down the sprinting gauntlet

Stage 2 of the 2017 Tour de France was a long 203km stage from Dusseldorf to Liege and, just like yesterday, had weather like a Belgian classic. The rain-drenched peloton let a four-man break go away almost immediately, let them ride for intermediate sprint and KOM points, had a massive crash 30km from the finish that slowed the chase, and then recovered to catch the remnants just under the flamme rouge. The scrappy-do sprint had the fast men all over the wheels, but it was Marcel Kittel who got clear and blasted the field with his 10th Tour de France stage win. Geraint Thomas stayed safe and in yellow.

Riders of the Race

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Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac) and Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Gobert) took off out of the peloton, along with Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) and Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo-Oscaro), from Kilometre 0. Phinney made his polka-dot intentions known with his sprint to collect the first point of the KOM competition in this year’s Tour on the first climb early in the race but to collect the other and the polka-dot jersey, he needed to stay out in front for nearly the entire stage. So he did.

The break’s day was fairly uneventful, until the second and final climb of the day at 22km to go, when Phinney had to sprint hard to fend off Pichon for the other point on offer and clinch a day in the dots. Once he crested, he decided to plow his own furrow, joined later on the descent by Offredo, and they worked together with every pedal stroke in a bid to stay clear of the charging peloton. The sprint teams looked to be in disarray although Lotto-Soudal finally went to the front in the last 5km to hammer it and the two riders were scooped up, heartbreakingly, under the flamme rouge.

We all know what a difficult road it was for Taylor Phinney to come back to the pro peloton, but what many people might not know is that Yoann Offredo had his own journey back from violent injury. Just after this year’s Flanders/Roubaix week, where Offredo finished 14th in both, he was the subject of an unprovoked attack while out training by a man wielding a baseball bat and a box cutter. He suffered a fractured nose, a cut rib, and bruises, not to mention the shock of the attack. That he was able to recover physically – and most importantly mentally – to put in such a great performance today in the biggest race in the world is something to be celebrated.

If you don’t understand French, here is a bit of what Yoann had to say about the day:

Even with the bad conditions, people came out and watch. I wondered what I was doing at the front but I did it for the spectators. Maybe there was a chance to win with a rouleur like Taylor Phinney. It wasn’t a publicity breakaway. I can’t win a sprint. I can’t win at a mountain top finish. I do what I can.

This is both riders’ first Tour de France and it is heartening that, after difficult times, they can come back with a fighting spirit and both ride with such fierce joy. After Phinney collected his first polka-dot jersey, Offredo received the prize for most combative rider of the stage. As Phinney said in his interview:

I told him after the stage, we were friends before, but now we’re friends for life, dude!

ArgoSunGod makes it number 10

Quickstep’s Marcel Kittel picked up where his teammate Fernando Gaviria left out in the Giro and took the first bunch sprint of the Tour. While the wind-up into the finish was scrappy and chaotic, Kittel kept his cool and hit the afterburners to take an emotional win and the green jersey. Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) were second and third respectively. Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) was fourth.

There was only one abandonment today and that was Orica-Scott’s Luke Durbridge, due to an ankle injury sustained in yesterday’s stage.


Top 5 stage 

1 Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) 04:37:06

2 Arnaud Demare (FDJ) same time

3 Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) s/t

4 Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) s/t

5 Dylan Groenewegen (Lotto NL-Jumbo) s/t

Top 5 GC 

1 Geraint Thomas (Sky) 04:53:10

2 Stefan Küng (BMC) +0:05

3 Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) +0:06

4 Vasili Kiryienka (Sky) +07

5 Matteo Trentin (QuickStep) +10

All the jerseys

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Leader: Geraint Thomas (Sky)

Points: Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors)

KOM: Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac)

Best Young Rider: Stefan Küng (BMC)

Team Classification: Sky

Most Aggressive Rider: Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert)

For race reviews, go to CyclingNews; official LeTour website is here

Header image: ©GETTY Images Sport / Bryn Lennon

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