Tour de France 2021: Stage 2 – Van der Poel takes yellow ‘pour Poupou’

Stage 2 of Tour de France 2021 was thankfully less chaotic, albeit no less emotional, than the opening stage. After two enormous pile-ups on Stage 1, which regrettably finished four riders’ Tour before it started, there were sore bodies and perhaps nerves aplenty. Julian Alaphilippe started the day in the first maillot jaune of 2021, however the second and final ascent up the Mur-de0Bretagne saw him and other favourites out-Alaphilippe’d by maverick Mathieu van der Poel. A poignant point to the sky on the finish line and a moving post-race interview saw MvdP dedicating his first Tour stage win and his first ever yellow jersey to his late grandfather and Tour legend, Raymond Poulidor.

Pour Poupou

Mathieu van der Poel, the grandson of Raymond Poulidor (1964 La Vuelta champion and eight time podium finisher at Le Tour), took to the start line in Brest to take on a grand tour for the first time in his career. A talented rider who already has multiple titles to his name in cyclo-cross and mountain biking disciplines, has been taking road cycling by storm since 2019, having already won an edition of Amstel Gold; Tour of Flanders and this year’s Strade Bianche. One day races certainly seem to be his specialty, however what remained to be seen was how this translated to stage racing and, in particular, the biggest three-week stage race in the world.

His Alpecin-Fenix team unveiled a special jersey for this year’s team presentation, in tribute of Poulidor who passed away in 2019. MvdP was taking to the start line for the first time some 45 years after his grandfather’s debut. Although the jerseys were supposed to be only for the presentation ceremony, the UCI did perhaps the only popular thing it will do this year and gave the team special permission to wear the jerseys for Stage 1. 

A Mur Masterclass

Following the chaos of stage 1, the peloton allowed a breakaway of six riders to gain four minutes on the bunch while taking a more sedate approach to the day’s racing. The race didn’t really light up until about 15km to go when there was a questionable yet not uncharacteristic attack by van der Poel, who was so bitterly disappointed not to have taken the first maillot jaune on stage 1.

Surely this was too far out to hold off a chasing pack of GC men and stage favourite puncheurs!?! Oh, how we wondered! But the Dutchman, who had won a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this season having attacked solo from 50km out, was playing a smarter game than it first appeared to anyone (including his rivals).

Taking an 8sec bonus by being the first to crest the Mur de Bretagne, he was on level GC timing with Alaphilippe, and was swiftly brought back into the chasing peloton. Had Van der Poel played his one big card already? Or did he let the peloton take him back? Because when has he ever conformed to the unwritten rules of road cycling? 

The peloton swooped back to ascend the Mur just one last time, however this time, van der Poel waited until 850m to detonate his stage-winning watt bomb. Doing exactly what Alaphilippe did the day before, he distanced everyone and he just kept riding. With those sneaky bonus seconds and his time gap to Alaphilippe, his dream came true and he took his first maillot jaune (but surely not his last) in one of the most memorable stage wins and post-stage interviews ever. With a point to the sky, Poupou, this is for you.

‘Sorry, Alaphilippe, but it was for us today.’

The rainbow jersey stays in the closet for the moment, however, as Alaphilippe ended the day in the green jersey.

The GC battle is already starting to shape into Rog vs Pog

And the INEOS Grenadiers leader trifecta+ conundrum has almost been resolved with Geraint Thomas losing 23 seconds to the stage winner. Could be up to Richard Carapaz now … 

An Auspicious Intermediate Sprint

While we patiently await the first battle royale for the sprinters (which is Stage 3!), there was a promising fight for the day’s intermediate sprint, and potentially the beginnings of a green jersey competition. Lotto’s Caleb Ewan and Deceuninck’s Mark Cavendish went head-to-head for the first time at this year’s race, with the Australian coming out on top… just. Hopefully this has whetted Cav’s appetite for the main meal in tomorrow’s sprint stage. 

The Schelling & Perez Show

Bora’s Ide Schelling, wearing this year’s first polka dot jersey, and Anthony Perez (Cofidis) went toe-to-toe in a race for King of the Mountain points while in the breakaway. Both grimacing while painfully sprinting up a punchy climb, desperate for the one point available – we love to see it!

Unfortunately for the duo, van der Poel’s later antics meant he ended the day in the dots as well as in yellow! Thanks for the show though, boys.

The last word

Stage results

1 Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 4:18:30

2 Tadej Pogacar (Team UAE Emirates) +0:06

3 Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) same time

4 Wilco Kelderman (Bora-hansgrohe) same time

5 Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) +0:08

GC top 10 

1  Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 8:57.25

2 Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) +0:08

3 Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) +0:13

4 Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) +0:14

5 Wilco Kelderman (Bora-hansgrohe) +0:24

6 Jack Haig (Team Bahrain-Victorious) +0:26

7 Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) same time

8 Sergio Higuita (EF Education-Nippo) same time

9 Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) same time

10 David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) same time

All the Jerseys

Leaders jersey : Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix)

Points jersey : Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep)

KOM jersey : Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix)

Best young rider jersey : Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates)

Most combative stage prize : Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo)

For full stage review, go to cyclingnews

Official Tour de France website is here

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