Eighty years ago, the reigning pro-cyclist world champion Éloi Meulenberg won in the city of La Roche-sur-Yon, and on Sunday, it happened again with current world champion Peter Sagan taking the Stage 2 win in the same city. (Yesssssss!!)
The final kilometers of stage 2 provided the chaos needed to throw off Quick-Step’s formidable sprint team as a crash at the sharp right turn with 2 km to go caught up their team leader (and stage 1 winner) Fernando Gaviria and a bevy of other riders, including sprinter Michael Matthews.
Sagan’s trademark patience and power along with strong help from his Bora-Hansgrohe teammates paid off for him. Sagan will start Stage 3 in the yellow jersey, and he also takes the lead in the green jersey (points) competition.
Meanwhile, earlier crashes occurring during the last 35 kilometers of stage 2 caused delay and disappointment for other riders:
Luis Leon Sanchez, the Spanish rider for team Astana, went down hard at a round-a-bout leaving him pretty ripped up and bloody and unable to continue the race. He’s a strong time-trialist so his team is going to sorely miss him in the Stage 3 team time trial on Tuesday.
Adam Yates, Mitchelton-Scott team leader, got disrupted yesterday by a crash that split the peloton, and today he went down himself. While he didn’t appear too physically affected, 2 setbacks in a row like that have to be a mental hit, one I hope he can overcome because he should be exciting to watch in the mountain stages.
Silvan Dillier, a main man for AG2R team leader Roman Bardet, went down hard as well. After limping for a bit and looking like he would be another to abandon the day’s stage, he got back on his bike to continue. We’ll have to see how he’s affected in the coming days.
The only Ethiopian rider in the Tour, Tsgabu Grmay from the Trek-Segafredo team, did not start Stage 2 due to severe stomach pain.
All of these misfortunes plus the American Lawson Craddock still riding injured, while not uncommon to the first week of the Tour, do make me question the wisdom of race organizers reducing team sizes this year from 9 to 8 riders. I believe at least part of their strategy is to reduce the size of the peloton for safety reasons and that could be a good idea. But, man, when riders start going down or getting sick (and they always do), it sure makes things tight. When you have a sprinter to lead-out or a general classification (GC) contender to support through the mountain stages, or a team trial (Hello, stage 3!), you need as many of your strongest riders as possible to go the distance.
Returning to the brighter side of things, French rider Sylvain Chavanel of the Direct Energie team, riding in his 18th TdF at 39 years of age, rode solo for over 100 miles in a one-man-breakaway and was aptly awarded the most combative (or aggressive) rider jersey. That’s a long haul and a lot of work alone, and he made the French proud today,
And finally, here’s how the general classification (GC) contenders I am watching are looking at the end of Stage 2. Keep in mind, there is so much Tour left and anything can happen, so mostly this is interesting to note to watch for who can recover time and when. We will see some significant changes after the team time trial.
- Alejandro Valverde, Mikel Landa, Romain Bardet, Rigoberto Uran, Rafal Majka, Tom Doumalin, and Jakob Fuglsang are all down 0:16.
- Ritchie Porte, Chris Froome, and Adam Yates are 1:07 back.
- Nairo Quintana is 1:31 behind after that flat tire and (in my unabashed opinion) team abandonment yesterday.
P.S. We love you.*
Or, in this case, P.S. Oleg Tinkoff loves you.
This P.S. comes from stage 2 of the 2016 Tour De France, which was the last Tour Sagan raced for Oleg’s team Tinkoff. Oleg Tinkoff is passionate about cycling and passionate about business, and he drove Peter hard. The owner and rider’s relationship was even questioned during Peter’s tenure with the team because of Tinkoff’s expectations and harsh comments that made news. They worked it out, though, which I credit to Sagan’s genuineness and his ability to stay humble, cool and confident, what I call “the Zen of Peter”. That makes watching Oleg celebrate Peter’s victory here oh so sweet! HERE it is.
I’m pretty sure he says, “F- them! F- them all!” (which is why I love Oleg so much too!)
* P.S. We love you. is the i.heart.july continuing tribute to the spirit of Peter Sagan.