Jan Bakelants wins Tour’s second stage
Belgian takes yellow jersey from German Marcel Kittel
Radioshack-Leopard team rider Jan Bakelants of Belgium sprints to win the 156km second stage of the centenary Tour de France from Bastia to Ajaccio, on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. Photograph: Eric Gaillard/Reuters
Jan Bakelants won the demanding second stage of the Tour de France to take the yellow jersey from Marcel Kittel.
Bakelants crossed the line with a one-second advantage over a sizeable group led by Peter Sagan and Michal Kwiatkowski, which included veteran British rider David Millar. After yesterday’s slightly farcical finish, when a huge crash took out half of the pelaton, the stage was happily incident free despite a bunched group racing the last 60K, mostly downhill, hard.
Chris Froome, the Tour favourite, successfully navigated Corsica’s narrow roads and mountainous climbs to finish just behind the main group, along with Irish challengers, Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Nicholas Roche (Team Saxo-Tinkoff).
This challenging second stage of the Tour had seen plenty of excitement in the mountains earlier in the afternoon, but then came to life for a second time when the riders approached the final categorised climb of the day, a short but steep ramp 12 kilometres from the finish.
Former Team Sky man Jan Flecha attacked, quickly joined by Europcar’s Cyril Gautier. But Team Sky had been setting the pace at the front of the peloton for most of the stage and Froome accelerated away to set off after Gautier.
The attack lasted only three kilometres before Froome allowed the peloton to catch him, but Gautier’s proved to be the third doomed attack of the day from a French Europcar rider.
It was another Frenchman, birthday boy Sylvain Chavanel who led six riders out on one final attack, briefly enjoying the lead before handing over responsibility.
There was further drama four kilometres from the end when a small dog ran into the road, almost colliding with the breakaway and then standing in front of the approaching peloton before leaping out of the way in the nick of time.
Five of the six escapees were reeled in, but Bakelants kicked again with two kilometres to go and clung on for a victory which puts him in yellow thanks to Kittel crossing the line in the grupetto more than 17 minutes back, with the stragglers also including Cavendish and his team-mate Tony Martin - a surprise starter today after he suffered a catalogue of nasty injuries in yesterday’s dramatic crash.
Cavendish had, like Kittel, fallen back on the approach to the category two Col de Vizzanova, adding to a frustrating start for the Manxman after his dreams of wearing yellow were ended amid yesterday’s chaos in Bastia.