We’re not too mellow after missing out on yellow
No glory for the team but at least I avoided the first day’s big crash
Jan Bakelants of Belgium crosses the finish line ahead of the sprinting pack to win the second stage of the Tour de France over 156 kilometres which started in Bastia and finished in Ajaccio, Corsica. Photograph: Laurent Rebours/AP
Two stages down, nineteen to go. While there’s still a very long way to go in this year’s Tour de France, I already notice a difference compared to when I rode my first Tour last year. Firstly, I am a lot more relaxed, probably because I know what to expect. I am also a lot less intimidated by the race than I was twelve months ago.
I also feel good about things because I believe the course suits me a lot more than last year. That too contributes to being relaxed.
Then there’s confidence. I’ve had a very good spring with victories in the Volta a Catalunya and Liège-Bastogne-Liège and because of that, I know I am capable of getting results in the race.
It also earns you a lot more respect in the peloton. I think people will let me sit at the front a lot easier now. They know who I am, they know what I have done and they know I am not going to let the wheel go, to let gaps open. I’ve seen the benefits of that already in this year’s race, in terms of how other riders are behaving towards me.
Stage one, Saturday:
Porto Veccho to Bastia
As far as the opening stage went, it was mostly a case of staying out of trouble. The breakaway went early and we just cruised along, content to let it gain time and believing that the sprinters’ teams would bring it back later on. We took it as a very relaxed day until the end.
Things got a little more tricky later on. There was a really narrow section with 25 kilometres to go. We worked as a team to stay in a good position and we ended up in the front, which helped to stay out of trouble.
There was a crash with about 12 kilometres to go which involved my team-mate Ryder Hesjedal. I didn’t know about that one as it was quite far behind me. Then with about eight or nine kilometres to go, we came out onto a big, wide road.
I was still at the front and I slowly drifted backwards, without thinking – I don’t know why that was, but it seemed to pay off because I avoided the much bigger crash that suddenly happened, the one that took down guys like Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan, and which delayed others like Mark Cavendish.
I saw it in front of me. I had both wheels locked up completely. I was skidding, skidding, skidding, and managed to stop just in time, without hitting the guys in front of me. It ended up that I had been in the perfect position.
Further ahead, there was chaos at the finish when the Orica GreenEdge bus got jammed under the finishing gantry. The bus had arrived late and was told to drive on through rather than take the diversion, but they had already lowered the banners over the road and it got jammed.