Nicolas Roche sitting pretty as Alaphilippe regains yellow jersey
Tour de France: Dan Martin and Sam Bennett finish Stage 2 with much time in arrears
Dan Martin of Ireland, Tiesj Benoot of Belgium and Stefan Kung of Switzerland during Stage 2 of the Tour de France on Sunday. Photograph: Tim de Waele/Getty Images
Nicolas Roche comfortably enjoyed the most satisfying Stage 2 of the Irish riders around the local Nice roads he knows so well, finishing in the main group that came in just two seconds behind stage winner Julian Alaphilippe of France.
While Alaphilippe finished the 186-kilometre stage on the Promenade des Anglais to regain the yellow jersey he wore for much of last year’s race, the 36-year-old Roche, riding in his 10th Tour, finished in the group in 24th position, having been the first over the Col d’Èze, the penultimate summit that came 33km from the finish.
It was an encouraging start for the Team Sunweb rider and, after two days, it means Roche is sitting nicely in 26th overall, 17 seconds behind the yellow jersey.
Not so much so for Dan Martin, who started the race with a fractured bone in his sacrum after crashing in the Critérium du Dauphiné two weeks previously, as he crossed the line in 100th place, the Israel Start-Up Nation rider finishing in the group of 22 riders that finished 17 minutes and 45 seconds behind.
In the last group in 168th place was Sam Bennett, the Deceuninck-Quick Step rider finishing 28 minutes and 55 seconds in arrears on the stage.
It means after Stage 2 Martin is back in 101st, exactly 18 minutes behind already, with Bennett in 149th position, 29 minutes and 10 seconds off the lead in general classification.
It came the day after hopes of an Irish stage win and a first yellow jersey in 33 years fell just short on Saturday afternoon, as Bennett finished a desperately close fourth on the final bunch sprint down the fast Promenade des Anglais.
The Carrick-on-Suir rider looked to have given himself every chance of victory as he took up his position to the left of the finish, but it was Kristoff Alexander from UAE-Team Emirates who made the decisive push from the right, a fourth-ever stage win for the Norwegian rider.
A crash with 2.9km to go held up half the peloton, including Martin and Roche, although they quickly remounted, and, given the crash happened just inside the last 3km, were given the same time as the lead finishers.