The series of climbs known as the Strines that lead into Sheffield were always likely to split the peloton asunder, but no one predicted the amount of damage they inflicted, largely thanks to the fiercely insistent pace set by the Garmin-Sharp team. At one point, the American team’s Dutch flyer Tom Jelte Slagter reduced the front group to just 15 members, while shielding his leader Andrew Talansky at the same time.
At the finish, Talansky was delighted with the way the stage had panned out for him and his team. Of their tactics going through the Strines he said: "I just wanted to make the race as hard as possible by keeping ourselves up at the front and out of trouble. Often the best way to do that is to control the race.
"Maybe we were missing one guy to keep the pace on. But Tom Jelte Slagter rode it down to 15 guys just two days into the Tour de France – that’s pretty impressive."
Having gained a huge confidence boost by winning the Criterium du Dauphiné last month, Talansky said he’d got another one today by staying with his GC rivals over terrain that doesn't usually suit him.
"It's no secret that days like today are not my speciality with short, punchy climbs all day," he said. "My speciality is 20-, 30-, 40-minute climbs. But it's mission accomplished. I got through it and am feeling good."
Asked about the main GC contenders duking it out so early in the Tour, Talansky said: "I don’t think we've really seen anything yet. Everybody looks good. We're all at a pretty similar level. Nobody could get away from the rest up the hill. But we're only two days in."
Were the favourites for the yellow jersey playing mind games with each other over the closing 40km, he was then asked? "There may have been some mind games between some of the other guys, but not for me."
He concluded by saying: "I feel that I belong up there, that our team belongs up there and we're riding exactly like that."
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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