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Etoile de Bessèges stage 2 - Live race coverage

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Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage stage 2 of the Etoile de Bessèges.

-127km

General classification after stage 1

Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) leads the race overall after his victory on yesterday's uphill finale in Bellegarde after a fine duel with his former teammate Nacer Bouhanni (Arkea-Samsic). You can read Daniel Ostanek's full report here. Both Laporte and Bouhanni will expect to be in the mix again this afternoon on a finale in La Calmette that appears to lend itself to a bunch finish. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka-Assos), Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels) are other likely contenders.

-120km

Yesterday's opening stage was marred by a crash in the finale, and Michael Valgren was among the fallers in what was his first race for EF Education First-Nippo. Although he managed to finish the stage in 127th place, he is a non-starter today after sustaining a fractured hand in the crash. He is due to undergo surgery today. "It’s not the best start, but it can only get better from now on," Valgren said. "It was great to race with the guys, even though it was only for one day, I really enjoyed the atmosphere and I know it will be a nice week." Read more here.

Egan Bernal (Ineos) was among the many riders caught behind the same crash, but he was not among the fallers and he finished safely in 115th place. It was his first day of racing since he abandoned the Tour de France with a back injury in September. "I’m feeling really happy to be back in the game and really excited to be starting my season here,” Bernal said prior to the opening stage in Bellegarde. Later on Wednesday, it was confirmed that Bernal will make his Giro d'Italia debut in 2021 at the head of an Ineos selection that will also include Pavel Sivakov, Daniel Martínez and Filippo Ganna. Read the full story here.

-109km

South of the Alps, RCS Sport this morning confirmed the open secret that Turin will host the Grande Partenza of the 2021 Giro d'Italia on May 8. The race will underway with a decidedly Ganna-friendly time trial that finishes on the banks of the Po outside the striking Grand Madre church. After a flat run to Novara on stage 2, the race heads through the rolling hills of the Langhe en route to Canale on stage 3. The Giro will return to the Piedmont region in the final week for a summit finish at Alpe di Mera in Valsesia. Stephen Farrand has all the details here.

-104km

The break is heading towards the first passage across the finish line in La Calmette - and the day's first intermediate sprint - with a lead of 2:40 over the peloton.

-88km

Cofidis and Total-Direct Energie are setting the tempo in the peloton, which is 2:26 down on the five leaders. Cofidis are riding on behalf of overall leader Christophe Laporte, who won on this finale in La Calmette two years ago en route to final overall victory. Total-Direct Energie are working for their new arrival Edvald Boasson Hagen, who was among those caught behind the crashes in the finale yesterday.

-80km

A curiosity of yesterday's opening stage was that all riders caught up in the late crashes were awarded the same time as the front group by the race jury, even though one of the two incidents took place with 6km to go, while the uphill finish meant that, technically, the 3km rule should not have been applied. Thierry Gouvenou, better known for his work with ASO, is the head of the race jury at Besseges, and he explained to DirectVelo that a technological malfunction of the transponder timing system at the 3km to go banner was behind the decision. "We were unable to identify the fifty or so riders who were hampered by the fall 6km from the finish," Gouvenou said. "Then there was a second big fall 500m from the finish on the hill. The road was completely blocked, so riders couldn't get through and the riders who were delayed 6km from the finish came to mix with those in the peloton. We had no technical way to identify all the groups. We determined that the best thing to do was to cancel all the times."

-73km

The postponement and cancellation of so many races in the early part of the season has seen Etoile de Besseges attract its most star-studded field of the 21st century. Among the Besseges debutants on show this year is Geraint Thomas (Ineos), who is lining out for the first time since he broke his pelvis in a heavy crash on stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia last October. "I’m not thinking about the GC or any other objectives here this week. It’s just about getting some good, hard racing in, some intensity, some speed in the legs," Thomas said yesterday. "Obviously, I’ll give it everything in the TT on the last day, but until that point it’s just a case of doing everything that I can for the boys.” Peter Cossins has the full story here.

-62km

-57km

A light drizzle is once again falling over the race, but the temperature is a relatively benign 13°C. It's interesting to note that a delegation from Bora-Hansgrohe is occupying real state near the front of the bunch, but Pascal Ackermann's teammates are content to allow Cofidis to perform the pace-making for the time being.

-53km

-50km

The pace is ratcheting up slightly in the peloton and their deficit to the break is tightening accordingly. The gap is down to 1:42.

Meanwhile, the rain is starting to fall a little more steadily over the race, which could make the finale a little more complicated than previously envisaged. Riders will get another look at the finish line on Avenue Charles De Gaulle with 32km to go, when there will be another intermediate sprint to boot. 

-47km

-45.6km

Robeet continues his effort over the top of the climb and the Belgian has struck out alone with a small lead over the rest of the break. Delettre, incidentally, will wear the king of the mountains jersey tomorrow. 

-44km

Robeet is alone in front but Vojtech Repa (Equipo Kern Pharma) is almost within touching distance. Hurel, Picoux and Delettre weren't able to follow the Czech when he set off in pursuit.

Robeet's acceleration has seen him extend his lead over the Cofidis-led peloton to 1:44. The Belgian isn't hanging about, and Repa hasn't managed to bridge across.

-40km

-36.5km

Robeet's lead over the bunch nudges out towards two minutes. Seven Cofidis riders now occupy the first seven positions in the peloton.

-32km

-31km

-30km

-29km

Robeet is putting in a spirited solo effort, but it's hard to see how he can hold off the peloton, which is now at 1:40. The day has worked out well so far for Cofidis and Christophe Laporte, who have seen the escapees sweep up all of the intermediate bonus seconds on offer. 

-25km

-21km

-20km

Ineos Grenadeiers have moved up en masse to the front of the bunch, with Egan Bernal leading the way. Geraint Thomas is parked on the Colombian's wheel as they position themselves ahead of the finale. After yesterday's late crashes, nobody will want to risk getting caught out on the wrong side of a split.

-17km

Trek-Segdafedo have also moved up towards the front of the bunch. Cofidis have dropped back and now no one team is dictating the terms. No matter, the pace is very, very high, and the bunch is on the cusp of catching the lone escapee Robeet.

-15km

-13km

-10km

Vincenzo Nibali rides in the front row of the peloton on behalf of Trek-Segafredo. Bora-Hansgrohe also have numbers up here in support of Pascal Ackermann.

-9km

-8km

B&B Hotels are moving up for Bryan Coquard, while Arkea-Samsic are trying to beat a path for Nacer Bouhanni. Race leader Christophe Laporte is surrounded by Cofidis teammates a few rows back from the front.

-6km

-5km

-4km

-3.7km

-2.5km

-2km

-1km

The bunch splits around the roundabout in the final kilometre and there's another crash...

Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka-Assos) opens the sprint from distance...

Timothy Dupont (Bingoal-WB) wins stage 2 of Etoile de Besseges.

The final roundabout and that crash left only 10 or so riders still in contention for the sprint. Nizzolo went early - too early - while the race leader Laporte never really going. Dupont was in fourth position as Nizzolo opened the sprint, and he timed his effort well to deny Pierre Barbier (Delko) the win. Nizzolo took third ahead of Rudy Barbier (Israel Start-Up Nation). Laporte had to settle for 5th ahead of Bouhanni.

Like yesterday, two crashes marred the finale of this stage. The first, with 3.7km to go, saw four or five riders come down. The second came after the peloton split in two as it navigated the roundabout with 600 metres to go. The crash occurred initially on the left-hand side of that roundabout, but one of the fallers slid across the road and some of the riders merging from the right were unable to avoid crashing into him.

Result

General classification after stage 2

Trek-Segafredo have reported that Mads Pedersen was among the fallers in that crash on the final roundabout.

That’s the seventh victory of Timothy Dupont’s career and the Belgian’s first since he won a stage of the Tour de Wallonie in 2019. The 33-year-old spent the past three seasons at Circus-Wanty but didn't make the jump to the WorldTour with the Belgian squad in 2021. Instead, he remained at Pro Continental level with a move to Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles, and he has just pulled off something on an upset to win stage 2 at Etoile de Besseges.

Timothy Dupont speaks to L'Equipe TV after his victory: “I knew the finishing straight was very long, so I started out in 6th or 7th position, and I waited for the good moment to go. I started my sprint when it was already very fast. I think in the last 20km, it started to get very nervous it was very chaotic as far as the roundabout but after that, it was ok."

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Total-Direct Energie) and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) have been concerned as being among the fallers in that crash in the final kilometre. 

See more

Mads Pedersen has explained that the crash forced him to veer across the road, but the former world champion came away relatively unscathed from the incident. "Luckily, I didn’t crash, I only hit my finger on the fence. It’s a shit way to end a good sprint stage, but I’m just happy now that I didn’t crash because you can see how many guys are coming in with torn clothing.”

AG2R Citroen have confirmed that Julien Duval and Damien Touze were fallers in the finale of today's stage.

Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) keeps the overall lead but he cut a disappointed figure at the finish. “There was a lot of nervousness in the sprint," he tells L'Equipe TV. "I wanted at least to get 2nd or 3rd to take bonus seconds, but I couldn’t get around to get them. I heard the crash on the final roundabout. It was quite tense.”

LA CALMETTE FRANCE FEBRUARY 04 Podium Timothy Dupont Belgium and Team Bingoal WB winner of 2nd stage celebrate during the 51st toile de Bessges Tour du Gard 2021 Stage 2 a 154km stage from SaintGenis to La Calmette Trophy Flowers Mask Covid safety measures Hostess EDB2020 on February 04 2021 in La Calmette France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

LA CALMETTE FRANCE FEBRUARY 04 Arrival Milan Menten of Belgium and Team Bingoal WB Timothy Dupont Belgium and Team Bingoal WB celebrates Mads Pedersen of Denmark and Team Trek Segafredo during the 51st toile de Bessges Tour du Gard 2021 Stage 2 a 154km stage from SaintGenis to La Calmette EDB2020 on February 04 2021 in La Calmette France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

LA CALMETTE FRANCE FEBRUARY 04 Arrival Jordi Meeus of Belgium and Team Bora Hansgrohe White Best Young Jersey during the 51st toile de Bessges Tour du Gard 2021 Stage 2 a 154km stage from SaintGenis to La Calmette Crash Injury Mud EDB2020 on February 04 2021 in La Calmette France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Neo-pro Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe) was among the fallers in the finale of Thursday's stage. (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Ineos Grenadiers have confirmed that Ethan Hayter was a faller in the crash with a little over 3km to go. The Briton was able to remount and complete the stage.