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Tour de France 2016: Stage 2

The Tour de France remains in the Manche département for stage 2, but it's rather punchier fare on the road from Saint-Lô to Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, and the uphill finish that follows the short sharp climb of the Côte de La Glacerie in the finale will surely rule out the pure sprinters from contention.

 

There is, of course, a fast man atop the standings this morning. Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) emerged victorious in the mass finish at Utah Beach to claim the first maillot jaune of the race - and the first of his career after 27 stage wins.

 

The general classification picture is as follows ahead of stage 2:

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data 4:13:55
2 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:04
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team 0:00:06
4 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal 0:00:10
5 Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
6 Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
7 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
8 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
9 Daniel Mclay (GBr) Fortuneo - Vital Concept
10 Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto Soudal

 

Speaking to Cyclingnews at the Dimension Data team hotel this morning, Cavendish admitted that he was unlikely to defend his yellow jersey. "Although today will be difficult we want to honour the jersey," Cavendish said. "Today could be a day of Edvald Boasson Hagen but he was a bit banged up yesterday from his crash. We’re about to have a team meeting and we’ll go from there."

 

Cavendish has chosen an understated way to mark his first day in the yellow jersey, limiting the yellow accoutrements on his bike to handlebar tape and pedals. You can see a gallery of his tweaked Cervelo S5 here.

 

Cherbourg was a staple of the Tour route in the early part of the 20th century but remarkably, today is only the second time that the town has featured in La Grande Boucle since World War II. The stage features three category 4 climbs: the Côte de Torigny-des-Villes after 10 kilometres, the Côte de Montabot after 23 kilometres and the Côte de Montpinchon after 52 kilometres. The finale, meanwhile, is built around the short but tough Côte de La Glacerie. 1.9km in length at an average gradient of 6.5% but with slopes of 14%, it provides a real sting in the tail to today’s stage. The summit is just 1.5 kilometres from the finish, and after the briefest of descents, the road pitches up sharply once again in the final kilometre for what could be a very select uphill sprint finish.

 

 

 

 

The neutralised start in Saint-Lô is at 12.40 local time, a little under ten minutes from now, with the peloton due to reach kilometre zero at 1pm.

 

The fraught opening days of the Tour de France are always synonymous with crashes and yesterday's leg to Utah Beach was no different. Michael Morkov (Katusha) fell heavily in the finishing straight but the Dane is currently warming up on the rollers outside his team bus and is due to start the stage. 

 

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) is also still in the race despite his crash on yesterday's stage. We should have an update on Contador's condition from the start shortly, but already yesterday evening, the Spaniard was guardedly optimistic that he had not done himself any irreperable damage on stage 1. Contador did pick up some nasty abrasions to his right shoulder, and that might limit him on today's punchy finale. Nairo Quintana, Chris Froome et al will be watching him in the peloton this afternoon with interest.

 

Indeed, as Alasdair Fotheringham points out, today's finale could see some of the GC contenders at this Tour show their hands, rather like the stage to Mur de Huy a year ago or to Sheffield in 2014 - though it might well end up a shoot-out between finisseurs like Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge), Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff). 

 

All 198 riders have signed on and have been flagged away from the depart fictif in Saint-Lô. Grey skies greeted the Tour peloton ahead of the start, though the rain has at least abated for now, as they negotiate the neutralised zone.

 

Slate grey skies overhead for the peloton ahead of stage 2 of the Tour de France.

 

Mark Cavendish in the yellow jersey for the first time in his career.

 

Tinkoff directeur sportif Steven de Jongh spoke to Cyclingnews a short time ago and conceded that the fall-out from Contador's crash yesterday could have been a whole lot worse. The full story will be online soon, but here's a taster of the mood from the Tinkoff camp ahead of stage 2. "I’m counting on Alberto’s rivals putting him under pressure," De Jongh says. "That’s what I would do if I was a rival. Today we just hope for the best and hope that he can be there for the final. It was a hard impact but there’s no chance of Alberto stopping. Last year in the Giro when he dislocated his shoulder I was really worried but I’m confident he can be okay now.”

 

Chris Froome (Sky) has insisted that he isn’t setting out with the express intention of putting the injured Contador under pressure this afternoon. In truth, Froome probably doesn’t have to. This the Tour de France, after all, and everyday somebody sets out trying to put ‘em under pressure and inflict his race on the opposition in the manner of Jack Charlton circa 1990.

“We’re here to do our own race and it’s not about that. I’m sure he’ll be a bit sore after yesterday but a stage like today won’t, shouldn’t see you win or lose the Tour,” Froome said. “They have two objectives there with wanting to win the stage with Sagan and I’m sure that he’s capable of doing that. It’s a Sagan type finish but at the same time they’ll still allocate some guys to looking out for Alberto, I assume.”

 

182km remaining from 183km

Stage 2 of the 2016 Tour de France is underway, and there is an immediate flurry of attacks as the flag drops.

 

179km remaining from 183km

King of the mountains Paul Voss (Bora-Argon 18) is in the break for the second day running, with Vegard Breen (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo). This quartet has a already established a lead of 1:30 over a peloton that, for now at least, seems happy to leave them to it.

 

175km remaining from 183km

The four escapees have stretched their advantage over the peloton out to 3:40, and Voss can start thinking about how to approach the sprint for the mountains point on offer atop the Côte de Torigny-des-Villes.

 

172km remaining from 183km

Vegard Breen (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) wins the sprint to the top of the Côte de Torigny-des-Villes. The break's lead over the peloton stretches out towards five minutes.

 

Here's Steven de Jongh's full take on Contador's condition after yesterday's crash, including an apology to Brent Bookwalter and the assertion that Peter Sagan "is an animal."

 

163km remaining from 183km

After a brisk 19 kilometres of racing, meanwhile, our four escapees have a lead of 5:25 over the peloton. Stuyven, Breen and Benedetti each began the day 10 seconds behind Cavendish in the overall standings.

 

Dimension Data seem more than happy to give the break their head for the moment, particularly given that maillot jaune Mark Cavendish has effectively ruled himself out of the running for the stage win this afternoon. “There’s 20 days left and you can’t burn the candle at both ends. We have to get back to business. For me and the team it’s an honour to wear the yellow jersey and we’ll defend it with honour,” Cavendish said at the start. “Once upon a time I would have been quite up for this stage but there’s more puncheurs around and it’s a stage for Edvald [Boasson Hagen] who did a great ride yesterday. He’s a bit banged up but he did a fantastic job for us yesterday. We’ll do what we can for him and try and put him in the best position. I want to do the jersey justice, it’s a big day for the team and for Africa.”

 

159km remaining from 183km

The four leaders are on the slopes of the day's second climb, the category 4 Côte de Montabot. Dimension Data and BMC lead the peloton, some 5:25 behind.

 

Jasper Stuyven leads the break over the Côte de Montabot and picks up the lone king of the mountains point on offer, meaning that Voss maintains his hold on the polka dot jersey for now. The day's third ascent is the Côte de Montpinchon after 52 kilometres.

 

153km remaining from 183km

The break's lead yawns out a little further, and now reaches 5:50 over the main peloton, where Dimension Data continue to set the tempo on the front.

 

Chris Froome spoke to Cyclingnews at the start on topics beyond applying pressure to Alberto Contador, and the two-time Tour winner reckons today's finale could prove to be a particularly hectic one.

 

148km remaining from 183km

The peloton has clipped back the break's lead slightly over the past ten kilometres or so, and the gap now stands at 5:10.

 

Michael Matthews (Orica-BikeExchange) was caught up in yesterday's finishing straight crash but the Australian emerged relatively unscathed and is one of the favourites for today's uphill finale. "We have a good game plan and possibly three guys who can win the stage. Everyone gets their chance to win but we’re racing together, we have a plan and we just have to stick to it. My climbing form is good. It’s going to be a tough stage but I just hope everyone stays safe. It’s going to be hard one," Matthews said. "I probably came off the best in the crash. The way I landed, I landed on [Sam] Bennett’s bike. I only have a few scratches on the back of my leg and that’s it. I don’t know what caused it. I just saw bikes flying everywhere and rolling down the road. It sucks and it wasn’t necessary as we weren’t sprinting for the win. I’m okay and that’s the main thing."

 

Speaking at his hotel before the start, Alberto Contador conceded that he was feeling the effects of his crash this morning. "I had a very big crash. I’m not feeling that great at the moment. My body hurts," Contador said. "I’ve woken up feeling bad and today’s going to be tough, but I hope not to lose time. But in the end I was lucky, I’m able to get back on my bike today. I’ll have to take every day as it comes and see what happens. My morale is strong.”

 

140km remaining from 183km

Voss, Benedetti, Stuyven and Breen have covered 39.5 kilometres in the first hour of racing. Their lead over the peloton has dropped slightly, and now stands at 4:35.

 

While there are two Bora-Argon 18 riders in the day's break, the team's sprinter Sam Bennett will be hoping simply to survive to the finish after crashing in the finishing straight yesterday. The Irishman required stitches to an arm injury but he sounded an optimistic note about his prospects before the start. "It was a long day and I slept ok, so I feel good," he said. "I think it was mainly the barriers that caused the crash. I think a few guys got tangled together and came down in front of me and I couldn’t react in time. I hit them and came down hard. It hurt a bit. Anytime the leadout guys are coming back and guys are moving up for the sprint, they’re going to meet at some point."

 

 

Out in front, meanwhile, Bora-Argon 18 are up to the same tricks as yesterday ahead of the day's third climb, the Côte de Montpinchon. Benedetti jumps away alone from the break in a bid to snaffle the king of the mountains point.

 

Stuyven and Breen bridge up to Benedetti as leaden drops of rain fall over the Tour de France.

 

130km remaining from 183km

Jasper Stuyven leads over the top of the Côte de Montpinchon to draw level with Voss atop the king of the mountains classification.

 

The rain is beginning to fall more steadily over the peloton, where Steve Cummings rides on the front for Dimension Data, with Cavendish sitting in fifth wheel.

 

126km remaining from 183km

After their skirmishes on the Côte de Montpinchon, our four leaders are back together and playing nice. The quartet has added to their buffer once again, and the gap stands at 5:20.

 

Cadel Evans may have taken his leave in 2014, but the playbook remains the same at BMC. Tejay van Garderen and Richie Porte sit in the centre of a phalanx of teammates near the front, just behind the pace-setters from Dimension Data.

 

123km remaining from 183km

There has been a crash in the main peloton, though it seems to have been a low-speed entanglement rather than a major incident. Joaquim Rodriguez and Alberto Contador are among the riders caught up in the confusion.

 

Contador stands and waits for a spare bike with the quiet exasperation of a man who has inadvertently upgraded to Windows 10 rather than the urgency of a rider whose Tour de France challenge is on the line. A mechanic duly produces a replacement machine and Contador calmly sets off in pursuit of the peloton.

 

Contador was some two minutes behind the peloton by the time he remounted, but like yesterday, there has been a general slackening of the pace and the Spaniard should be back on board shortly.

 

117km remaining from 183km

The break reaches Coutances, where their lead is back up to 6:12 due to the brief chaos in the main peloton.

 

115km remaining from 183km

A glum-faced Contador has six teammates pacing him back up to the peloton. The Spaniard is still 50 seconds off the back, but not in any particular hurry to shut that gap as he has already reached the convoy of team cars.

 

Contador has rejoined the main peloton. Others who were caught up in that incident - and who seem to have rejoined the bunch - are Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), Michael Matthews, Joaquim Rodriguez and Tony Martin.

 

Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) has been struggling towards the rear of the peloton in the past few kilometres. The Irishman was, of course, among the riders to go down in the crash in the finishing straight of yesterday's stage at Utah Beach.

 

107km remaining from 183km

Steve Cummings, meanwhile, continues to lead the peloton in support of Mark Cavendish. Winner of three WorldTour races already this season, most recently the final stage of the Criterium du Dauphine, Cummings' exclusion from the British Olympic team is very hard to justify. This is what Cummings himself had to say on the matter ahead of the Tour.

 

Brecht Decaluwé, whose boys took one hell of a beating against Wales on Friday night, has bravely recovered from that Euro 2016 disappointment and he spoke to Lotto Soudal’s Tony Gallopin at the start in Saint-Lô this morning. “This is a finish for ‘punchers’ so it’s clear that this is a finish that suits me. A stage victory probably brings along the maillot jaune. I’ll try the best I can do today,” Gallopin told Cyclingnews this morning. “I don’t know the finish and didn’t do a recon. I tried to gather as much info as I can on the internet but didn’t do a training ride over there. It would be formidable to get the jersey and keep it a few days.”

 

103km remaining from 183km

The sun has poked through the clouds over our four leaders and the rain has abated for the time being. Stuyven and company have an advantage of 6:30 over the peloton.

 

Contador has divested himself of his race cape and is now sitting surrounded by teammates in the centre of the peloton. A relaxed Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is happy to avail of the shelter afforded by the Tinkoff delegation.

 

99km remaining from 183km

Into the final 100 kilometres for our leaders, who remain 6:30 clear of the peloton. Dimension Data are content to keep tabs on this advantage but have no interest in pegging it back just yet. While Edvald Boasson Hagen might be a contender for the stage win today, one senses that teams like Etixx-QuickStep and Orica-GreenEdge will ultimately have to take up the reins to bring back the break.

 

The irrepressible Decaluwé caught up with Etixx-QuickStep's Julian Alaphilippe at the start. The Frenchman is one of a number of options for Patrick Lefevere's squad today, given that Dan Martin and Petr Vakoc might well fancy their chances this afternoon. “It’s my first Tour de France. I’m here to help the team the best way I can. It’ll be hard. The final kilometres are a long string of small roads through the city and small climbs. At the end of a long day it’ll be very nervous with the rain and very fast," Alaphilippe said. "We have nice cards to play in the team with Petr Vakoc, Maximiliano Richeze, Dan Martin and me. It’s a final that suits me. We’ll see how the legs go. There’s a dozen of riders who can win here like Simon Gerrans, Valverde, Peter Sagan, Edvald Boasson Hagen but he crashed yesterday.”

 

93km remaining from 183km

Benedetti leans down and takes off his overshoes, clearly confident that the rain is going to hold off despite the menacing dark clouds looming overhead.

 

It's worth noting that there's quite a stiff wind on the course this afternoon, and the break is currently grinding into a headwind. The race has been relatively well sheltered thus far, though that situation may change when the route reaches the coast shortly.

 

89km remaining from 183km

The pace is currently gentle enough for Richie Porte (BMC) and Chris Froome (Sky) to share a joke as they ride alongside one another, while an impassive Tejay van Garderen sits just behind them.

 

The leading quartet approaches the feed zone at Bretteville with a lead of 6:08 over the peloton. At the rear of the bunch, meanwhile, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) suffers a puncture and Alexander Vinokourov himself emerges from the team car to lend a hand.

 

Speaking of Vinokourov, this Stephen Farrand interview from earlier in the season is well worth a read. "What do more do you want me to say? I made a mistake and I paid the price for that mistake. I was suspended for two years and then came back," Vinokourov said of his 2007 doping ban, a topic he has never really discussed in any detail. "And I was allowed to come back. I was like anyone who goes to prison; I paid my dues and now I'm allowed to be back. "

 

83km remaining from 183km

Cummings remains in situ at the head of the peloton, with Daniel Teklehaimanot on his wheel. 6:14 the gap to the four leaders.

 

A delegation from Tinkoff moves towards the front. The intermediate sprint is just ten kilometres away, and they may want to set things up for Peter Sagan. But equally, the race is heading towards more exposed roads near the coast, and the risk of echelons is rising by the minute. The immediate aim, mind, was simply to pick up their musettes at the feed zone in safety at the front of the peloton.

 

80km remaining from 183km

The day's lone intermediate sprint will be at Port-Bail, with 75.5 kilometres still to race.

 

Despite coming a cropper in yesterday's finishing straight crash, Edvald Boasson Hagen is the man most likely for Dimension Data on today's stiff finale. “I was on the left side and suddenly I was on the floor. We’ll have to see how I feel but it seems ok. I just have scratches and some pain on the back," the Norwegian said at the start. "The body feels ok. I saw the finish and it seems nice.”

 

75km remaining from 183km

Benedetti leads Voss, Breen and Stuyven through the intermediate sprint in that order. The four leaders opted not to contest the sprint, and they hold a lead of 5:53 over the peloton.

 

Back in the main peloton, a group from Direct Energie moves towards the front to lead out Coquard in the battle for fifth place at the intermediate sprint.

 

The pace has stiffened discernibly in the bunch on the approach to this intermediate sprint. A delegation from Katusha is also on hand for Alexander Kristoff.

 

It looks as though Greipel - just - edged out Kittel and Kristoff to take fifth place in that sprint, though it was a close-run thing. Cavendish and Sagan were a little further behind that trio.

 

70km remaining from 183km

The brief surge in intensity in the main peloton has knocked 30 seconds or so off the break's advantage. Stuyven, Voss, Benedetti and Breen have a lead of five minutes over the bunch.

 

68km remaining from 183km

A puncture for Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), who gets a smart wheel change and quickly enters the convoy of cars behind the peloton.

 

Two years ago, stage 2 of the Tour de France had a similarly sinuous finale in Sheffield and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) emerged victorious, but the Sicilian has pinpointed Etixx-QuickStep duo Dan Martin and Julian Alaphilippe as the dangermen today. “I’m very tranquillo, we’ve only had one stage, and we haven’t taken any risks so far, so we’ll see how it goes day by day,” said Nibali. He lines out in a free role in an Astana team led by debutant Fabio Aru, who celebrates his 26th birthday today.

 

63km remaining from 183km

We can confirm, by the way, that Greipel was 5th in that intermediate sprint, ahead of Kittel, Kristoff, Sagan and Cavendish.

 

60km remaining from 183km

The pace has slackened slightly in the peloton since the intermediate sprint, and the break's lead has stretched back out to 5:55.

 

Grey skies and low cloud redolent of Jacques Brel hang over the Tour de France once more, but the rain looks to be holding off for the time being.

 

56km remaining from 183km

There is no particular urgency as yet in the main peloton, despite the six-minute deficit. Dimension Data continue to lead but they can surely expect some reinforcements in the final 50 kilometres or so.

 

Dan Martin placed second on a finale for puncheurs at Mur de Bretagne a year ago, but the Irishman has at least one eye on the general classification this time around and has suggested that his Etixx-QuickStep teammate Julian Alaphilippe might be a better bet this afternoon. "It’s going to be an intense finish, hopefully the rain holds off," Martin said at the start. "The stage result will look after itself. If I’ve got the legs, I’ll try something."

 

51km remaining from 183km

All is - relatively - calm in the peloton for now, but we can expect some frissons of anxiety on the run-in to the finish, given the narrowness of the roads that lead in to the day's decisive climb, the Côte de La Glacerie. 1.9km in length at an average gradient of 6.5% but with slopes of 14%, the summit comes 1.5 kilometres from the finish line.

 

49km remaining from 183km

A cluster of Movistar riders guide Nairo Quintana towards the business end of the peloton, but Dimension Data are the sole team pulling on the front for now. The gap to the break stands at 5:40.

 

Delegations from Sky, Astana and Tinkoff are also settling into position towards the front. This is the prelude to beginning of the endgame... It's been a rather slow-burning stage, but the finale ought to be a fraught one.

 

45km remaining from 183km

The pace is slowly rising in the main peloton. The gap to the break has dropped slightly, to 5:25.

 

The pace has begun to ratchet up in earnest in the main field, and the peloton has been strung into a line accordingly. Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) and Michael Morkov (Katusha), who each fell heavily in the final kilometre yesterday, have been distanced, and they face a tough, tough final hour of racing.

 

41km remaining from 183km

The surge in pace has also chipped another few seconds off the break's lead, which now stands at five minutes. A delegation from BMC takes up the reins alongside Dimension Data at the head of the bunch.

 

40km remaining from 183km

The terrain becomes a bit more rolling in these final 40 kilometres, and the four leaders tackle an uncategorised climb on the coast near Dielette.

 

IAM Cycling have taken over the pace-making duties at the head of the peloton. BMC, Astana and Direct Energie are also on hand.

 

A determined group from Orica-BikeExchange moves up on the right-hand side of the peloton, Can Michael Matthews and Simon Gerrans dovetail their efforts this afternoon? Their previous record in that regard is not altogether encouraging, it must be said.

 

37km remaining from 183km

The intensity picks up another notch as Astana hit the front in support of Aru and Nibali. BMC's praetorian guard is also well-placed.

 

35km remaining from 183km

Seconds continue to dissolve from the break's advantage, which falls to 4:10.

 

At this point, no one team is taking responsibility for the chase, but with so many teams scrambling for positions near the front, the pace has upped simply as a matter of course. The break's lead suffers accordingly...

 

32km remaining from 183km

The break's lead drops inside the four-minute mark. The race is back on wet roads again, even if more rain is holding off for the time being.

 

The peloton is shrouded by mist, mind, but it's touch and go as to whether the heavens will open before this sinuous finale.

 

31km remaining from 183km

IAM Cycling and Direct Energie are leading the peloton, but delegations from Movistar - supporting Quintana for GC and Valverde for the stage win - and Tinkoff - supporting Contador for GC and Sagan for the stage win - are moving up just behind them.

 

It's going to be a breathless finale, so it's worth taking a glance at Alasdair Fotheringham's reconnaissance of the closing kilometres now. The race tackles the unclassified  Côte d’Octeville with 7.5 kilometres to go before the denouement on the outskirts of Cherbourg. 

"The 1.9 kilometre Côte de la Glacerie starts with a slight leftward kink in the same broad boulevard, a typical high street for a city suburb with small shops lining the street on both sides," Alasdair writes. "The first segment, a gently rising highway that all but loops back on itself is hardly a huge challenge. But when the route veers left after roughly a kilometre of climbing at a big roundabout onto smaller, residential roads, it abruptly gets much more difficult.

"Quickly narrowing down to a leafy city back lane and with an average gradient of over nine percent at this point, one steady right-hand bend and a short ‘ramp’ of around 14 percent that follows constitute the hardest challenge.

"The climb itself ends a little over a kilometre to the finish, swinging right on another residential lane that leads back down to the main road. Then after this short, fast descent and a nasty little chicane at the bottom past a statue of a glassmaker, the route goes back onto the main ‘drag’, kicking back upwards a steady gradient of around seven percent. By then, the finishing gantry will quickly loom into sight for whoever is in the lead."

 

28km remaining from 183km

The break's lead is down to 3:43 over a peloton, where Tinkoff have moved towards the front in support of Contador.

 

Geraint Thomas (Sky) suffered a mechanical problem at a most inopportune time and he is chasing back on through the convoy of team cars, 30 seconds behind the peloton.

 

26km remaining from 183km

In the break, Paul Voss hits the front every time the road climbs but he and his companions are shipping time at quite a rate of knots now. 3:33 the gap to the peloton.

 

And then there were three... Voss' teammate Benedetti has been distanced on this last rise and the Italian might well struggle to latch back on.

 

Tinkoff, BMC, Astana and Direct Energie each have trains towards the front of a peloton that is hurtling along at speeds touching 70kph.

 

24km remaining from 183km

The dips and rises in the final 25 kilometres are sure to see riders shaken off the back of the peloton on the approach to Cherbourg, especially at this pace.

 

23km remaining from 183km

Stuyven, Voss and Breen are sticking admirably to their task and 3:18 is a very decent lead to carry into the final 23 kilometres... They're giving themselves a fighting chance at least, even if it's still hard to imagine they can fend off a peloton travelling at this intensity.

 

The narrow roads and the twists and the turns of the finale could play into the break's hands, mind. A Tour peloton is an unwieldy thing at the best of times, never mind on roads such as these.

 

21km remaining from 183km

A lead of three minutes for the three escapees as they enter the final 21 kilometres.

 

Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie) rides on the front of the peloton in support of his teammate Bryan Coquard. The gap drops under three minutes for the first time.

 

19km remaining from 183km

Breen, Stuyven and Voss are still collaborating very smoothly. They still have 2:55 in hand, but the uncategorised Côte d’Octeville is going to test their resolve.

 

18km remaining from 183km

BMC take over at the head of the peloton, with the aim of keeping van Garderen and Porte out of trouble, though Greg Van Avermaet is also a contender for the stage win this afternoon.

 

17km remaining from 183km

The trio of escapees are putting up stout resistance here, and they're still holding a lead of 2:55 over the peloton. They're riding with a considerable degree of belief...

 

15km remaining from 183km

Leaden drops of rain fall over the three leaders, who have 2:45 in hand over the peloton.

 

14km remaining from 183km

A line of Sky riders move up on the right-hand side of the peloton, which is still being led by BMC. They're not making sufficient inroads into the escapees' lead, which remains at 2:40.

 

13km remaining from 183km

Stuyven, Breen and Voss will be heartened by reaching the outskirts of Cherbourg. They still have 2:37 in hand on the peloton...

 

12km remaining from 183km

The peloton is lined out, the pace is searing, but still the break's gap refuses to tumble as expected. 2:30 is the deficit.

 

11km remaining from 183km

Ian Stannard hits the front of the peloton for Team Sky, with Froome tucked in behind in fourth position.

 

10km remaining from 183km

The three leaders still have 2:23 in hand on the peloton, which is being led by Luke Rowe and Stannard.

 

Jasper Stuyven, Vegard Breen and Paul Voss approach the lower slopes of the Côte d’Octeville. This could be the point where their lead starts to dwindle, but they had quite a buffer entering these final 10 kilometres..

 

8km remaining from 183km

A number of riders have been jettisoned off the back of the peloton, though all of the GC contenders are safely on board, including Geraint Thomas.

 

The Côte d’Octeville could prove fatal to this break. The three leaders' pace drops markedly as they begin the climb.

 

8km remaining from 183km

As the break's lead drops to 1:55, Jasper Stuyven decides he's waited long enough. The Belgian attacks alone on the Côte d’Octeville and immediately opens a gap over his erstwhile companions.

 

Back in the main peloton, Etixx-QuickStep take up the reins on the Côte d’Octeville in support of Dan Martin and Alaphilippe.

 

7km remaining from 183km

Our lone leader Stuyven carries a lead of 1:33 into the final 7 kilometres. BMC, Sky and Ag2r-La Mondiale lead the peloton. Voss and Breen are caught in no man's land.

 

6km remaining from 183km

Stuyven adopts an aerodynamic tuck on the fast descent that precedes the climb of the Côte de La Glacerie.

 

5km remaining from 183km

BMC lead in the main peloton, with a general scramble for positions behind them.

 

5km remaining from 183km

A puncture for Richie Porte, who takes a very slow wheel change from the neutral service car. The BMC man is destined to lose a chunk of time this afternoon...

 

4km remaining from 183km

Stuyven leads alone on the lower slopes of the Cote de La Glacerie. He has 1:19 in hand on the peloton.

 

3km remaining from 183km

Lotto Soudal lead the pursuit in the main peloton.

 

3km remaining from 183km

The gradient is starting to bite for Stuyven and his pace drops accordingly. The 14% slopes are still ahead of him.

 

2km remaining from 183km

The road rears up stiffly ahead of Stuyven who is sticking gamely to his task but losing time with every pedal stroke. His lead drops to 1:04.

 

2km remaining from 183km

Alaphilippe and Dan Martin are well-placed near the front of the peloton as the gradient stiffens. 

 

2km remaining from 183km

Tom Jelte Slagter (Cannondale) attacks from the peloton and opens a small gap. Stuyven has a 40-second lead in front.

 

1km remaining from 183km

Mark Cavendish is dropped from the main peloton.

 

Richie Porte is scrambling to get back on but the Tasmanian is destined to lose ground today.

 

1km remaining from 183km

Stuyven approaches the summit of the Glacerie with 35 seconds in hand on the Roman Kreuziger-led peloton.

 

1km remaining from 183km

As Stuyven begins the short descent after the climb, he is just a hundred metres ahead of the reduced peloton. His dreams of stage victory are surely over.

 

Stuyven still leads with 500 metres to go as the road climbs again...

 

Kreuziger leads the peloton as they catch Stuyven with Sagan on his wheel...

 

Sagan hits the front early but he hasn't gone full on just yet..

 

Julian Alaphilippe opens his sprint and hits the front...

 

But Sagan comes around him to claim the win...

 

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) wins stage 2 of the Tour de France.

 

Alaphilippe was second and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) third, while Dan Martin and Michael Matthews were just behind.

 

Alberto Contador was shaken loose in the finale. The Spaniard crosses the line almost 50 seconds down, and he will lose time to Froome, Quintana et al. Contador's Tour challenge is already very complicated indeed.

 

Richie Porte comes in 1:45 down after his puncture 5 kilometres from the line.

 

Cavendish rolls home just behind Porte. The Manxman will concede his yellow jersey to Sagan.

 

Result:

1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team 04:02:51
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
4 Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx - Quick-Step
5 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange
6 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
7 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal
8 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
9 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
10 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky

 

General classification after stage 2:

1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team 08:34:42
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step 00:00:08
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 00:00:10
4 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin 00:00:14
5 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky
6 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
7 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team
8 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff Team
9 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange
10 Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx - Quick-Step

 

Peter Sagan speaks after the finish. "I’m very surprised I won because I was thinking there were still two guys in front. The team today made a very big job. Roman Kreuziger helped me a lot on the last climb. He pulled all the climb until 500 metres to go,” says Sagan, who will wear the yellow jersey for the first time. “It’s very nice, the first time in my career. It’s unbelievable, I’m already wearing a very nice jersey but yellow is something special.”

 

It was something of a pyrrhic victory for Tinkoff. Roman Kreuziger's impressive stint of pace-making on the final climb helped to drag Sagan back into contention - but did it also cause Contador to be blown out the back of the group of GC contenders? 

 

Though one might argue, of course, that a struggling Contador was likely to lose ground no matter who was setting the tempo on the front in the finale. Still, the Spaniard conceded 48 seconds to the other GC contenders. Richie Porte, meanwhile, lost 1:45 after his puncture.

 

Fabio Aru (Astana), Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), Tejay van Garderen, Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Mikel Landa (Sky) all finished with Froome and Quintana in the front group of 26 riders.

 

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) conceded 11 seconds in the finale. Geraint Thomas (Sky) lost 24, while Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) lost 41 seconds.

 

Sagan celebrates on the podium after landing his first Tour de France stage win since 2013, and 'only' his fifth in total, which incidentally matches the haul of Sean Kelly. When a man is competing day in day out for the green jersey, stage wins have historically been hard to come by...

 

Sagan’s raw strength has never been in doubt, but he has faced justified criticism for his tactical acumen over the years. Since winning the world title in Richmond last Autumn, however, the Slovak’s decision-making has been much improved, and this win was a victory of the head as much as of the legs. After Kreuziger swung over, Sagan found himself on the front a touch too early, but he smartly allowed Alaphilippe to move up past him before opening his finishing sprint closer to the finish. The Sagan of twelve months ago might not have been as clear of thought in that situation.

 

Tinkoff directeur sportif Sean Yates, meanwhile, has spoken to Eurosport after the finish. "One has to be happy for Peter because he hit the goals he set out to hit, he won the stage most suited to him and took yellow so one cannot be anything but happy for him. On the other side of the coin we’re depressed for want of a better word over what happened to Alberto. He had another crash and lost a big amount of time to the other GC contenders. It’s far from ideal on that front," he says. "But the show must go on. Alberto's a fighter. He's not going to throw in the towel. It's a long way to Paris."

 

The deposed maillot jaune Mark Cavendish battled gamely to hold his overall lead, even if he knew he was fighting a losing battle. "It was super nice. Steve Cummings rode incredible on the front," he says. "We knew it was going to be hard for me to keep it but we thought why not give it a go. So that’s that. It’s not often I’m on the turbo after a stage so it shows I went a little bit deeper than I wanted to today. I’ve lost too much time to take back yellow but I’d like to wear green for a little bit. There’s a chance because the first week is a bit flatter, so it’s a while before Peter goes and gets all those 20-pointers in the intermediates in the mountains. But we’re happy to have worn the yellow.

 

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) lost 11 seconds but will be glad to be a day closer to the mountains.

 

A reminder of the day's result:

1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team 04:02:51
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
4 Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx - Quick-Step
5 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange
6 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
7 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal
8 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
9 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
10 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky

 

General classification after stage 2:
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team 08:34:42
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step 00:00:08
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 00:00:10
4 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin 00:00:14
5 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky
6 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
7 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team
8 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff Team
9 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-BikeExchange
10 Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx - Quick-Step

 

We can also confirm that all 198 riders made it to the finish today, including Michael Morkov and Sam Bennett, who were dropped in the final 50 kilometres, still feeling the effects of their heavy falls in the final kilometre yesterday. Morkov came home 197th on the day, 13:39 behind, while Bennett crossed the line 16:23 down on Sagan. They battle on to fight another day at the Tour de France.

 

Thanks for joining our live coverage this afternoon. A full report, results and pictures will follow here. We'll be back with more live coverage tomorrow from stage 3, but in the meantime, you will be able to read all the news and reaction from Cherbourg on Cyclingnews.

 

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