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Tour de France 2017: Stage 2

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Stage 2 of the Tour de France travels from Germany to Belgium, Düsseldorf to Liege. A mass sprint is expected at the finish.

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Good morning and welcome back to our live coverage of the Tour de France. The race starts in about an hour, so we have plenty of time to bring you up to date on everything.

We have a long stage today, 203 km from Düsseldorf to Liege. There are two cat. 4 climbs, one near the start and one near the end, so the KOM jersey will be awarded this afternoon.

Once the stage reaches the Aachen area near the German-Belgian border, the course becomes significantly rolling. However, we still expect to see a bunch sprint at the end, as the sprinters grab their chance for glory. It seems unlikely though that the yellow jersey will change shoulders.

There were of course many crashes on the wet course yesterday. Most seriously injured, and out of the race, are Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Ion Izagirre (Bahrain Merida). Valverde suffered a fractured kneecap and talus, already having undergone surgery on the former. Izagirre suffered an “unstable lumbar fracture” and will require surgery.

The first climb of this year's Tour comes very early on today, the not-so-treacherous Cote de Grafenberg. It is cat. 4, and is 1.4km long with an average gradient of 4.5%. We nevertheless expect it to be hotly contested.

Here the top ten in yesterday's stage and also the first GC:

Dimension Data reports that their bikes have been checked for motors, and have all been declared clean and "are now ready to rock today's stage!"

In case you missed it ..... yesterday Geraint Thomas surprised everyone by taking the win in the opening time trial. You can read all about it here. 

Our reporters are at the start in Dusseldorf as the riders line-up for the start.

This Geraint Thomas' Pinarello F10 for his day in yellow.

Here's Team Sky's Luke Rowe on the sign-on podium.

Geraint Thomas also has a yellow Kask helmet to go with his yellow jersey.

It will be a special day for Oliver Naesen of AG2R as the Tour de France nenters Belgium. He wears the Belgian national champion's jersey.

Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) and World ITT champion, had hoped to claim the win yesterday as a German in the first German Tour start in 30 years. It wasn't to be.

Orica Scott has tweeted that Durbridge "has been monitored overnight & been through a test this morning. He will start today & continue to be monitored."

The race starts today with a neutralized ride through Düsseldorf as of 12:03. The sharp start is at 12:30.

A number of riders will be using disc brakes today, but only one rider used double disc brakes in yesterday's time trial, an historic first. You can read about Alberto Bettiol's Cannondale Super Slice bike (complete with pizza sticker.....)

Before the start, Tony Martin says he has put yesterday behind him and is looking forward to today and the upcoming stages.

And they are off to the neutralized start. On cobblestones and fortunately it is dry.

Huge crowds here in downtown Düsseldorf.

The race today goes by a large stripmine, which is extremely controversial. Protests are expected, although the protesters have said their goal is not to disrupt the race. 

Thomas and Küng having a nice chat at the front of the race.

Local German radio is reporting total traffic chaos, as many towns along the way are also hosting festivals to celebrate the Tour. And huge crowds!

Things have come to a start as we are no doubt expecting speeches or something of the sort.

A ceremonial snipping of a ribbon, a band is playing, "Ode to Joy"

And now the French national anthem is being sung. 

Followed naturally by the German anthem.

About 90 percent of the peloton is still sitting on a bridge. Let's hope that makes none of them nervous.

Off they go again. The peloton that is, not the musicians.

There were, of course, two riders not at the start today: Valverde and Izagirre. We wish them both speedy recoveries.

Orica Scott has two captains here, Chaves and Simon Yates. The former lost a minute to Froome in the time trial, but Yates took his chances in the rain.He finished only 25 seconds behind Froome.

WE have the sharp start! And they are taking off! Remember, we have our first mountain ranking momentarily.

Three riders have jumped away, with one more following. Now to get the names.....

Cannondale's Taylor Phinney is one of those in the break group. The others are Bardet, Offredo and Pichon.

The four have 1:35 already and are on their way up the climb.

Phinney attacks and claims the first mountain points of the TdF!

6km remaining from 203km

The four are: Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie), Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo-Oscaro), Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac), and Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Gobert).

Today's stage twists and turns around Dusseldorf before heading to Belgium.

The break continues to slowly extend its lead. It is up to 3:25 now.

Quick-Step Floors and Lotto Soudal have placed one rider on the front to chase the attack. Team Sky is lined out behind them to protect Thomas and Froome.

Team Sky also has Vasil Kiryienka in the green jersey today, while Stefan Kung (BMC) wears the best young rider's white jersey.

Our tech guys spotted several guys riding disk brake bikes today, including Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) and Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb). They ride Specialized and Giant bikes respectively.

This is Matthew's new Giant Propel disc aero bike.

Mark Cavendish's Dimension Data team has also placed a rider up front to help control the break of the day.

Mark Cavendish is hoping to be lucky in the sprint and use his limited form to land a result.

The Orica-Scott team has confirmed that Luke Durbridge has been forced to abandon the Tour due to his injuries he suffered in the time trial.

The Australian crashed hard and injured his ankle. He tried to start the stage but stopped at the side of the road after 25km.

Taylor Phinney made his intentions clear by going in the break today and then winnnig the first sprint to the summit of the categorised climb.

Marcel Kittel suffers a flat and his wheel change is a little slower than usual because he's using disk brakes.

165km remaining from 203km

Live television zooms in on Kittel's disc brakes. It will be interesting to see how other riders react to him and other riders using disks.

Nacer Bouhanni has dropped back to his Cofidis team car to drop off his jacket.

The riders are back near Dusseldorf after covering a loop around the city to visit Neandertal, where the first ever remains of a Homo neanderthalensis were found.

Indeed the crowds are huge along the stage route. The Germans seem to love cycling and love the Tour de France again after a decade of indiffierence due to the doping scandals involving Jan Ullrich and other riders.

The break went clear virtually unopposed but the average speed has been high and at 44.6km/h for the first hour.

Rumour has it that Elia Viviani will be leaving Sky in a rare mid-season transfer and moving to UAE Emirates. 

It looks as if all of Germany is out watching this race! 

145km remaining from 203km

You will remember that Offredo was attacked during training this spring, beaten with baseball bats. 

The gap is under three minutes now, at 2:46.

Sorry to see some raindrops on the race.... we had enough of those yesterday!

John Degenkolb told letour.fr: “It was fantastic to start the Tour in Germany. It's the chance of a lifetime and something I'll keep with me a long time. I'm here to support Alberto [Contador], not to do sprints. I haven't had a sprinting season so I don't have sprinting ambitions this year. It's a long three weeks so if a chance comes ups I'll seize it.”

The race has left the industrial and harbour area of Neuss and moved into downtown, where you wil be surprised to learn, there are large crowds.

136km remaining from 203km

No one team is leading the peloton. There are a variety of teams up front.

It is looking wet again, as the intermediate sprint will come in about 20 km.

The field goes around a traffic circle. We have a lot of those here in Germany.  A whole lot of them.....

They re entering Korschenbroich. Jan Ullrich, who was not officially invited to the race, is said to be here.

It is definitely raining again and the road is wet.

There are a lot of points up for grabs at the intermediate sprint. The first 15 riders will all get points!

122km remaining from 203km

1 km to the sprint! In the pouring rain!

Phinney is the first to jump for the sprint points, but Boudat jumps as well and it looks like he got them.

The speed in the field has picked up.

QUickStep, Sunweb, Katusha all have their trains going.....

Sagan in the imx too. But it looks like Kristoff took 5th place.

Offhand we would say it was Kristoff ahead of Colbrelli and Matthews.

Welcome to Mönchengladbach, famous for its football team, Borussia Mönchengladbach.

So far no official confirmation on the intermediate sprint.

The peloton is learning that 'Gladbach is not an entirely flat city.

Now confirmed, the first 4 at the sprint were, in order;: Boudat, Phinney, Pichon, Offredo.

And the next 11 were: Kristoff, Colbrelli, Matthews, Demar, Sagan, Kittel, Greipel, Cavendish, Swift, Zabel and Teunissen.

The riders are appoaching the large Rheinkohle strip mine. Protesters will be along the road, but have said they will not interfere with the race.

A field of "Windräder" -- wind energy is very popular here, although not with everyone. ANd sadly the rain is continuing.

102km remaining from 203km

Ion Izagirre's departure from the Tour yesterday was a crushing blow for Bahrain-Merida, as he was their GC candidate. He will probably need surgery on his lumbar fracture. 

The Cannondale team car and Phinney seem to be trying to arrange a rendezvous, but the road is particularly curvy at the moment.

No fans at this point, in an agricultural area. A number of riders are taking advantage of that to pull over for a nature break.

Good news, the rain looks to have stopped!

The riders in the peloton are enyoing a late lunch after passing through the feed zone with 86km to go. 

The race is passing through some open fields at the moment but there is not enough wind to spark echelons and splits in the peloton.

The race is passing the Citadelle de Julich. We have it on good knowledge that it is the area where former rider Bobby Julich's family orginates from.  

The riders are still in Germany but are close to border with Belgium. The race enters Belgium with 55km to go. Thanks to the European Union and the Schengen agreement, there are no real borders between the two countries. The riders will cross the border wihtout really noticing.

This is the view from the race director car thanks to a tweet from the voice of race radio Seb Piquet.

69km remaining from 203km

Each of the sprinter's teams have a rider helping with the chase on the front of the peloton.

The finale of today's stage some of the rollnig roads in the Belgian Ardennes but avoids the steeper cotes that are covered in Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

The final official climb of the stage is the Côte d'Olne, with 20km to go.

It is followed by a flat and fast run in to the centre of Liege.

There are a few bends in the road during the final six kilometres but the final kilometre is totally straight.

Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac), Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie), Laurent Pichon (Team Fortuneo - Oscaro) and Yoann Offredo (Wanty - Groupe Gobert) have held off the peloton all day but they can't escape the rain. It's pouring again at the moment.

57km remaining from 203km

To understand how the roads tesits and turns before the finish, check out our special fly over stage preview videos. 

The break and the peloton are being extra cautious in the rain as they pass through Aix-la-Chapelle on a cobbled street.

Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) and Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) are at the back of the peloton. Both like to avoid any crashes up front by staying out of trouble. 

The Tour de France dominates  July but there is other racing going on at the moment and we have the first update on the Giro Rosa and the Tour of Austria.

At the Giro Rosa Hannah Barnes (Canyon SRAM) won stage 3 to San Vendiamo in the northern east of Italy. She beat Lotta Lepistö (Cervelo-Bigla) and Kirsten Wild (Cylance).

In Austria the Astana team finished first and seocnd with Oscat Gatto and Angel Lopez in the unusual 800m long prologue time trial in Graz.

Indeed the Tour de France riders are getting soaked at the moment. Riders have heavy rain capes on but are getting covered from water coming up from the wheels.

39km remaining from 203km

The Belgian police rightly dragged a fan from the road after he tried to take a selfie near the peloton.

It will be interesting to see what Trek-Segafredo sprinter Jon Degenkolb can and will want to do today in the sprint.

Today's L'Equipe newspaper has selected 11 sprinters that are exprcted to fight for victory in the sprint. 

Back in the race, the rain has eased slightly but the pace is getting higher and higher. The gap to the break is down to 38 seconds.

Crash!!

Lots of Sky riders are down.

Cofidis riders involved too. UAE and LottoNL.

Romain Baedet needs a bike change but is not panicking. There is time to chase.

It seems that Froome waas caught up in the crash. He is being lead back to the peloton by several teammates.

Froome has a hole in his shorts. He must have crashed.

A reply shows that a Katusha rider, in third place at the front of the peloton, slid out at a junction. All the others, including riders from Sky, went down too on the soaked roads.

AG2R is also chasing to bring Bardet back up. Other riders are with them. 

The first big crash happened at speed with 29km to go.

The peloton is not gonig flat out, allowing the chasers to close the gap. 

The Froome/Bardet chase group is about to catch the tail of the peloton.

Fortunately all the riders are back on their bieks and chasing. That crash could have been much worse considering the speed and they way they hit some road furniture.

Froome is off the back again after changing bikes. He will now have to chase again with two teammates.

He perhaps took a teammates bike after the crash and so took to his own spare bike from the team car.

Knees and Kwiatkowski are with Froome but he is in the cars and about 30 seconds down on the front of the peloton.

Meanwhile the break is on the final climb. They're fighting for the climber's points.

Phinney and Laurent Pichon (Team Fortuneo - Oscaro) fought for the single point but Phinney got it.

20km remaining from 203km

The peloton is taking the descent carefully. However Froome is back on after his brief chase.

The riders are scared of slipping out on the wet bends.

Yoann Offredo (Wanty - Groupe Gobert) has joined Phinney up front. They were the two strongest riders in the four-rider break.

After the descent the peloton is getting organised again. however some riders have fallen out of the back and are easing up to avoid any risks. 

Now Pinot jumps away to chase back up to the peloton.

13km remaining from 203km

This is a screen grab of the crash from the FDJ team. It was chaos for a moment.

10km remaining from 203km

Team Sky is back up front, protecting both Fromoe and yellow jersey Thomas.

7km remaining from 203km

Adam Hansen tries to lift the pace for Lotto Soudal.

5km remaining from 203km

Quick-Step hits the front now to chase for Kittel. 

Phinney could even take the yellow jersey today.

Phinney lsot 17 seconds to Thomas yesterday but there's a 10-second time bonus for the stage winner.

2km remaining from 203km

But its down to 8 seconds. The peloton can see them.

Phinney is giving it everything but they are surely going to get swept up.

An underapass proves fatal for Phinney and Offredo.  The peloton catches them with 1km to go.

Sprint!!!!

Sagan is there.

Sagan leads it out.

Kittel comes up late but wins it!

Sabatini dragged him up late and then celebrated as he saw his team leader hit the line first.

It is Kittel's 10th stage win at the Tour.

Kittel is emotional after his win, shedding tear as he realises hes has won.  He gets up and celebrates with his Quick-Step teammates. 

Deamre finished second in the sprint, with Mark Cavendish third.

Kittel won using a disc-brakes. He's the first Tour de France winner on discs.

This is the top ten for the stage:

Groenewegen was fourth and Colbrelli was fifth. 

Geraint Thomas keeps the yellow jersey.

Fabio Aru is listed as ninth but that does not seem correct.

In the GC, Kittel moves up to second overall behind Thomas at six seconds.

On the podium Kittel celebrates his tenth Tour stage win. He's happy to have won after riding on German roads.

Thomas is now on the podium and pulls on his second yellow jersey.

There is a slight correction to the result. Cavendish finished fourth with Greipel up to third.

Kittel also takes the green points jersey after his win and nnith place in the opening TT on Saturday.

Now Taylor Phinney is on the podium and pulls on the polka-dot jersey and beams a big smile.

Kittle spoke briefly about his win before climbing on the podium. 

Here's the first photo of Kittle winning the sprint in Liege.

Kittel let out a roar after hitting the line first.

He then celebrated with his teammates.

Kittel expalined that he was emotional due to the sheer relief of winning.

Kittel came from behind to win. He managed to get on Colbrelli's wheel as the Italian went early and then he got a clear run to the line at the right moment as other sprinters were blocked in behind.

This great shots shows how Kittel dominated the sprint and left everyone else fighting for the placings.

As his Quick-Step Floors team pointed out on social media, Kittel made history by being the first rider to win a stage at the Tour de France using disc brakes on his bike.  

This shot shows Kittel's joy and the disappointment of Demare and Griepel. There is only one big winner in the sprints.

Official results were slow today but there was no doubt that Thomas ket the yellow jersey for another day.