Tour de France: Julian Alaphilippe wins stage 2

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) kept his appointment with the Tour de France when he claimed a stage victory and the yellow jersey by out-sprinting Marc Hirschi (Sunweb) and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) at the end of a breathless stage 2 in Nice.

 The stage brought the Tour into the high Alps with ascents of La Colmiane and the Col de Turini, but the day’s main action unfolded in the hills behind Nice. Just like on the road to Épernay on last year’s Tour, Alaphilippe was expected to be active in the finale here, and he reported for duty with a rasping acceleration on the ascent of the Col des Quatre Chemins with a shade over 13km remaining.

 The former world under-23 champion, Hirschi, had been touted by some as an outsider for the day’s stage and he lived up to that billing by forging across to Alaphilippe shortly afterwards, while Yates produced a smooth acceleration with 11km to go to bridge a 10-second gap to the two leaders.

 Yates even denied Alaphilippe the maximum 8 bonus seconds at the summit with 9km to go, but the trio collaborated smoothly on the descent that followed, extending their lead from 14 seconds over a very reduced peloton to 24 by the time they reached the final 5km.

In champagne country a year ago, Alaphilippe had attacked with such ferocity that he soloed clear of the entire peloton. This time out he was initially glad of the company given the block headwind in the run-in, though a cagy game of cat-and-mouse among the leaders almost saw their good work go to waste in the final kilometre.

 After losing out to Wout van Aert further down along the Riviera in San Remo three weeks ago, Alaphilippe was loath to let the opportunity pass him by here, and he nervelessly manoeuvred Yates to the front on the Promenade des Anglais, refusing to blink even as the Briton slowed almost to walking pace and the chasers closed rapidly from behind.

 With 200 metres to go, Alaphilippe finally lifted himself from the saddle, straining every sinew as he opened his effort. Hirschi reacted well but the Swiss rider couldn’t quite overhaul the Frenchman. A tearful Alaphilippe dedicated his victory to his late father Jo, who died in June.

 “It’s always a special emotion to win on the Tour but this is a special year. I haven't won a race since the beginning of the season, although I've always continued to work hard despite the difficult moments,” Alaphilippe said. 

“I just wanted to dedicate this victory to my dad. It meant a lot to me and I'm happy I did it.”

A select chasing group of 32 riders came in just two seconds down on Alaphilippe, with Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) pipping Sergio Higuita (EF Pro Cycling) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) to 4th place.

 Despite crashing on the final ascent after touching wheels with Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos), Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma) came home safely in that group among the principal overall contenders, though Critérium du Dauphiné winner Dani Martínez (EF Pro Cycling) was less fortunate after his crash on the descent of the preceding Col d’Èze, Although he latched back on initially, he was distanced once the road climbed again and he came home 3:38 down.

In the overall standings, Alaphilippe holds a lead of 4 seconds over Yates with Hirschi a further 3 seconds back in third, while Higuita and the other GC contenders are 17 seconds behind the Frenchman.

As anticipated, overnight leader Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) was distanced on the Col de Turini, and he came in more than half an hour down on the new wearer of the maillot jaune.

It remains to be seen if Alaphilippe can replicate the remarkable resilience of the 2019 Tour, when he wore yellow into the final Friday of the race and finished 5th overall in Paris. In a Tour that might not even make it to the Champs-Élysées, of course, he was understandably focused on the here and now.

 “I had asked the team to toughen up the final and that's what we did,” Alaphilippe said. “When I made my effort, I didn't ask myself any questions, I just gave everything I had. I had nothing to lose. Afterwards, they tried to play a little bit with my nerves but before that, Adam Yates collaborated well."

 When it was put to Alaphilippe that he had been a marked man in the finale, he simply shrugged. “I’m used to it,” he said. He is used to leading the Tour, too.   

 How it unfolded

The Tour de France consists of multiple races within a race, and several quickly sharpened into focus after the flag dropped outside Nice. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), one of the walking wounded from Saturday’s opening stage, was jettisoned out the back of the bunch as soon as the speed rose and he found himself in the lonesome endeavour of racing simply to stay in the race.

At the other end of a stretched field, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was busy infiltrating the early break in a bid to pick up maximum points at the intermediate sprint. He has been largely in a race of his own for the green jersey since 2012 but Matteo Trentin (CCC) is among those hoping to muscle in on his terrain this year, and the Italian duly pipped at Lac du Broc after 16km before sitting up.

Sagan and the rest of the escapees did not relent, however, and a fluid race soon hardened into a firmer shape, with the Slovak joined off the front by teammate Lukas Pöstlberger as well as Benoît Cosnefroy (AG2R-La Mondiale), Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo), Anthony Perez (Cofidis) and Michael Gogl (NTT).

They would establish a lead of three minutes on the category 1 Col de la Colmiane, where another race within a race ignited near the summit, as Cosnefroy stole away to pick up the king of the mountains points. Further down the road, meanwhile, the Tour’s incongruously early passage into the Alps saw riders distanced from the peloton, though not definitively, and men like the yellow jersey Kristoff latched back on over the other side.

Sagan would eventually bid farewell to the head of the race on the following Col de Turini, where Cosnefroy, too, betrayed signs of suffering, but the Frenchman gamely battled his way back on before the summit, where Perez took maximum points.

By then, the escapees had just 1:30 on a peloton where Jumbo-Visma had begun to take a controlling interest and where Kristoff had sat up and formally resigned himself to the inevitable. The Tour’s early entry into the high mountains meant he was always destined to be an ephemeral maillot jaune.

The sharp hairpins on the descent of the Turini had been grounds for considerable concern ahead of the stage, though mercifully the peloton negotiated the cascade of corners without incident, save for a mechanical issue for Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), though the Slovenian quickly rejoined the fray.

With 50km remaining, the six leaders still had 1:15 in hand on a bunch but that gap melted to nothing in the space of 10km as Jumbo-Visma upped the tempo on the approach to the Col d’Èze. Once on the climb, the efforts of Dries Devenyns (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma) whittled the bunch down to just 50 or so riders, but the intensity of their pace-making discouraged any attacks from distance.

The deadlock was broken only when Alaphilippe surged clear on the final ascent of the Col des Quatre Chemins. Egan Bernal, Primoz Roglic, Thibaut Pinot et al kept their powder dry behind, though it is unclear how Jumbo-Visma’s plans were altered by Dumoulin’s nervous fall on the ascent. The Dutchman quickly regained his place, but, for now at least, Alaphilippe is out on his own.

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Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-Quickstep 4:55:27
2Marc Hirschi (Swi) Team Sunweb
3Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott 0:00:01
4Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team 0:00:02
5Sergio Andres Higuita Garcia (Col) EF Pro Cycling
6Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
7Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
8Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
9Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
10Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Pro Cycling
11Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis
12Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott
13Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain McLaren
14Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
15Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R la Mondiale
16Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Col) Astana Pro Team
17Egan Arley Bernal Gomez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers
18Nairo Quintana (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic
19Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis
20Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers
21Pierre Rolland (Fra) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept
22Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma
23Kenny Elissonde (Fra) Trek-Segafredo
24Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sunweb
25Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar Team
26Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
27Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Bahrain McLaren
28Pello Bilbao (Spa) Bahrain McLaren
29Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
30Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R la Mondiale
31Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma
32Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Pro Cycling
33Davide Formolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
34Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo
35Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
36Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team
37Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana Pro Team 0:00:19
38Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers 0:01:04
39Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:12
40Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) NTT Pro Cycling 0:01:16
41George Bennett (NZl) Team Jumbo-Visma
42Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:02:09
43Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
44Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
45Sepp Kuss (USA) Team Jumbo-Visma
46Wout van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma
47Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Pro Cycling 0:03:38
48Daniel Felipe Martinez Poveda (Col) EF Pro Cycling
49Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R la Mondiale
50Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis 0:04:25
51Harold Alfonso Tejada Canacue (Col) Astana Pro Team
52Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) CCC Team
53Romain Sicard (Fra) Total Direct Energie
54Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spa) Mitchelton-Scott
55Ion Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Astana Pro Team
56Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
57Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo 0:05:35
58Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Start-Up Nation 0:07:02
59Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Ineos Grenadiers
60Bob Jungels (Lux) Deceuninck-Quickstep
61Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R la Mondiale
62Winner Anacona (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic
63Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team 0:08:41
64Robert Gesink (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma
65Niklas Eg (Den) Trek-Segafredo
66Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Arkea-Samsic 0:09:55
67Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates 0:09:57
68Cyril Gautier (Fra) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept 0:10:19
69Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo
70Ben Hermans (Bel) Israel Start-Up Nation
71Lennard Kämna (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
72Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
73Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
74Dario Cataldo (Ita) Movistar Team
75Clement Venturini (Fra) AG2R la Mondiale 0:12:43
76Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Movistar Team 0:13:52
77Neilson Powless (USA) EF Pro Cycling
78Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb
79Dries Devenyns (Bel) Deceuninck-Quickstep 0:14:33
80Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-Quickstep 0:17:45
81Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R la Mondiale
82Connor Swift (GBr) Team Arkea-Samsic
83Nils Politt (Ger) Israel Start-Up Nation
84Dayer Quintana (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic
85Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ
86Nans Peters (Fra) AG2R la Mondiale
87Michael Schär (Swi) CCC Team
88Roman Kreuziger (Cze) NTT Pro Cycling
89José Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team
90Simon Geschke (Ger) CCC Team
91Quentin Pacher (Fra) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept
92Benoit Cosnefroy (Fra) AG2R la Mondiale
93Jonas Koch (Ger) CCC Team
94Anthony Perez (Fra) Cofidis
95Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
96David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
97Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Team Sunweb
98Omar Fraile Matarranz (Spa) Astana Pro Team
99Tejay Van Garderen (USA) EF Pro Cycling
100Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation
101Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Nor) Team Jumbo-Visma
102Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) NTT Pro Cycling
103Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
104Tim Declercq (Bel) Deceuninck-Quickstep
105Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers
106Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
107Michael Gogl (Aut) NTT Pro Cycling
108Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
109Tony Martin (Ger) Team Jumbo-Visma
110Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain McLaren
111Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) CCC Team
112Jan Hirt (Cze) CCC Team 0:17:51
113Michael Valgren (Den) NTT Pro Cycling 0:20:42
114Matteo Trentin (Ita) CCC Team
115Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain McLaren
116Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott
117Guy Niv (Isr) Israel Start-Up Nation
118Jens Keukeleire (Bel) EF Pro Cycling
119Kevin Ledanois (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic
120Jack Bauer (NZl) Mitchelton-Scott
121Pierre Luc Perichon (Fra) Cofidis
122Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Mitchelton-Scott
123Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel Start-Up Nation 0:21:38
124Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
125Cyril Barthe (Fra) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept
126Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned) Team Sunweb
127Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team
128Hugo Houle (Can) Astana Pro Team
129Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain McLaren 0:25:47
130Pavel Sivakov (Rus) Ineos Grenadiers 0:28:15
131Elia Viviani (Ita) Cofidis
132Jens Debusschere (Bel) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept
133Rémi Cavagna (Fra) Deceuninck-Quickstep
134Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Israel Start-Up Nation
135Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) Total Direct Energie
136Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
137Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
138Marco Marcato (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
139Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott
140Marco Haller (Aut) Bahrain McLaren
141Maxime Chevalier (Fra) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept
142Anthony Turgis (Fra) Total Direct Energie
143Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Total Direct Energie
144Andrey Amador (CRc) Ineos Grenadiers
145Casper Phillip Pedersen (Den) Team Sunweb
146Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo
147Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
148Luke Rowe (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
149Michael Mørkøv (Den) Deceuninck-Quickstep
150Ryan Gibbons (RSA) NTT Pro Cycling 0:28:55