Bakelants Soloes to Stage Win, Yellow Jersey
After yesterday’s chaotic finish, Stage 2 began and ended without confusion. Surprisingly, everyone started, including Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), who suffered a concussion, among other injuries, at the tail end of Stage 1. Sunshine and warmth greeted the riders, and hostilities began at the gun. By six km, the break of the day had formed. David Veilleux (Europcar) attacked, and Blel Kadri (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Ruben Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Lars Boom (Belkin) joined him. Within an hour, the quartet had forged a three-minute lead, at which point the sprinters’ teams began to chase.
At the base of the day’s first climb, the Category 3 Col de Bellagranajo, the break led the bunch by 1:50 while Katusha, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, and Lotto-Belisol pursued. Veilleux attacked his companions twice but could not shake them. Boom led Perez over the summit with the Garmin- and Sky-led peloton 1:00 in arrears.
At 80 km, on the Category 3 Col de la Serra, Veilleux attacked again, and Kadri joined him. Behind, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) attacked from the peloton, but the bunch, led by Francaise des Jeux, reeled in him and Veilleux. The acceleration dropped yellow jersey Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), who admits that he is no climber. The German would lose more than 17 minutes by day’s end, but he would don the points jersey.
On the Category 2 Col de Vizzavona, Pierre Rolland (Europcar) attacked, and Romain Feillu (Sojasun) chased him. Ahead, Kadri suffered a mechanical. Near the summit, Sky took over at the front, and the bunch reeled in Rolland with 46 km to go.
Sky, BMC, Sojasun, RadioShack-Leopard, and Cannondale led the peloton. At the base of the day’s final climb, the Category 3 Cote du Salario, Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) attacked. He was reeled in, but Cyril Gautier (Europcar) countered, and Chris Froome (Sky) set out after the Frenchman. At the summit, Gautier led Froome by 0:06. The peloton caught Froome. Gautier held out until seven km remained.
Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) countered, and Bakelants, Flecha, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Manuele Mori (Lampre-Merida), and Gorka Izaguirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) joined him. The sextet built a 0:10 lead and led by that much with three km left. Cannondale, Garmin-Sharp, and Sojasun attempted to catch the escapees, and at one point riders had to swerve to avoid a dog that ran onto the course.
With two km to go, the bunch was gaining on the break. Bakelants realized that it was then or never. He jumped away from his companions, whom the peloton reeled in. The bunch gained on the Belgian, but he held on for the win, his first after five years as a professional.
Bakelants willed himself to the finish line ahead of the bunch, as he realized that he would probably take the stage and the yellow jersey. “I see in the final that it’s going to happen, and I knew I would probably take this yellow jersey,” Bakelants said. “Maybe it will be the first and the last time in my career, but today I wear it. I saw in the last 500 m that I still had a gap, and I told myself, ‘Come on, hold this. It’s going to be the nicest day of your life.’ And then I did it.
“Coming in the last 10 km we were quite a big group, and I cannot win in a sprint. I had to gamble and go. When we were six in the finale, I knew if everybody gave 100 percent that it was possible to go to the finish. It felt so easy in the break, and every time I went to the front, I felt like I rode faster than the other guys. I don’t know, maybe I was just stronger than the others. In the end, I was thinking, ‘Come on! Are we going to ride and be the first six riders, or are we just going to wait for the bunch to come back and see another win of Sagan?’ I kept the gap, and in the radio they were shouting for me to go. I was pushing my 11, and it didn’t look good but I went fast. I just kept pushing the pedals. And when I looked back and saw that I had it, I said, ‘I’m going to win! I’m going to win a stage in the Tour de France!’ I’ve had to wait five years, but what a victory! It’s hard to believe, but it’s the second day of the Tour, so now our nerves are settled. It’s incredible.”
In the overall, Bakelants leads Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) by 0:01. Stage 3 might change the standings again. The hilly, 145.5-km ride from Ajaccio to Calvi will feature a Category 4 climb, two Category 3s, and a Category 2, with the riders breasting the last of these 13.5 km from the finish. A small group of escapees will probably fight for the win and maybe the yellow jersey. Who will be in the group? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
Check in at www.roadcycling.com for daily reports on the Tour de France and follow Roadcycling.com on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Help us spread the word about RoadCycling.com by sharing links to our articles and by linking to RoadCycling.com from your Web site or blog.