Lafay wins stage 2 of Tour de France
Sunday’s stage 2 of Tour de France 2023 was a 208.9-kilometer journey on a hilly and challenging route from Vitoria-Gasteiz to Saint-Sebastien. The route featured the famous Jaizkibel climb known from San Sebastian Classic, though this time the mountain would be climbed from the opposite side than in Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa. In addition to the Category 2 Jaikibel, the route featured the Category 4 climbs Cote d’Aztiria and Cote de Gurutze as well as the Category 3 climbs of Col d’Udana and Cote d’Alkiza.
Vitoria-Gasteiz was last visited by the Tour in 1977 and is known for the Santa Maria Cathedral, the Basque Museum of Modern Art and the Anana salt valley.
San Sebastian is hosting a Tour de France stage for the fourth time in its history. In 1992, Miguel Indurain won the Tour de France prologue in San Sebastian. San Sebastian is known for its cuisine, its international film festival, the Real Sociedad soccer team, the beautiful Victoria Eugenia Theatre from the belle epoque, the baroque Basilica de Santa Maria del Coro, and the architectonically pleasing Plaza de la Constitucion.
Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost) did not start today’s stage. Carapaz was forced to abandon the Tour de France following a crash in yesterday’s stage 1. Though Carapaz bravely soldiered on to the finish line, an x-ray yesterday evening revealed a fractured patella.
The hostilities started early following the start of today’s stage 2. Riders such as Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies), Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost), Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates), Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos-Grenadiers), and Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) were the first to attempt to form a viable breakaway group, but despite their powerful attempt, Jumbo-Visma neutralized their small advantage.
Eventually a smaller group featuring three riders established a breakaway, hoping to eventually take a beautiful victory in today’s stage 2 of this year’s Tour de France. The trio included Remi Cavagna (Soudal-QuickStep), Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost), and TotalEnergies’ Edvald Boasson Hagen. The group quickly built an advantage of more than three minutes over the chasing main peloton led by UAE Team Emirates. With 135 kilometers left, the trio had increased its lead to five minutes.
On the Cote d’Alkiza (Category 3) UAE Team Emirates were working hard at the front of the peloton to reduce the advantage of the front trio. The trio was turned into a duo when Cavagna was dropped on the climb as a result of accelerations from Powless, who was chasing points for the best climber classification and aiming for the stage victory.
Mikkel Bjerg was pulling the peloton at a fast pace and the advantage of the front duo was now down to two minutes with two kilometers left of the climb and seventy kilometers left of today’s stage.
UAE Team Emirates were still keeping the breakaway duo on a tight leash with 37.5 kilometers left of the stage. Their advantage was still two minutes as the duo were trying their luck on the Cote de Gurutze.
As the front duo progressed up the Cote de Gurutze, Powless increased his speed, which caused Boasson Hagen to be dropped. Powless was now continuing solo, while a crash involving defending Tour de France Champion Jonas Vingegaard (Team Jumbo-Visma) and Ben O’Connor (AG2R-Citroen) occurred in the peloton. Vingegaard quickly got back on his bike and carried on his defense of the Tour title.
As Powless approached the Jaizkibel climb, the peloton was chasing him furiously, headed by Jumbo-Visma and Uno-X Pro Cycling Team. His advantage was still 01:45 minutes though. Unfortunately for Powless, the UAE team proved very strong on the Jaizkibel and Powless was caught with approximately two kilometers left of the climb.
Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) won the sprint across the top of the Jaizkibel climb ahead of Vingegaard and Simon Yates (Jayco-Alula). By crossing the climb first, Pogacar secured eight valuable bonus seconds, while Vingegaard had to settle for five, despite Vingegaard’s recent focus on improving his acceleration and sprinting skills.
Pogacar and Vingegaard formed a front duo on the descent and built a ten second lead. They were caught by the chasers shortly thereafter.
Bahrain-Victorious’ Pello Bilbao attacked on the descent and formed a small gap, but later he was reeled in.
Bora-Hansgrohe’s Emanuel Buchmann tried his luck with five kilometers left, but with little luck. Meanwhile, Jumbo-Visma had taken control at the front of the peloton.
Tom Pidcock (Ineos-Grenadiers) attacked with three kilometers left. Mattias Skjelmose countered for Lidl-Trek. The Jumbo-Visma riders, however, were too strong and with one kilometer left all riders were together.
Cofidis’ Victor Lafay lauched a powerful attack and no other rider was able to catch him. Lafay won stage 2. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) finished second, while Pogacar took third.
Adam Yates remains leader of the general classification. Pogacar advanced to second place, while Simon Yates dropped to third. Defending Tour Champion Vingegaard is in sixth place, eleven seconds behind Pogacar.
“It was a hard stage in changing weather conditions. I lost less time than I had feared,” defending Tour Champion Vingegaard told Roadcycling.com shortly after the finish. “We were hoping Wout (van Aert) would have won, but a rider escaped in the finishing kilometer. I chose not to help Pogacar when he attacked, because I wanted to preserve Wout’s (van Aert) chances of winning the stage. UAE looked sharp today and yesterday, so the coming three weeks will deliver good fun,” Vingegaard explained.
Monday’s stage 3 of Tour de France 2023 takes the riders on a journey into France. The stage start is in Amorebieta-Etxano and the peloton will travel 193.5 kilometers to Bayonne. The stage is in hilly terrain, but the four categorized climbs of categories 3 and 4 will be contested in the first half of the stage, which brings hope to the sprinters in the Tour peloton – a sprinter field that includes Mark Cavendish who is hoping to take his 35th Tour de France stage victory.
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