The 2nd stage of the Tour de France saw the World Champion, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), take both the stage and yellow jersey honours just as Mark Cavendish had done yesterday. Julien Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quickstep) placed 2nd and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was 3rd on the stage.
For Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka it was a magical day, taking the start in Saint-Lo as the leaders of the Tour de France thanks to Cavendish’s terrific victory on stage 1. With the yellow jersey in our African Team camp, the crowds flocked to the Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka bus, just to catch a glimpse of our Manxman before the 183km stage got underway.
Even though the rain fell quite consistently at the stage start, the yellow jersey shone brightly at the front of the peloton as our African Team took its place at the head of affairs from kilometer zero. 4 riders, Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Vegard Breen (Fortuneo), Paul Voss and Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon18) got the early jump on the pack and our African Team were happy to let them go 6’30” up the road.
With Cavendish protected up at the head of the peloton, Steve Cummings, Daniel Teklehaimanot and Natnael Berhane set a constant tempo for the majority of the stage. Cumming’s showed his strength by controlling proceedings for close on 100km all by himself. With a number of stage favourites in a variety of teams, some assistance was expected but it wasn’t until 30km to go when eventually BMC Racing came to the fore.
As the lead group made its way toward Cherbourg, Benedetti was dropped and the peloton began to slowly close the 3’35” gap to the 3 leaders. At the 10km to go marker, there was an unclassified climb that would put an end to Voss and Breen’s hopes but Stuyven pushed on. The final 3km saw a constant rise to the finish and this is where the final showdown would take place. Stuyven began the final climb with a minute advantage but it would prove to not be enough. Tinkoff put in a big acceleration to close the gap and set up Sagan for victory.
As expected, the climb saw Cavendish being distanced resulting in the yellow jersey being relinquished to Sagan. That took nothing away from a historical day, where for the first team ever, an African Team held the Tour de France yellow jersey. Initially, we had hopes of Edvald Boasson Hagen contesting for the stage win today too, but after the Norwegian’s crash yesterday, he wasn’t able to follow the front runners up to Cherbourg. Serge Pauwels would be our African Team’s best placed rider on the stage in the end, finishing in 38th, 17 seconds off the pace.
Rolf Aldag – Head of Performance
We won the yellow jersey yesterday and it was a great team effort. It was an impressive victory of Mark. Today the plan was to show respect to the yellow jersey, if you have it you have to ride and defend it. We wanted an early breakaway and then to stay in control of the race. Four guys got away and they got more time than what we were hoping for because they had a really strong ride. We committed Steve Cummings and he did a brilliant job and then we asked other riders to join in and keep it controlled. We knew in the final there would be big time gaps. Edvald was our guy and he really made it quite far, Cavendish was trying to hold on as long as he could. It worked out until 2km to go and then Mark paid for his efforts, he was on the limit. Edvald crashed yesterday at 65km/h so we had our doubts if he would be healthy enough. He has the shape, he proved it at nationals but that big hit he took yesterday just took away that 2% he needed to be present at the end.