Check out the above Orica-GreenEDGE's backstage pass video for stage 2
Sunday July 5
Utrecht to Zelande
103.75 miles - 1368 ft elevation - 1 Sprint - 0 KOM
1st – Andre Greipel, Lotto Soudal - 3:29:03
2nd – Peter Sagan, Tinkoff - Saxo
3rd – Fabian Cancellara, Trek Factory Racing
General Classification – Fabian Cancellara, Trek Factory Racing
Sprint Competition – Andre Greipel, Lotto Soudal
Best Young Rider – Tom Dumoulin, Giant - Alpecin
Most Aggressive Rider - Michael Kwiatkowski, Etixx - Quick Step
Team Competition - BMC Racing Team
Stage 2 didn't promise much on paper... 103.75 mile in length, one intermediate sprint and no elevation to speak of; but add in a peloton full of fresh legs and lots of wind, and you had the recipe for a great stage.
Rohan Dennis of BMC Racing Team started the day in the yellow jersey and onboard his custom painted yellow BMC, perhaps a lot earlier than the team were hoping for? They would be under pressure from the get go to cover breaks and ensure the young Aussie finished the day as it begun. The question is, would the team be weakened from their efforts trying to hold on to the jersey, potentially damaging Tejay van Garderen's GC ambitions?
The oppressive heat of stage 1 had passed, but with thunderstorms forecast for the finish, it would have unnerved more than a few riders.
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The race begin the second the neutral car waved the flag, four riders immediately establishing the break of the day comprising of Perrig Quemeneur of Team Europcar, Jan Barta of Bora - Argon18, Stef Clement of IAM Cycling and Armindo Fonseca of Bretagne-Seche Environnement. These four were kept on a very short leash, Etixx - Quick Step going to the front very early on and signalling their intentions.
The weather began deteriorating with over 62 mile still remaining in the stage, the wind increasing and the rain falling. And just as it did, the action began. At the first sign of cross winds the big teams came to the front and forced the pace causing echelons. Tinkoff - Saxo were the first team to break up the peloton, Alberto Contador at the head of affairs shouting at his team to bring the pain.
This surge in pace resulted in the breakaways advantage plummeting down from almost three minutes to 15 seconds in no time at all. It also caused a split in the main field, Alejandro Valverde from Movistar and Bauke Mollema from Trek Factory Racing the most notable big names to get caught out.
With the peloton closing in approaching the intermediate sprint, Jan Barta jumped from the breakaway, making the most of his early efforts and taking maximum points, his fellow breakaway riders filling the minor places. Several men had the green points jersey at the forefront of their mind, fighting it out for the remaining points. John Degenkolg of Giant - Alpecin proved he is ready to fill Marcel Kittel's shoes, out sprinting Kristoff, Sagan, Cavendish, Bouhanni and Greipel.
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Three of the four riders in the day's first break reunited to try their luck again following the intermediate sprint. Barta, Clement and Fonseca moving clear, although the peloton allowed them very little breathing room. Their attempts again proved unsuccessful, the riders swept up with 39.5 miles to go.
From there it was mayhem. The rain became torrential, splits formed, there were crashes and had you not been looking at the distance remaining, you could have sworn the lead out trains were getting ready for the finish. Etixx - Quick Step came to the front and showed their strength, supported by Lotto Soudal and Tinkoff - Saxo.
The pressure proved too much for many of the big name riders. GC contenders Nairo Quintana of Movistar was dropped as was Jean-Christophe Peraud from AG2R La Mondiale. Richie Porte, Simon Gerrans and Ivan Basso other big names to miss the split.
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The shake up continued with Lotto Soudal causing another split, this time Vincenzo Nibali of Astana Pro Team, Thibaut Pinot of FDJ and the yellow jersey wearer Rohan Dennis getting caught out. Only Contador, Froome and van Garderen managed to stay with the front group.
As soon as Tinkoff - Saxo heard the news they took to the front along with Etixx - Quick Step and went full gas. From there it was the first group on the road time trialling against the second group on the road. With 19 mile to go the Tour de France was on the line, a crazy thought given it was only the second day of racing, and only the first road stage, but with a time gap of over a minute, the stakes couldn't be higher.
Nibali's 2015 campaign seemed to be chalk and cheese compared to his 2014 victory. He suffered a flat with 15 miles to go, and was forced to work his way back onto the remaining peloton.
With 9.4 miles to go the lead was holding firm at 1 minute, it was Etixx - Quick Step and Tinkoff - Saxo up front versus Astana Pro Team and Movistar in the second group. All four teams threw the kitchen sink at either the chase or the escape.
At 10km the super motivated front group stretched the lead to 1'15, and with the road traffic to contend with in the final run to the line, it began to build further. 1'25 was the gap with 5km remaining and they continued to charge towards the line.
With 1500 ft to go Mark Renshaw moved to the front of the race, Cavendish locked on his wheel. The best lead out man in the business appeared to drop his sprinter off a touch too early, Cav having to open it up from the 900ft point, which proved to be too much; Greipel, Sagan and Cancellara all coming over the top of him finishing within a wheel of each other.
Andre Greipel rewarded his Lotto Soudal team mates for all their hard work, pipping Sagan on the line to take the win. Cancellara did enough to take third place, putting him into the leaders yellow jersey.
Check out the Ridley bikes that Griepel and team Lotto Soudal are riding at TdF 2015.
The second group continued to lose more time, crossing 1:28 behind the leading group. Tejay, Contador and Froome the big winners from today.
An extraordinary day of racing, we have to keep reminding ourselves this is only day two of the 2015 Tour de France, we still have the cobbles on Stage 4 and two weeks of mountains to anticipate.
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Thanks once again to Graham Watson for a great image.