History of the Tour de France: Van der Poel wins stage two and takes the lead
Van der Poel. No words. He won the stage and took the lead of the Tour de France 2021 after two tremendous attacks at the top of Mûr-de-Bretagne.
The peloton to avoid a day like yesterday's
After a first day to forget, with several incidents and some of them very serious, we arrived at the second stage of the Tour de France 2021. Alaphilippe in the lead and a second day with a lot of similarities to the first day. A bad sign, without a doubt.
Surely everyone had talked before about trying to get through this first week mostly without incident, to avoid falls and to avoid accidents. But they tasted it in their own flesh. The Tour de France 2021 started in a bad way and cyclists of the level of Miguel Ángel López lost two minutes. Others, like Marc Soler, went home with various fractures. It is the cruelty of this sport, to which Konovalovas of Groupama, Sütterlin of Team DSM and Lemoine of B&B hotels were added, all of them as a result of crashes.
The question is that today's stage, as we said, had the same profile: a flat stage, with small hills and a lot of dynamism but no mountains. The teams set the pace and protect their squad leaders. Alaphilippe in yellow, Matthews in green (although Alaphilippe is also the leader in this classification), Schelling in the mountains jersey and Pogacar in the white jersey. But many seemed not to have learned, and after two minutes, the first attack: Vliegen was looking for his minute of glory while Lopez was repairing a flat tyre. The Colombian will think that things are not how they start, but how they end.
Six cyclists in the lead in a small breakaway with a gap of more than two minutes and a light rain were the first incidents, but for the moment, everything was under control.
Breakaway, control, pace and sprint finish
The breakaway set the pace and gained four minutes over the multicoloured snake. Four minutes that would gradually decrease over the course of the day. Especially when the peloton began to average 42 kilometres per hour and the wind began to blow head-on in many sections. This hurt the breakaway.
There was little movement in the peloton. It was mostly attempts by the jersey wearers to catch the breakaway and gain more points, but it all came to nothing at the start, until the breakaway gradually faded, with only Trek Segafredo's Theuns and Total Direct Energie's Cabot remaining.
Deceuninck started to get into his pace and, as we said, little by little the gap was reduced: it was already less than 2 minutes again with 45 kilometres to go. With so much to go, few were betting on a breakaway: a couple of third category hills and a fairly broken terrain for a sprint finish.
With 20 kilometres to go, the peloton could already see the two escaped riders. It was clear from the start that it was a lost fight, but it always does credit to those who try. Even more so given yesterday's crashes: a crash, a break, can give you a stage in the 2021 Tour de France. But without incident, fortunately, and at over 60 per hour, the peloton is a hammer.
Alaphilippe always very well protected. Pogacar measuring his space. The teams made their shields. The same people were still pulling: Deceuninck. Except on the Mur de Bretagne, which at 7% allowed for some spectacle: Van der Poel attacked to try to break the race on this kilometre and a half ascent. Matthieu wanted his stage in the Tour, he wanted to make his big debut, he wanted his moment of glory, he wanted his signature. And he did it in his own style: a distant attempt to break the race and an attack within the reach of very few. This was on the first ascent, remember that there were two uphill climbs today.
Beyond the spectacle, Van der Poel broke the pace and formed a small lead group with all the contenders. Valverde and Lopez were very well placed all the time and Pogacar showed his strength at the bonus point, where he made Alaphilippe drop to his knees, who was left without bonuses. From here to the finish, it was the same story of the whole day: control of the teams and good pace to the finish line to settle a sprint finish. Ineos tried not to leave a single gap, but Alpecin and Deceuninck were very well positioned all the time. That meant that the last five kilometres were ridden at more than 55 kilometres per hour in most sections, with very constant peaks of almost 70 per hour. That's quite impressive.
This was how the last two kilometres were set up, once again the Mûr-de-Bretagne and once again the contenders were looking at each other out of the corner of their eyes. Infernal pace and last kilometre. It was Nairo Quintana who completely changed the last kilometre with his own change of pace. Van der Poel was on his wheel. Colbrelli attacked at 900 metres and Van der Poel changed the pace and gave a spectacle. At 9% the Dutchman tightened his teeth while behind nobody seemed to be able to even get close. Van der Poel entered at 45 per hour, won the stage and wore the yellow jersey thanks to the six seconds he gained and the bonuses. A historic page of the Tour that Van der Poel himself celebrated by wishing to the sky in memory of his grandfather. Historic.
- Van der Poel, M. - Alpecin | 4:18:30
- Pogacar, T. - UAE | +6"
- Roglic, P. - Jumbo-Visma | +6"
- Van der Poel, M. - Alpecin
- Alaphilippe, J. - Deceuninck | +8"
- Pogacar, T. - UAE | +13"