After yesterday’s chaotic stage, the peloton was more than willing to prenez-le facile (take it easy) in the early part of the second Cosican stage that finished in the western coast city of Ajaccio. Four riders, including former World Cyclocross Champion Lars Boom, got away and slowly built up their lead on the peloton to about three minutes. Boom easily rolled in first through the intermediate sprint point, while the sprint specialists fought over the remaining points a few minutes later, with Greipel taking 5th place points ahead of Sagan and Cavendish.
The time gaps started coming down as the riders started heading skywards on the Col de Bellagranajo and Col de la Serra, two of the categorized climbs of the day. The time gap dipped below a minute before the top of the Col de Bellagranajo and it was clear that the teams wanted to pull back the break before the hardest climb of the day (Cat 2), the Col de Vizzavona.
Towards the top of the Col de la Serra, team Europcar launched what appeared to be a plan to grab some Polka Dot Jersey points, but failed to garner even one point. The attack did launch Bel Kadri of AG2r to the front of the race. The real news was the struggle of Kittel to hold onto his jersey on the climb, as he was very quickly over 3 minutes down with 63km to go. Kadri experienced some mechanical problems and was within a breath of the peloton catching him, but sped off to gain an advantage in an attempt to get the polka dot jersey for his efforts. It was not to be however with a couple of kilometers from the top, Europcar’s Pierre Rolland bridged the gap and grabbed the points ahead of the now struggling Kadri and the determined peloton.
As the charging peloton entered the outskirts of town, making their way around the bay and harbors of sailboats, Team BMC took control of the front end of the race with about 15km to go. A sharp right hand turn was the launching point for the climb and the pack started to blow apart. An attack of one was followed another and soon a dangerous group that contained Flecha and Chavanel, who was trying to give himself a birthday present (his 34th today). The strongman group began to pull away and stretched it out to about 10 seconds with just a few kilometers to go.
Also in that group was Belgian Jan Bakelants (Radioshack Leopard), who when the group’s cooperation fell apart, took off with just about 1km to go. An improbable move that would surely not succeed. Afterall, the entire peloton was bearing down on the support rider and were now into camera view with just 50 meters until the line. Except, he was the one that would blow out the candles on the celebration cake, as he put his head down to punch out a couple of more pedals strokes and won the biggest race of his career. Last minute breakaways almost never work, but when they do, we’re reminded of why we watch this beautiful event.
Stage 3 Preview
The last day on Corsica finds a merveilleux stage profile that could help us understand who will not win this year’s tour. The relatively short stage (145km), when paired with the terrain and its run along the coast, will require a high level of attention from any team with an overall win in mind. Look for attacks from someone who knows how to climb and descend to try and win the day. Maybe Frenchman Voeckler will try again for glory as he did, albeit failing, today.
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