Sunday, June 30, 2013

Despite Bakelants' win, order is restored on Stage 2 of Tour de France


Jan Bakelants rides to victory.
Courtesy Radio Shack Leopard Trek.
No bus crashes. No rider crashes. Sunday's stage of the Tour de France was what the Spanish like to call Tranquilo.

The surprises were more delightful than shocking or horrifying, some not entirely unexpected. Thomas Voeckler launched a solo attack on the toughest mountain in the hope of breaking away for a lone escapade. It was unsuccessful. The pace was enough to set the sprinters more than six minutes in arrears by the time they reached the top of the climb. Marcel Kittel's reign in yellow proved short-lived, though he retained the green jersey.

Voeckler's teammate, GC contender Pierre Rolland, gave it a go on the final, short climb, only to be reeled back in.  Betting favourite Chris Froome took a flyer on the last climb as a show of strength, then quietly rode back into the group of contenders.

Ooooooooooh.

Cannondale's Peter Sagan was one of a few sprinters who kept up the pace of the GC teams and had a chance to take the win. Sagan's appearance with the leaders was all the more remarkable, considering the nasty pileup he found himself on the bottom of Saturday. Though bruised and stiff, Sagan was there for the finish.

Unfortunately, he lost too many of his teammates and was unable to control a group of six that broke away with about 12 kilometers to go. After the group gained 10 seconds, Sagan and his two teammates had enough firepower to reel in five of the six. The last rider out front, Radio Shack's Jan Bakelants, was misidentified by PhilAndPaul through the escapade and across the finishing line as Markel Irizar, evidence of how surprising his victory was. Perhaps the Belgian commentators got it right from the get-go, so the folks in his home country could celebrate with him.

"I felt so easy in the break," Bakelants told reporters at the finishing line in Ajaccio. "Every time I went to the front, I felt like I was stronger than the others. I was saying to myself, 'Are we going to ride, or are we going to let the bunch catch us an see another Sagan win?'"

Sagan finished second, Omega's Michel Kwiatkowski was third. Garmin was trying to set up David Millar for yellow but didn't have the firepower either in the end.

No crashes, but the gruppetto finished more than 17 minutes behind the leaders. Four of Froome's battered teammates were there, something to watch in the coming days. Omega's Tony Martin, probably hurt worst on Day 1, made it to the finish.