Tour de France: Bakelants steals thrilling stage two just ahead of sprinters
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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tour de France: Bakelants steals thrilling stage two just ahead of sprinters

by Kyle Moore at 11:39 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Race Reports and Results
Radioshack-Leopard rider breaks away with five others at 7km and just holds off pack

Tour de FranceRadioshack-Leopard got a thrilling victory from Jan Bakelants in stage two of the Tour de France, as the Belgian got away with a six-man group inside 7km to go and was the only survivor to hold off the remaining peloton, which was breathing down his neck with the finish line in sight.

Bakelants escaped his group with around a kilometre and a half to race, as the main bunch was coming back and his group was losing steam. He kept his head down and kept driving, even as Orica-GreenEdge and Cannondale were pulling their sprinters back to try and grab the stage win. In the end, Bakelants barely held off the charging bunch, by a single second.

Along with the stage win, Bakelants’ first professional victory, the Belgian also takes the yellow jersey, by virtue of holding the peloton at a second behind him. David Millar (Garmin-Sharp), who was fourth yesterday and the best-placed rider to finish in the bunch, slots into second place overall.

With 7km to go, a solo flier by Cyril Gautier (Europcar) was pulled back by the charging main bunch, but Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) found the strength to attack. The Frenchman was joined by Bakelants, Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Manuele Mori (Lampre-Merida), and Gorka Izaguirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi). Having been joined by others, Chavanel hand-slung Izaguirre onto the wheel ahead of him, and the breakaway was on.

The escape of six took ten seconds and held onto it for several kilometres, under the 5km banner, and then still with 3km to go. Riders from Cannondale, Garmin-Sharp, and Sojasun tried to reel in the escapees, at one point swerving around a small dog and its owner who contemplated retrieving it before smartly darting out of the way.

Under 2km to go, the organized chase from the peloton had shredded, but their pace was still high, and the escapees were tiring. However, Bakelants had enough left to ride away, and the Belgian had a small gap on the rest of the break with a kilometre left to race. Just as he was pulling out a larger gap, and appeared as if victory was his, Cannondale found another gear in its lead out of Peter Sagan, who lit up his sprint alongside Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Julien Simon (Sojasun).

But just ahead, Bakelants was grimacing, willing the finish line to come closer. He crossed it with a second of daylight between himself and the sprinting bunch, raising his arms in sheer disbelief. The Radioshack-Leopard rider was understandably elated as he spoke with reporters at the finish.

“I’m incredibly happy, because I’ve never won a race in the pro ranks,” Bakelants enthused. “There’s been so much bad luck. I had a knee operation earlier this year. This is my 18th race of the season, I think.

“We were in a big bunch and I can’t win a bunch sprint. Then I saw Flecha go. We were a group of six, and we cooperated pretty well. In the end, I knew we’d look at each other. It was a bit uphill, but you have to give it everything you have. I started pushing my 11, and maybe it didn’t look nice, but I went fast. The group came back to the five, but I thought of ‘Jensie’ [Voigt], my roommate, and I just thought, ‘pedal!’

“I had to wait five years, but what a victory. It’s hard to believe.”

How stage two played out – exciting for the right reasons this time:

Team Belkin kicked off proceedings from the drop of the flag, as Sep Vanmarcke was the first man off, chased by a number of riders including Jens Voigt (Radioshack-Leopard). This earliest of moves was pulled back, but the second one proved successful, as the peloton spent a second day in a row not messing around with disallowing an early break. David Veilleux (Europcar) attacked and was joined by Blel Kadri (Ag2r La Mondiale). It wasn’t long before Ruben Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Lars Boom (Belkin) bridged across. It was the second breakaway in as many days for the former cyclocross world champion.

The peloton fanned out soon after and slowed down, and the gap shot up to 1’20” after less than ten kilometres were gone. Meanwhile, Sojasun’s Simon was in the gap, trying to bridge across, but the four men out front seemed content to keep it a quartet. Their early advantage topped out at 2’45” before, interestingly, Simon’s team came to the front of the peloton and cut into the gap. They quickly got a stern talking-to from a Belkin rider and backed off. Simon was pulled back and the four men in the lead went back to work on their advantage.

At 30km in, their lead was up over three minutes, as Argos-Shimano, Cannondale, and Omega Pharma-Quick Step spent time on the front of the main bunch. As the course tilted steadily uphill toward the day’s categorized climbing, the intermediate sprint came early. Boom got maximum points in the breakaway for the second day in a row, giving him 40 for the Tour and settling him in third in the green jersey classification. The peloton lined up for it as well, with Cannondale in charge, but it was André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) who picked up the most remaining points, ahead of Sagan, Danny Van Poppel (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

Without too much effort, the peloton reduced the advantage of the escapees, and with 100km to race, it was down to 2’10”. The first proper climb of the day wasn’t categorized, and a short descent off it took riders to the Col de Bellagranajo, at six and a half kilometres long, averaging under five percent. The peloton held their easy pace on the climb, with no team really taking charge, but they continued to eat into the gap. It was under two minutes on the climb, and tumbled further when the four breakaway men started looking at each other with the summit approaching.

With two points and the temporary lead in the mountains classification on offer, Veilleux attacked twice for the summit, but was covered each time by Kadri and the rest of the group. Boom bided his time behind, perhaps indicating that he had no interest after taking maximum sprint points. But the canny Dutch rider attacked again just in time, and Kadri had no answer, so Boom took the most points, followed by Perez. With the peloton over the summit, the gap separating the two was just 35 seconds, but the quartet of escapees was back out to a minute coming off the descent.

The second categorized climb of the day was the Col de la Serra. Veilleux and Kadri dropped Boom and Perez early on the ascent, while behind, Cavendish was one of the first sprinters dropped, with two team-mates alongside. FDJ was driving the peloton with leader Thibaut Pinot at fourth or fifth wheel. With 74km to go, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) got antsy and darted away, getting an immediate gap. Behind, white jersey wearer Van Poppel was dropped along with polka dot jersey Juan Jose Lobato (Euskaltel Euskadi), and Kittel was dropped as well. Voeckler was quickly around Boom and Perez, while the peloton was not far behind.

Kittel was picked up by team-mate Roy Curvers, and ahead, FDJ kept the pressure high, and the gap to Kadri and Veilleux was holding at a minute. Nearing the summit of the category-three climb, Kadri dropped Veilleux and took the two points available over the top. Meanwhile, Voeckler could not get away from the FDJ train, and both he and Veilleux were back in the shrunken main bunch before the top of the Serra climb. Kadri was alone at the front of the race with a 50-second advantage, but he wouldn’t get much relief, with no proper descent off the Serra climb before the Col de Vizzavona kicked up soon after.

Hitting the category-two climb, Kadri was ahead of the FDJ-led peloton by 30 seconds, with the Kittel autobus forming at nearly three minutes back. He and Curvers would take on food just before the Vizzavona climb, essentially giving up the chase of the main bunch and enjoying his lone day in the yellow jersey. Nearing the top of the climb, Kadri had mechanical trouble and got help from neutral service, but the Frenchman was back in the saddle just before the peloton was on him, and rather than wait, the Ag2r rider kicked off again, building his lead back up to 15 seconds.

With 62km to go and the summit of the Vizzavona nearing, Pierre Rolland was the next Europcar man to attack. He was quickly up to Kadri, and then past him, while Brice Feillu (Sojasun) moved out of the peloton behind in an effort to bridge across. Rolland took five points at the top of the Vizzavona, and Kadri took three points just ahead of Feillu, who couldn’t get around due to fans squeezing in tight at the summit. Vasil Kiryienka and Sky Procycling led the peloton over just seconds later, pulling back Feillu and Kadri as the descent began.

Rolland took most of the early descent on his own, sitting 30 seconds in front of the peloton. The Frenchman looked a bit shaky on the steeper pitches, and rather than trying to take the next 50 kilometres on his own, he wisely waited for the main bunch to come back. Under 40 kilometres to race and still on the long descent, BMC and Cannondale pushed a quick pace with Philippe Gilbert and Sagan in mind.

With all of the remaining kilometres being downhill, up until the steep Côte du Salario with 12km to go, the distance passed by quickly. With 30km to go, BMC and Cannondale were still doing the pacing, with the yellow jersey at seven minutes back. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) couldn’t buy a lucky break, and suffered his second mechanical problem of the stage, but was again paced back by team-mates. With 25km to go, a steady stream of different squads appeared at the front to keep leaders out of trouble, beginning with Garmin-Sharp and Lampre-Merida. With Kittel, Van Poppel and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) firmly behind them, Garmin-Sharp had a yellow jersey to target with David Millar still firmly in the bunch.

In the ten kilometres leading to the Côte du Salario, Sky Procycling, Sojasun, and Radioshack-Leopard all had men lined up at the front. It was Sky which led onto the climb, only a kilometre in length, but which had pitches between nine and 15 percent. Flecha was the first rider to attack on the steep early portion, and the Spaniard was covered by Gautier. Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) was policing the peloton, while the action behind involved Rolland getting a frantic bike change from a team-mate. Richie Porte took over for Sky, with Chris Froome on his wheel, and the bunch was bringing back Gautier and Flecha, so Gautier kicked off again.

Nearing the top of the climb, Froome made some waves by putting in a solid acceleration, which wasn’t immediately met by his rivals behind. Gautier led over the top and kept driving, with Froome just behind him, a few seconds clear of the main bunch. The rest of the group eventually came back to the Tour favourite, led by Roche, Kwiatkowski, and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing). Sagan and Kwiatkowski nipped out briefly just ahead of the bunch, but they were marked, and with 8km to go, Gautier still enjoyed a small lead over the rest.

Little attacks were coming constantly from the main group, which didn’t allow Gautier to get away, and the Europcar rider was caught with 7km to go. Chavanel then put in his serious acceleration, inspiring Mori, Flecha, Bakelants, Fuglsang, and Izaguirre to come after him.

French television initially misidentified Bakelants, instead identifying him as Radioshack-Leopard team-mate Markel Irizar. Some Belgians and some Spanish would know immediately, but others would not, although the whole of Radioshack-Leopard would soon be celebrating a victory.

The group of six worked well together, sharing most of the responsibility, with Chavanel’s pulls being especially long and powerful. They nursed a ten-second buffer for several kilometres thanks to the shared workload, but when their power began to wane, Bakelants was vigilant. His solo attempt became obvious just before the one-kilometre kite, and while he didn’t have an immediate advantage, it got larger just as the sprint trains behind pulled back the unsuccessful Chavanel quintet.

But Bakelants was still ahead, the Topsport-Vlaanderen product and former Omega Pharma-Lotto rider using the last of his reserves to get his first career victory, and maintaining just barely enough of a gap to grab yellow as well.

Tour de France stage 2 - Bastia – Ajaccio (156km) Brief Results:

1, Jan Bakelants (Radioshack-Leopard)
2, Peter Sagan (Cannondale) at 1"
3, Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) at s.t.
4, Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida)
5, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky Procycling)
6, Julien Simon (Sojasun)
7, Francesco Gavazzi (Astana)
8, Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge)
9, Daniele Bennati (Saxo-Tinkoff)
10, Sergey Lagutin (Vacansoleil-DCM)

General Classification after stage two:

1, Jan Bakelants (Radioshack-Leopard)
2, David Millar (Garmin-Sharp) at 1"
3, Julien Simon (Sojasun) at s.t.
4, Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge)
5, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky Procycling)
6, Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge)
7, Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)
8, Sergey Lagutin (Vacansoleil-DCM)
9, Christophe Riblon (Ag2r La Mondiale)
10, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing)


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