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Cycling News and Opinion
July 6, 2014

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Terrific TDF Stage Two Racing

I have really enjoyed the aggressive, highly charged racing in the Tour's first two stages. What's not to love in Jens Voigt's tactically brilliant burglary of the KOM jersey in stage one?

And today. A break went from the gun, but it was never allowed to go very far off the leash. And when it was caught, other racers just banged away over the difficult rolling Yorkshire countryside until the front group was reduced to just the best twenty riders.

Cannondale's Peter Sagan was favored to win the stage and take over the lead. But he was a marked man. The Hulk complained, "Nobody wanted to work with me, everyone was watching what I was doing...That's racing. The race was really tough. In the end I had no legs. I'm glad to have finished with the best riders and taken the green jersey." Sagan noted that he was isolated, but said that was no excuse, Froome and Contador were alone as well.

But the man who won the stage, Vincenzo Nibali, was not without help. He had teammate Jakob Fuglsang, who set up Nibali's flight with his own attack. Then Nibali chose that perfect moment when an attack has been neutralized and no one wants to do anything more than get his breath back. Bam! Nibali went and no one wanted to take up the chase, feeling that for sure whoever did the hard work of pulling the Italian champion back would be played for a sucker as others came off his wheel to sprint. Sagan summed it up, "Maybe I made mistakes, but if I had followed Nibali, I'm sure everyone would have taken my wheel."

As Tour de France Father Henri Desgrange said more than a hundred years ago, it's head and legs.

The Italian Lampre team didn't have a satisfactory day. One of their sprinters, Sacha Modolo, suffering from a virus, has abandoned. And Ariel Richeze was hit by a motorbike, his second crash in two days.

World road champion Rui Costa, a Lampre rider, made the final cut of 20-odd riders contesting today's finish, but couldn't close the deal. He said, "The stage turned out to be very demanding, even more than what we could imagine looking at the map. I'm satisfied, I raced well and in the last kilometer I also tried to join Nibali, but the gap was too large, so I gave up my attempt." Costa finished fourteenth today.

Alberto Contador looked good today. He said, “We had to be focused at all times, because it was a super-challenging day. We had to be at the front for 200 kilometers and the team protected me very well.”

Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador leads Vincenzo Nibali up stage two's final climb. Photo ©Sirotti

Contador continued, “The final was easier. At the end Nibali escaped, but the
important thing was to save the day. The tension is great and although we are extremely grateful to the fans who are on the road, there is great danger. Going 80 or 90 km/hr downhill with the spectators having to go stand back, with
people in wheelchairs, people with dogs… finishing untouched every day is
a victory.

“The team has protected me at all times from possible falls, because here, in a quiet moment, you can lose the Tour." About the Nibali's victory, he said that Astana “had several riders in front, all riding at a high level, and Nibali took his chance. Behind him there was no one who would sacrifice because nobody had teammates. Congratulations for Nibali and Astana.”

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