Tour de France 2017
The masterful Kittel gave his Belgian Quick-Step Floors team a well-earned victory on home soil after leaving it late before blasting past rivals Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) for the tenth Tour stage win of his career.
A pulsating sprint at the end of the 203.5km stage from Dusseldorf saw Britain’s Mark Cavendish(Dimension Data) take fourth place ahead of Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen of LottoNL-Jumbo.
World champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) could only manage tenth place after coming home in the fiercely contested sprint behind Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Merida), Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates), Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb).
Kittel’s ninth victory of the season saw the 29-year-old German move into the lead of the green jersey points classification.
There was a heart-in-mouth moment for Team Sky’s Froome, who hit the deck in a large pile-up on wet roads some 30 kilometres from the finish. Frenchman Romain Bardet (Ag2R-La Mondiale) also went down in the incident – but both riders managed to chase back before the business end of the stage.
Escapees Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac) and Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) almost pulled off a coup – but the duo was swept up just ahead of the kilometre-to-go banner. American Phinney was rewarded for his leading role in the day’s break by securing the first polka dot jersey of the race.
But the day belonged to German powerhouse Kittel, who picked up 10 bonus seconds to move within six seconds of race leader Geraint Thomas (Team Sky).
Kittel moved up to third in the general classification. Welshman Thomas, winner of Saturday’s opening time trial in Dusseldorf, retained his yellow with a five-second advantage over Switzerland’s Stefan Kung of BMC.
A break of four riders – Frenchmen Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie), Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo-Oscaro) and Offredo, as well as the American Phinney – broke clear from the gun to build up a maximum lead of three and a half minutes.
If all four riders in the break were riding a debut road stage on the Tour, then Phinney showed his relative experience – and class – by winning the early category-four climb.
After a dry opening two hours of racing, the heavens opened to give the riders a drenched farewell as they bade Auf Wiedersehen to Germany and entered Belgium.
With the gap tumbling down to 40 seconds, the pack was thrown into disarray after a raft of riders skidded out on exiting a roundabout with 30 kilometres remaining. A Katusha-Alpecin rider lost his front wheel on the wet roads, causing those around him to skittle down and into a central reservation.
Froome and Bardet both required a bike change, while BMC’s Richie Porte also appeared to be held up. With his bib shorts torn, Froome later needed another bike change – and although the triple Tour winner completed the stage without any further troubles, he went straight to see the Sky doctor for a check-up after crossing the line.
Phinney attacked over the second category-four climb of the day to secure the polka dot jersey – a first for an American rider since Tejay Van Garderen in 2011.
Contuining his momentum, Phinney surged clear with Offredo inside the final 20 kilometres. By now the rain had eased up, and with the roads around Liege dry, Phinney and Offredo used their classics pedigree and huge engines to defy the returning peloton.
The duo had a gap of 40 seconds with five kilometres remaining but were eventually swallowed up by the Lotto Soudal-fronted peloton ahead of the flamme rouge.
Sagan and Bouhanni were near the front of the pack when the Italian Colbrelli opened up the sprint. But in a ding-dong showdown that featured all the peloton’s fast men, Kittel showed his strength and speed with a clinical surge to power on the outside and then through the middle to draw first blood in a Tour that could produce as many as nine bunch sprints.
Monday’s intriguing Stage 3 from Verviers to Longwy sees the riders leave Belgium, cross Luxembourg and enter France in an undulating 212.5km stage that features five lower-category climbs. A ramped uphill sprint in Longwy could open the door to the likes of Sagan, Matthews and the Belgian Philippe Gilbert.
Stage 2 result:
1 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Quick-Step Floors 4hr 37min 06sec
2 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ all same time
3 Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
4 Mark Cavendish (Gbr) Dimension Data
5 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Lotto NL-Jumbo
1 Geraint Thomas (Gbr) Team Sky 4hr 53min 10sec
2 Stefan Kung (Swi) BMC Racing +5s
3 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Quick-Step Floors +6s
4 Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Team Sky +7s
5 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Quick-Step Floors +10s