Marcel Kittel powers to Tour de France stage two victory as Geraint Thomas retains yellow
The German took his 10th Tour de France stage victory on a rain soaked stage from Düsseldorf
The stage had been held in the pouring rain since it’s dèpart in Düsseldorf, Germany, but things dried up as the peloton flew in towards the finish in Belgium.
The first obstacle for the sprinters to overcome was to catch the two remaining breakaway riders, Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac) and Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), which they did late on with 1.3km to go.
It was then down to the sprint teams to try and set things up for their fast men, but no-one was able to take full control on the front of the peloton.
Bora-Hansgrohe and Cofidis were the last teams with lead-out men working on the front in the closing 500m for their respective sprinters Peter Sagan and Nacer Bouhanni, but when the peeled off it left Sagan at the front of the bunch too early.
That played into the hands of the likes of Kittel and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), who were able to launch their sprints from behind and put Sagan out of the running.
Kittel quickly pulled out an advantage as he began his sprint to the line, with no-one able to get back to the German who crossed the line with ease to secure his 10th Tour stage victory.
French champion Arnaud Démare (FDJ) made a later surge which gave him second place, with Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) also able to get amongst the on-form sprinters to take fourth.
Yellow jersey Geraint Thomas was able to roll in safely to the finish to hold onto his overall lead, while his Sky team-mate Chris Froome was also able to finish safely despite both hitting the deck in a crash with 30km to go.
How it happened
Beginning for the second consecutive day in Düsseldorf, Germany, a predominantly flat stage took the peloton through Mönchengladbach and into Belgium, finishing in Liège.
Just as for the opening time trial, the riders fought wet conditions through most of the day, with standing water on the roads a common sight, but this time there were no crashed to blight the action. The only withdrawal was Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott), who retired after around 25km due to injuries sustained in a crash the previous day.
The day’s break consisted of Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac), Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie), Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Gobert) and Lauren Pichon (Fortuneo-Oscaro), who made their move almost immediately on the 203.5km route.
The foursome stayed away for the most of the day, but the gap never extended beyond three and a half minutes, so there was little doubt throughout that the stage would end in its long-predicted bunch sprint.
The break were able to claim the day’s KOM points, with Taylor Phinney adding a nice prize to his first Tour with a stint in the polka-dot jersey to come on stage three.
The break were seemingly determined to try and hold out to the finish however, and their gap extended briefly after a crash with 30km to took down a number of big name riders.
A Katusha rider at the front of the bunch slid out on a right hand bend, taking down defending champion Chris Froome and Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale).
Richie Porte (BMC) was also held up in the crash, however everyone was soon back on their bikes and chasing on to the main peloton.
After Phinney won the points on the final KOM with just over 20km to go ahead of Pichon, it was only the American and Offredo that continued out in the break.
They powered on ahead of a disorganised bunch, carrying 50 seconds with 10km to go.
Their gap came down to 30 seconds with 5km remaining, and it looked like the pair would have a good chance of holding out.
A worried peloton managed to regroup though, and made a late catch with 1.3km to go to ensure a sprint finish.
Despite no lead-out trains able to control proceedings heading into the finale, it was Kittel’s decent positioning and sheer power that enabled him to take victory on the first road race stage of this year’s Tour.
The Tour de France continues on Monday with a lumpy 212.5km stage three to Longwy in France, where a category three climb to the finish will probably see a reduced sprint to the line.
Tour de France 2017, stage two: Düsseldorf – Liège (203.5km)
1 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Quick-Step Floors, in 4-37-06
2 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
3 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
4 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data
5 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
6 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
7 Ben Swift (GBr) UAE Team Emirates
8 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis
9 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
10 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, all same time
General classification after stage two
1 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, in 4-53-10
2 Stefan Küng (Sui) BMC Racing, at 5s
3 Marcel Kittel (Quick Step Floors), at 6s
4 Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky), at 7s
5 Matteo Trentin (Quick Step Floors), at 10s
6 Chris Froome (Team Sky), at 12s
7 Jos Van Emden (Lotto NL-Jumbo), at 15s
8 Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky), st
9 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), at 16s
10 Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb), at 16s