Two tough stages through Brittany have set the tone in the battle for the yellow jersey of the Tour de France.
Mathieu van der Poel took temporary control of the classification with a searing stage win Sunday, although even he admitted he won’t keep the maillot for long.
Behind the Dutchman, Ineos Grenadiers have been left with time to regain and tactics to reassess after Slovenian supremos Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič shot early warnings across the roads of northwestern France.
- Van der Poel secures yellow with stage 2 victory
- Ineos Grenadiers, Jumbo-Visma hit by losses and injures in stage 1 crashes
Here’s how the main players sit after Sunday’s second stage:
Virtual GC after stage 2
- Mathieu van der Poel: GC leader
- Julian Alaphilippe: +0.08
- Tadej Pogačar: +0:13
- Primož Roglič: +0:14
- Wilco Kelderman: +0:24
- Jack Haig: +0:26
- Bauke Mollema: S.T
- David Gaudu: S.T
- Enric Mas: S.T
- Nairo Quintana: S.T
- Esteban Chaves: S.T
- Rigoberto Urán: S.T
- Richard Carapaz: +0:31
- Geraint Thomas: +0:41
- Vincenzo Nibali: S.T
- Miguel Ángel López: +2:22
- Richie Porte: +3:08
- Michael Woods: +9:07
- Tao Geoghegan Hart: +9:31
Top-tier contenders take early shuffle
Defending champion Pogačar and his countryman Roglič have lived up to their billing as the Tour’s two top contenders — and two fiercest rivals — after the opening weekend.
The Slovenian duo has gone shoulder-to-shoulder several times through the Tour’s tough opener. They first marked out each other after Julian Alaphilippe’s stinging stage-winning attack on stage 1, and again locked horns in both ascents of the Mûr de Bretagne on Sunday.
Pogačar and Roglič crossed the line dead level Sunday and are now separated by just one second on GC in a testament to their shared ownership of the bookies’ betting slips.
Another third place for @primozroglic after a vicious final ⛰
📸 Tour de Tietema pic.twitter.com/dNLpCwA374
— Team Jumbo-Visma cycling (@JumboVismaRoad) June 27, 2021
After they both were active in battling for bonus seconds on stage 2, it looks likely that Pogačar and Roglič are going to be at each other’s hips for the following three weeks as they relive last year’s fireworks. However, Alaphilippe won’t fade away quietly to leave the Slovenians to scrap.
The Frenchman has twice lit the fuse that set Pogačar and Roglič’s skirmishes alight. After starting the race with a freewheeling outlook on any possible GC bid, Alaphilippe has found himself in a position he’s not just going to throw away — particularly now he has completed his mission to win stage 1.
Could Alaphilippe pull a repeat of his 2019 Tour de France heroics? Don’t count it out.
Ineos Grenadiers bark but don’t bite
Roglič and Pogačar have earned their pre-race billing as the Tour’s undoubted favorites. The other main storyline ahead of the race was whether Ineos Grenadiers’ supercharged squad would be able to match the individual strength of Roglič and Pogačar, and the tale has played out on the road this weekend.
After Richie Porte and Tao Geoghegan Hart lost time in the crash-marred opening stage, Geraint Thomas and Richard Carapaz have been left off the pace after stage two.
Ineos Grenadiers starting the Tour with the strongest team but not the strongest rider, but has already been shorn of two of its aces, while the two still in contention are down by a chunk of time.
Mûr-de-Bretagne is a beast of a climb and so it proved again today 💪@RichardCarapazM was our top finisher in 12th place, with @GeraintThomas86 coming home 15secs further back #TDF2021 pic.twitter.com/Kbrc5DWmh7
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) June 27, 2021
Carapaz lost ground behind Alaphilippe’s attack Saturday but held strong Sunday to sit 31 seconds back ahead of stage 3. Meanwhile, Thomas looked to struggle on the Mûr on Sunday and ceded 17 seconds to Pogačar and Roglič, leaving him at 41 seconds. The race is young and Thomas could reverse his deficit in the space of one strong time trial, but it’s a trajectory that needs reversing sooner rather than later.
Ineos Grenadiers do have the advantage of being in full health after the opening weekend, however.
Jumbo-Visma and UAE-Team Emirates were both left bloodied and bruised in the pileups of stage 1. Both the two squads still have a full complement of eight riders, but there could be some aching bodies and uncomfortable nights among Roglič and Pogačar’s support crew for weeks to come.
A dozen dark horses in the midpack
The GC sits tightly coiled behind Roglič, Pogačar, and Alaphilippe.
A swathe of dark horse contenders for a top-5 sit stacked up less than 20 seconds behind Alaphilippe, with riders such as Wilco Kelderman, Bauke Mollema, David Gaudu, and Rigoberto Urán all packing the form and the experience to disrupt the favorites’ fortunes for the coming weeks.
8th for Sergio. 16th for Rigo. Team in 7th for the GC. Quite a start for Le Tour 🇫🇷
What are your predictions for the team this year? ⬇️
— EF Pro Cycling (@EFprocycling) June 26, 2021
Young talents Jack Haig and Enric Mas will be looking to ride their early momentum as long as possible after securing solid starts to their GC bids — though they may not last as long as riders of the pedigree of Urán and Kelderman.
The down and maybe out
Tao Geoghegan Hart, Miguel Ángel López, and Michael Woods’ Tour trajectory have been set after the opening two stages.
At nine minutes back, Geoghegan Hart will be unable to play a pawn in Ineos Grenadiers’ four-captain play, but will still have a major role in his teammates’ bid to regain time on Pogačar and Roglič. Porte is a little over three minutes back on Alaphilippe and he too may be too far out of range to pose a podium threat. Instead, the Aussie may be left in the superdomestique role that he so relishes.
Woods started the Tour with ambitions split between stage hunting and a GC bid. Stage victories are the Canadian’s best chance at glory in this year’s Tour and his opening losses open the door for him to ride with freedom. Woods might just be smiling inside at his bittersweet situation.
At 2:22 down, López hasn’t totally lost his chance at bettering his 6th-place from 2020. “Superman” is no slouch on a TT bike, but is far from being a specialist against the clock like Roglič, Thomas, and others. The Colombian will be relying on his high-altitude-adjusted climbing legs in the weeks to come.
Next GC showdown to come Wednesday
The peloton will breathe a sigh of relief to see two straightforward sprint stages on tap for Monday and Tuesday.
Van der Poel is likely to hang on to his yellow jersey through to stage 5 on Wednesday when the first marquee GC test of the Tour arrives with a rolling 27.2km time trial out of Changé.