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At the end of a bizarre and destructive Stage 1 of this year’s Tour de France, Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates) won a rain-soaked sprint ahead of the rainbow stripes of Mads Pedersen (Trek–Segafredo) and pulled on the maillot jaune for the first time in his illustrious career. The Norwegian’s reign would be short and sweet, as the race headed straight into the Alps on stage 2, putting Kristoff in one of many groupettos along the 186-kilometer route.
On the final climb of the Col des Quatre Chemins, Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) – the charismatic Frenchman who everyone expected to attack – attacked, and went away in the decisive breakaway along with Marc Hirschi (Team Sunweb) and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott). Alaphilippe shook, rattled, and gestured his way down the descent, and with 1km to go, it all seemed like a formality. Hirschi came close in the final sprint, but Alaphilippe crossed first, pointing to the sky and nearly collapsing in tears after the finish line – a win dedicated to his father who he lost earlier this year.
In this column, we dive into the power numbers from the thrilling finale of stage 2 in this year’s Tour de France.
Before the final circuits in Nice, the peloton tackled over 140km with two category 1 climbs: the Col de la Colmiane and the Col de Turini. And before that, was the fight for the breakaway. It often happens before the TV cameras are rolling, but it’s one of the hardest and most chaotic moments of any bike race.
As soon as the flag dropped at kilometer 0, the lankiest of domestiques, Robert Gesink (Jumbo–Visma), was at the front, covering moves for race favorite Primož Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma). With nearly five hours of racing still to go, Gesink ripped across the pavement at over 60kph before the peloton was finally satisfied with the composition of the breakaway.
Gesink – covering attacks from kilometer 0:
Average Power: 401w (5.6w/kg)
Average Speed: 52.8kph (32.8mph)
The small breakaway, which included green jersey wearer Peter Sagan (Bora–Hansgrohe), was put on a short leash as they extended their advantage through the valley, and over the two category 1 climbs, the peloton climbed at a pace of 4.6-4.8w/kg, with Gesink and Jumbo-Visma doing a majority of the pace-making.
Gesink – Col de la Colmiane:
Average Power: 341w (4.7w/kg)
Average Gradient: 5.9 percent
Gesink – Col de Turini:
Average Power: 349w (4.8w/kg)
Average Speed: 52.8kph (32.8mph)
Peak 20min: 373w (5.2w/kg)
After a long, 40km descent down into Nice, the peloton began the first of one and a half climbs up the Col d’Eze – the first ascent being the full Col d’Eze, and the second turning right at the Col des Quatre Chemins before heading down towards the finish. At the bottom of the first climb, 23-year-old Tour de France debutant Neilson Powless (EF Pro Cycling) attacked just as the early break was getting caught. Despite the impressive solo effort, Powless was pulled back after just a few minutes of TV time by Dries Devenyns (Deceuninck–Quick-Step), in a foreshadowing what was to come.
Powless – Col d’Eze:
Average Power: 372w (5.6w/kg)
Peak 5-minute power: 468w (7.1w/kg)
The front group whittled down on the first ascent of the Col d’Eze, but the favorites kept their powder dry until the second time up the climb which began with 14.6km to go. Gesink peeled off for the final time, and from there it was Bob Jungles (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) who took over for Alaphilippe. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) marked the move, sitting in the first few wheels on this steepest part of the climb.
Kuss – first section of Col des Quatre Chemins:
Average Power: 433w (7.2w/kg)
Peak 2-min power: 467w (7.8w/kg)
Average Gradient: 7.6 percent
Jungels continued to set a vicious pace, and then, rounding a right-hand corner, Alaphilippe went all-in, sprinting in the drops as if the finish was just around the corner. Only Marc Hirschi could follow, but it still took the 21-year-old Swiss rider a few hundred meters to fully latch on to the flying Frenchman. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) was the only rider capable of bridging the gap, and from there the break was solidified.
Back in the shrinking peloton, the pace was anything but easy. Tadej Pogačar (UAE–Team Emirates) sat on the wheels, pushing over 6w/kg, yet continuing to lose time to the three-man breakaway. By the top, the trio had a twenty-second advantage as Alaphilippe led the charge, shaking out his legs on the descent to the finish line.
Tadej Pogačar – Col des Quatre Chemins:
Average Power: 389w (5.9w/kg)
Peak 8min: 417w (6.3w/kg)
As the road flattened out with only 2km to go, the leading trio begin a game of cat and mouse that nearly cost them the win. The reduced peloton was still 35-riders strong, with Luis León Sánchez (Astana Pro Team) on the front, pulling as hard as he could into the coastal headwind. Even in the draft, Pogačar was pushing close to 400w as he readied his sprint. With one final kick, Pogačar snaked his way through the wheels and finished 8th on the stage, just two seconds behind Alaphilippe, who took an emotional win and pulled on the leader’s maillot jaune that he held for 14 days in last year’s Tour de France.
Pogačar – final 2km:
Average Power: 377w (5.7w/kg)
Peak 10s: 843w (12.7w/kg)
Peak Power: 1098w (16.6w/kg)