Van der Poel attacked in the closing kilometer of Sunday’s stage 2 in thrilling fashion, bolting from the peloton to take the stage and the yellow jersey atop the Mur de Bretagne.The attack was a perfect blend of surprise and strength, and he surged away from the peloton on the stage that many predicted him to win. Still, when van der Poel went, nobody else could — or would — go.
After the stage, a few star riders made efforts to give kudos to van der Poel for his stunning win. After all, the acceleration really was that impressive.
The front group saw some shakeups, with groups of GC riders rumbling home in the wake of van der Poel’s win. Here’s what some of the star riders had to say after Sunday’s stage 2 of the Tour de France.
Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma): 86th, at 3:48
After losing time on stage 1 after he was taken down in a crash, Kuss is now firmly in domestique mode for Jumbo-Visma’s leader, Primož Roglič. On Sunday Kuss helped shepherd Roglič through the peloton, before backing off the gas on the final push to Mur de Bretagne, where he finished in a main group, nearly four minutes back. Roglič hit the afterburners and finished 3rd.
“It was tough, the first time uphill. After the first climb I saw that the group had thinned out a lot, so I could position myself better,” Kuss said. “On such a short climb, a good position is crucial. As you can see, every second counts. You saw that everyone was working on that today. That is what races, and also the Tour, are decided on. It is important to be there at those important moments. It would be a tough final and we knew in advance that we had to be up front.”
Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates): 2nd at 0:06
Pogačar continues to turn heads early in this Tour de France by finishing second place on the stage, just a few seconds behind van der Poel and just ahead of his big rival, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma). While he didn’t quite have the accelerations to match van der Poel — who does, really? — Pogačar surged across the line just six seconds in arrears. Pogačar gave kudos to van der Poel, and also let the world know that van der Poel is something of a practical joker to his coworkers.
“I would have liked to fight for the win, but it was also nice to see van der Poel win, today he was the best and he also surprised everyone by attacking already on the first pass on the Mur,” Pogačar said. “He also asked me, jokingly, if I wanted to attack with him the first time up.”
“On the final ascent it was not easy for me to try to attack because a lot of guys were marking me, and it turned to a game of chess. I still got second place, a result that I’m happy with, and I’m happy with how I’m feeling and where I am at this point in the race.”
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step): 5th at 0:08
— Les Rois du Peloton (@LRoisDuPeloton) June 27, 2021
Alaphilippe came into Sunday’s stage wearing the yellow jersey, and he knew that van der Poel was likely the man to beat on the explosive Mur de Bretagne. In the end, Alaphilippe simply couldn’t match van der Poel’s big acceleration, and he led home the group of favorites just on the heels of Roglič and Pogačar.
It was really difficult. I just want to say thiank you to my teammates. They did again an incredible job to protect me and to control today. In the final I felt that the legs was a little bit painful so I gave it all, like always, but it was not enough to keep the yellow. I’m happy for Mathieu van der Poell. He really deserved it. He was the strongest today. I really enjoyed [day in yellow]. The public was cheering. It was a really special day. It’s always really special to be in yellow in the Tour. I realy enjoyed every kilomter today and in the final kilometer I really gave everything, which is why I have no regrets.”
Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe): 4th at 0:06
Clink your Amstel bottles for Wilco Kelderman, because the oft-maligned Dutchman had one of the most impressive rides of the day to finish 4th place, just on the heels of Roglič and Pogačar. Kelderman is known more for his abilities on long and brutal climbs, yet he showed on Sunday that he can survive positioning battles and uphill sprints. Kelderman said the day was stressful and hectic, given Brittany’s winding roads and tiny towns.
“In the end it was quite hectic day again. There were a lot of nasty descents with the red roads and small towns,” he said. “The last 60km we were always in the front with the team. Nils [Politt] and [Lukas] Pöstlberger brought us to the final lap into the Mur de Bretagne on the first time. It was full gas with attacks from then on. Toward the last climb we were in the front. I felt good and looked for the opportunities. I have good legs, just not good enough to react to van der Poel. Behind there was a gap and I went full gas from 400 to go. In the end only Roglič and Pogačar went past me. So in the end it was a good day. I think we were always really sharp in the race and we did good with the team.”
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma): 3rd at 0:06
Roglič crashed on Saturday’s opener, and on Sunday overcame the impact to make it to the final in the front group. While he couldn’t match van der Poel, he could match his biggest rival, Pogačar, in the push to the line. Roglič, like others, gave van der Poel plenty of praise for the lightning attack.
“It was full-gas like yesterday, and I think somehow we expected it and for me it was again a good day,” Roglič said. “Better than yesterday. Still I have quite some pain all over the body, especially on my leg. So one less and we move on. Surprised [at van der Poel]? Not really. He showed already he can do big attacks, and once again he did it today. It was really a good good move, and definitely he deserved to take it.”