Tour de France: Vincenzo Nibali wins stage two in Sheffield to claim yellow jersey
By Matt Westby in Sheffield
Last Updated: 06/07/14 7:32pm
Vincenzo Nibali claimed the Tour de France leader’s yellow jersey by riding solo to victory on stage two in Sheffield after a late attack.
The Italian surged clear of a select group of rivals 1.9km from the finish line and hung on to win by two seconds from runner-up Greg van Avermaet and third-placed Michal Kwiatkowski.
It was Nibali's first Tour stage victory and he now rises to the top of the general classification, two seconds ahead of second-placed Peter Sagan, who finished fourth on the day, and Van Avermaet in third.
Chris Froome crossed the line in the group just behind Nibali in 18th place and climbs to fifth overall, while his main rival, Alberto Contador, was also present and is now eighth in the standings.
Nibali’s attack provided a dramatic finale to a compelling day's racing played out in front of hundreds of thousands of fans in Yorkshire. Droves of supporters descended on the start in York and finish line in Sheffield, while the hillsides of each of the stage's nine categorised climbs were a sea of people.
Nibali said afterwards: “This is wonderful victory. I found the right time to escape. I really felt as though I was all out and I didn’t think I was going to be able to keep up that pace towards the end, but in the end I just found that little bit extra."
The day started with the news that Mark Cavendish would not continue in the Tour following his crash on stage one, but that did not dampen the spirit of the hordes of fans who packed into York racecourse to see the riders off.
A seven-man breakaway moved clear early but they tired over the first four of the day's climbs and by the time they reached the category-two ascent of Holme Moss, where another enormous crowd was waiting, only Blel Kadri was left at the head of the race.
He too was swallowed up as the peloton tackled a flurry of short and steep climbs on their way into Sheffield, and although the main bunch briefly broke apart, Sagan's Cannondale team moved to the front to slow the pace and bring the race back together.
The pack consequently arrived as one at the foot of the final climb, Jenkin Road, which had a ramp of 33 per cent, but Contador, Nibali and Froome whittled the group back down to about 25 riders by driving a fierce pace up the steep ascent.
Sagan managed to stay with the climbers and then hit the front of the race by attacking on the descent, but with all of his rivals keen to avoid a sprint, he soon came under a flurry of attacks on the flat run to the finish.
After several failed attempts by other riders, Nibali instantly opened up a healthy gap with his attack and, despite a headwind, he was able to time-trial to the line and hold off a powerful counter from Van Avermaet.
Stage two result
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, 5:08:36
2 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC, +2secs
3 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, st
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale, st
5 Tony Gallopin (Ita) Lotto Belisol, st
6 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEdge, st
7 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp, st
8 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin, st
9 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC, st
10 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, 9:52:43
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale, +2secs
3 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC, st
4 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEdge, st
5 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, st
6 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin, st
7 Jurgen van den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol, st
8 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo, st
9 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC, st
10 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, st