Tour de France: Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali lose time on stage 2
Andre Greipel sprints to victory as Fabian Cancellara takes race lead
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 05/07/15 9:09pm
Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana dropped 1min 28sec on a wind and rain-battered second stage of the Tour de France as Mark Cavendish lost out to Andre Greipel in a sprint finish and Fabian Cancellara took the overall lead.
The 166km coastal stage from Utrecht to Zelande always looked likely to be at the mercy of the elements and the weather duly served up a dramatic day by blowing the peloton to pieces on several occasions.
Although Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) avoided losses, Nibali (Astana) and Quintana (Movistar) both suffered significant early blows to their hopes of overall victory after being caught out by the day's two most significant splits, with just over 50km to go.
Froome now leads Nibali by 1min 21sec and Quintana by 1min 39sec in the general classification, while Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) is 12 seconds adrift of the Briton after joining him in the lead group on the road but then losing four seconds in the final dash for the line.
With only 25 riders in the front group, Cavendish (Etixx – Quick-Step) looked favourite to take victory but launched his sprint too early and had to settle for fourth place behind Greipel (Lotto Soudal), runner-up Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and third-placed Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing).
The four bonus seconds Cancellara received for his result were enough to move him to the top of the general classification, three seconds ahead of Cavendish's team-mate Tony Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step) and six in front of third-placed Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin). Froome is 48 seconds down on Cancellara in 10th.
Greipel said: "I felt really strong and I'm really happy to have won. We were trying to push really hard at the front of the peloton in order to drop some of my rivals and it worked pretty well. It was really nervous with all the rain and the wind but the team kept me up at the front."
Cancellara added: "We started with beautiful weather but then the whole weather situation changed. We had a lot of wind, rain came, we had some chaos and then things suddenly got split up. I was there in the front with the best sprinters and now I am in yellow, and that is the great thing today."
The riders left Utrecht in beautiful conditions but the weather began deteriorating around 50km in and the teams were warned of the dangers ahead when the peloton briefly split with around 100km remaining following an injection of pace from Tinkoff-Saxo.
The pack reformed but when the wind started whipping up and rain came pouring down, it was blown apart again – and this time there was no closing the gaps.
Quintana was the first to be dropped, quickly losing 30 seconds, and then Nibali also became distanced from a front group being driven on by Cavendish's powerful Etixx – Quick-Step team, and in particular former three-time world time-trial champion Martin.
Nibali and Quintana's groups later joined together, but despite their superior numbers, they were no match for the lead group - containing both Froome and Contador - and Nibali's plight was worsened when he punctured with 24km to go and lost even more ground.
By then, the weather had calmed and Cavendish, who had sheltered behind team-mates all day, appeared well placed to claim his 26th Tour career stage win. However, he launched his sprint a risky 300m out and paid the price when he ran out of steam in the final 100m and could only look on as Greipel defeated Sagan in a photo finish.
The Tour continues on Monday with a 159.5km third stage from Antwerpen to Huy in Belgium. Read more about it in our race guide here.
Stage two result
1 Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal, 3:29:03
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo, same time
3 Fabian Cancellara (Sui) Trek Factory Racing, st
4 Mark Cavendish (GB) Etixx – Quick-Step, st
5 Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing, st
6 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, st
7 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, st
8 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin, st
9 Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step, st
10 Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin, st
13 Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff-Saxo, +4secs
49 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, +1:28
56 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, st
1 Fabian Cancellara (Sui) Trek Factory Racing, 3:44:01
2 Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step, +3secs
3 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin, +6
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo, +33
5 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, +35
6 Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing, +42
7 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx – Quick-Step, same time
8 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing, +44
9 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, +48
10 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, st
14 Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff-Saxo, +1:00
33 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, +2:09
44 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, 2:27