• Andre Greipel crosses the finish line ahead of Peter Sagan, Fabian Cancellara and Mark Cavendish (AAP)Source: AAP
The second stage of the Tour de France exceeded expectations to produce damaging losses for two favourites and a new rider in yellow.
Cycling Central

6 Jul 2015 - 1:37 AM  UPDATED 6 Jul 2015 - 6:58 AM

The stage winner from a select group of 26 was Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) who finished ahead of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing).

Cancellara’s third place finish, and the bonus seconds that came with the result, was enough for him to replace Australia’s Rohan Dennis (BMC) as the race leader.

The fight for the general classification was the the major point of interest in the heavy winds and rainy conditions, with Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Chris Froome (Sky) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) gaining almost a minute and a half on rivals Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

“This a huge advantage for us to be sitting in this position after one flat day out on the road," Froome said. "But this is a three-week race and things do change on a daily basis. We're ahead today but who knows what's in store for us for the rest of the week.

“It was chaos out there with the storm, the wind and everything. One second, Nibali was next to me and the next I couldn't believe it when I heard he was distanced. It's the nature of racing here in Holland.”

Flagfall for Stage 2 came after 30 minute long goodbye through the Grand Depart city of Utrecht, ahead of the 198 strong peloton was 166km of racing to Zelande.

Perrig Quémeneur (Europcar) Jan Barta (Bora-Argon 18), Stef Clement (IAM Cycling) and Armindo Fonseca (Bretagne-Séché Environnement) immediately broke from the peloton.

As expected the wind and rain played its part of the stage with splits occurring with 68km left to race, but the peloton came together after a major struggle as the break continued to lead.

As the peloton closed in on the break Barta then made the decision to take the major points and money on offer at the intermediate sprint. The long range effort left him richer but alone at the head of the race with 75km remaining.

Clement and Fonseca re-joined Barta but their breakaway ended as the showers and wind intensified and the peloton again split, this time with Quintana and Nibali caught out.

From that point it was a war of attrition as the 26-strong winning front group dug deep to prevent the two biggest victims of the conditions from making contact.

Both Quintana's Movistar team and the Astana outfit of Nibali chased hard but the front group was pushed on by Etixx-QuickStep, trying to set up sprinter Mark Cavendish for the stage win.

Cavendish launched his bid for a 26th Tour stage win with 200 metres left but faded to fourth as Greipel edged out Sagan by a fraction of a wheel length.

Behind, Cancellara just beat Cavendish for third and the accompanying time bonus was enough for him to overhaul Tony Martin, who finished ninth, for the race lead.

Dennis was back in the Quintana-Nibali group and his hopes of holding onto yellow had long gone.

Cancellara now leads Martin by three seconds with Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) third at six seconds.

“This was the first stage I could win, it’s magnificent that I did. This is a fantastic reward for the team and me," Greipel said after his victory.

"In the Tour everyone starts from zero, it are the results here that count. This determines if your season is successful or not. A victory at the Tour is at least as double important as anywhere else," he said.

The German revealeved that he considered Cavendish and Sagan his main rivals for the sprint and that he tried to stay under the radar earlier in the day, while doing the work when it counted the most. “We had a plan before the start and did a recon last Wednesday. We were focused today, but not stressed. I finished it off, but this victory one is of the entire team."

This win marks Greipel's seventh stage win in the Tour de France. "I win a Tour stage for the fifth year in a row, but it’s the first time my wife is here so that makes it even more special," he said.

"I’m wearing the green jersey for the first time in my career, that’s a nice extra. Tonight I will enjoy this victory and then we’ll see what happens the next days.”

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