Tour de France 2013 stage 2: Bakelants wins

RadioShack Leopard rider steals one from the sprinters

This story was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.

Jan Bakelants (RadioShack Leopard) won stage 2 of Tour de France from Bastia to Ajaccio, holding off the sprinters in a gripping finale.

Marcel Kittel (Argos Shimano) was unable to retain his yellow jersey with Bakelants' one-second advantage enough to seal the maillot jaune.

Bakelants broke clear in the final few kilometres of a pulsating stage with Jakob Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team), Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel Euskadi), Manuele Mori (Lampre-Merida), Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM).

With the peloton breathing down their necks, Bakelants took off with a kilometre to go, and managed to hang on ahead of Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step).

This wasn't just a stage marked by Bakelants' late bid for glory. It had much more to it than that, with the Corsican countryside serving up a intricate and at times enthralling stage.

There was, of course, the customary break, shepherded clear by Lars Boom (Belkin) once again. The Dutchman was joined by David Veilleux (Europcar), Blel Kadri (AG2R) and Ruben Perez (Euskaltel), with the foursome collaborating as the race travelled south.

On the first climb of the day of the Col de Bellagranajo, the gap had levelled off at two minutes. Boom secured the KOM points come the summit, outsmarting his breakaway companions with a well timed sprint.

But in similar fashion to stage 1, the peloton was in no mood to take any chances and had reduced the gap to 30 seconds on its prey.

It was too soon for the predator to catch its prey, and by the time of the second climb, the Col de la Serra the gap had grown out to 1:15.

Realising that the gap was almost up, only Kadri decided to press on. His advantage held at just 30 seconds, but a mechanical problem caused his lead shrink to less than 10 seconds on the slopes of Col de Vizzavona, as FDJ, perhaps with Marc Madiot's anger at yesterday's mishap with the Orica bus, still ringing in their ears, leading the bunch.

Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - Quick Step) and race leader Marcel Kittel (Argos Shimano) were among those dropped, with the stage 1 winner quickly losing three minutes. Three minutes soon became five, and five quickly ran out to 10.

Just to emphasise the sprinters' limited chances of success, Pierre Rolland threw down a probing attack in search of his first mountain points. The Europcar leader quickly dispatched with Kadri by the summit, and moved into the lead of the King of the Mountains competition with Kardi tied in second.

Rolland's aggressive move prompted Sky into action with last year's all conquering cadre setting a furious pace on the descent. BMC allied with the British team, indicating their trust in Philippe Gilbert for the finish, with Rolland dragged back with around 45 kilometres to go.

Cannondale, who has been present in the pace setting duties before the climbs, rose once more, Peter Sagan clearly determined to make up for stage 1.

With the final climb of the Côte du Salario looming the nerves in the peloton began to fray. Sky, Lampre, Garmin, BMC and Canndonale all vied for position at the head of the field. The climb itself was no more than a kilometre long, but its steep pitches were enough to change the dynamic of the finale.

It was Juan Antonio Flecha and Cyril Gautier who attacked on the first slopes of the climb as behind them the GC contenders saved their powder. Richie Porte set pace for Sky with Cadel Evans (BMC) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) all in close quarters.

Then Froome attacked. It was perhaps no more than a test, but the move itself was impressive enough. Evans led the chase and when Flecha was caught, only Gautier remained at the head of the race once Sky’s leader was reeled in.

Cannondale were able to neutralise Gautier's attack, but it paved the way for Bakelants, Fuglsang, Izagirre, Mori, Chavanel and Flecha to move clear.

All of France sighed with relief for it was Chavanel's 34th birthday and surely the experienced Frenchman could finish off the job. Inside three kilometres, it still looked likely, the Omega rider hunched over the drops as he dragged his companions to their fate.

However, Bakelants had not read the script. Instead, with the peloton within touching distance, it was the RadioShack rider and not Chavanel who seized the opportunity and has he dove through the final bends and pushed for the line the peloton could only watch as the Belgian picked up the biggest win of his career.

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