Jul 5, 2014

Tour de France Stage 1 Review/Stage 2 Preview

Stage 1 Review

Stage winner: Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano)
Just another easy day at the office for Marcel Kittel. Just as it was in the first two sprint days in the Giro, Kittel’s lead out train did not fire perfectly. Luckily for him, nobody else’s did either as the late climb and Fabian Cancellara’s late attack caused a very chaotic finish where Kittel had the power advantage over all others, especially with Andre Greipel stuck behind in a bad position and Mark Cavendish having crashed out. Too much more of this and Kittel will be in a class by himself.

Yellow Jersey: Kittel
For the second year in a row, Kittel has the yellow jersey. For the second year in a row, Kittel is going to be in the yellow jersey for only day. Tomorrow is way too difficult in the climbing area for a rider like Kittel to cope with the climbs and reach the finish.

In the actual Yellow Jersey fight, we learned nothing as the crash and a few late punctures put everyone of consequence inside the 3 km rule and therefore on the same time no matter when they crossed the finish line.

Green Jersey: Kittel
Kittel does hold the jersey, but Peter Sagan is tied with him. That Sagan is already tied for the lead after the first stage that didn’t necessarily suit him is a bad, bad thing for the prospects of others in this competition.

King of the Mountains: Jens Voigt (Trek Factory)
Voigt went in the early breakaway and attacked for the points on the only climbs of the day. A productive first day as it got him on the podium and got his sponsor some extra airtime. Tomorrow he will cede the jersey unless he is in the breakaway again.

White Jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
Sagan was the tops of the younger riders in the sprint as expected (he was second overall behind Kittel). Like in the GC fight, we learned little on this stage.

Tactical Masterclass: Trek Factory Racing
Getting Jens Voigt in the breakaway was smart as this team had very little to hang its hat on entering the race. If nothing else, getting Voigt the polka dot jersey for a day should be good for morale. Add Fabian Cancellara’s late attack that disintegrated the lead out trains for the sprinters and nearly stole the stage from the sprinters and you have a strong team effort on day one.

Tactical Blunder: Omega Pharma-Quick Step
Made two mistakes while setting up the sprint. First was the team came to the front too early. Tony Martin and Mark Renshaw are very good, but other teams are now equal to the challenge, something they weren’t when Martin and Renshaw were delivering Cavendish to victories at HTC-High Road.

Second, Cavendish himself made a huge mistake leaning for position and ultimately causing his own crash with Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge). While Cavendish got back on the bike and finished the stage, he did so with a separated shoulder and is now questionable to start stage 2.

Stage 2 - York to Sheffield

Expectations entering the stage: A true shootout for the yellow jersey with teams like Orica-GreenEdge that don’t have GC men but have Ardennes specialists targeting the yellow jersey, with the possibility of holding it until at least the cobbled stage 5 on Wednesday.

Jersey’s in play
  • Yellow Jersey - Unless Marcel Kittel is going to hang in the lead group (hint: Kittel can’t climb so the chances are zero with this stage profile), the stage winner is likely to take the yellow jersey on this stage.
  • White Jersey - Peter Sagan is the current holder. He could win this stage or he could find it a bit too rough, just as he has found in his times to the Ardennes classics. If he doesn’t find it too hard, there is a decent chance he gets the upgrade to yellow.
  • Green Jersey - Sagan is already tied for the lead and this stage looks like one where he will at least be around for the intermediate sprint and likely will make the finale.
  • Polka Dot Jersey - Anyone actually targeting this jersey (not just to win by accident) will likely take a flyer in the breakaway tomorrow. There may not be any huge climbs, but nine categorized climbs is a lot of points.

GC items of note: The main GC contenders could skirmish a bit tomorrow, but this stage shouldn’t trouble them. Only the second tier guys who don’t really have the form will have trouble here.

Stage Pick: Peter Sagan (Cannondale)

I was all set to pick Simon Gerrans, then he was caught in the Cavendish crash today. Given a similar but less strenuous stage last year for stage 3, Sagan was beaten in the sprint by Gerrans but Gerrans is unlikely to be ready to sprint in this stage after the crash.

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