x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Tour de France: Jans Bakelants holds on for final push

Delight for Belgian rider and his 'first and last time' in yellow jersey.

Belgium’s Jan Bakelants grits his teeth just ahead of the finish line as the peloton looms large behind him on Stage 2 of the Tour de France.
Belgium’s Jan Bakelants grits his teeth just ahead of the finish line as the peloton looms large behind him on Stage 2 of the Tour de France.

Ajaccio, Corsica // Belgian rider Jan Bakelants pulled away close to the finish line to win Sunday's second stage of the Tour de France and take the race leader's yellow jersey for the first time in his career.

Bakelants made his move with a few hundred metres remaining and the RadioShack rider did enough to withstand a late charge from Slovak sprinter Peter Sagan.

"It's difficult to believe what happened today, it's fantastic," said Bakelants, who had a knee operation earlier this year. "Today it may be the first and last time I ever wear the yellow jersey."

German sprinter Marcel Kittel started the day in the lead after winning Saturday's crash-marred first stage, but the rolling hills took their toll and he finished nearly 18 minutes behind in 169th place.

"It's a difficult stage and I'm a sprinter, that's why I suffer," said Kittel, who retained the sprinter's green jersey.

"I had goose bumps when I went up the hill. So many people were screaming my name. But we were expecting to lose it [the yellow jersey]."

The 156-kilometre trek started from Bastia and after four moderate climbs finished in Ajaccio, where French emperor and military mastermind Napoleon Bonaparte was born in 1769.

The day's last climb up Cote du Salario was much shorter than the other ones but far steeper.

By the time the pack reached the foot of it, Kittel and British sprinter Mark Cavendish were among a small band of strugglers drifting further and further away.

Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha and Cyrille Gautier attacked up the final ascent, and Tour favourite Chris Froome then launched a surprise attack to go after Gautier when the Frenchman pulled away. But Froome's attack fizzled out and the main pack swallowed him up.

Froome said he tried to send a message to his rivals with his late burst.

"With that little climb about 10km from the finish – I knew the descent was tricky and dangerous," the Team Sky rider said.

"I was on the front with Richie and I thought it might be a good time, just to push on a little bit, get ahead and take the descent at my own pace and stay out of trouble.

"It's always good to keep people on their toes.

"The main objective for us was to stay out of trouble today, stay at the front, and not lose any time to the main contenders.

"Eddie [Boasson Hagen] was there at the end and was given the freedom to have a go at the sprint, and he ended up with fifth.

"All-in-all it was a good stage for us having kept our places on the GC and allowing Eddie to give it a go."

The day after more than a dozen riders crashed, a small white dog ran out into the road some 4km from the line and a potentially dangerous situation was narrowly avoided by a matter of seconds.

A bystander started to run after the dog and then changed his mind, and the dog just managed to reach the other side of the road before the marauding pack passed through.

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