Chris Froome failed to hold back Vincenzo Nibali from taking the yellow jersey but found himself in an “ideal” place when the Tour de France arrived in Sheffield on Sunday.
"A flex of muscle?" Sky's Froome said of his attack in stage two. "It wasn't to show that I was around, but I knew the descent was tricky and I wanted to take it at my own pace."
Froome shot ahead near the top of the Jenkin Road climb after rival Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) had lifted the pace to the point where only a few riders remained. The action put him ahead just before the final five kilometres. Team Astana's Nibali, however, left his rivals behind.
The Italian began as one of the three top favourites with Froome and Contador. He only took the jersey by two seconds but it may have sent an early signal out to his two rivals that he should not be discounted.
Froome repeated that he did not see it that way, that it was simply the case of Nibali edging free at 1.9 kilometres from Sheffield’s centre and gaining an advantage.
"A lot of contenders were making moves, and Nibali ended up taking two seconds on us in the final," Froome added. "It's a small margin, but it puts him in the yellow jersey."
"They were all attentive not to lose time, but then they were all hesitant because nobody wanted the jersey," team Sky's boss, David Brailsford said. "Nibali has it for two seconds, which means that Astana will have to defend it. It take pressure off of us, they have to work. It's ideal for us."
In the lead group of 21, Sky had three riders with Richie Porte, Mikel Nieve and Froome. Porte crashed with 65 kilometres left as the stage was heating up and had to chase with a bloody left elbow even to be able to contest the finish.
"Richie is all right," Brailsford said. "A Garmin rider rode into the back of him and he rode into Nicolas Roche, but it's one of those things. He was all right, got back on and lost no time.
"It's good for us with Mikel there, as well, since we have riders on the same time."
Late attack nets Vincenzo Nibali the stage win ahead of his general classification rivals
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1