Wow. That was some stage. We knew when the Tour de France route was announced that stage two might be explosive, but it still came as a bit of a shock when it actually played out that way.
Many riders will be kicking themselves for finding themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time as the winds and rain set in on the Zeeland coast, while others will be absolutely ecstatic about their day’s work.
Here’s what we’re talking about in the aftermath stage two
When you race this close to the sea the wind and rain comes as part of the package, but the effect it had on the stage – and the race as a whole – was beyond what many people imagine beforehand.
It sounds easy enough, as an armchair spectator, to keep yourself at the front of the peloton and out of danger, but when the race is travelling at over 40kph one tiny thing could cost you dear.
Tell that to poor Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali, who were caught out by gusts of winds and crashes, eventually losing 90 seconds to Chris Froome and Alberto Contador.
While it looked lovely and sunny at the start, finish line cameras showed apocalyptic scenes, with television studios almost buckling in the torrential rain and gale-force winds.
That weather hit the peloton before they got to the end, though, and the results were pretty devastating to some of the big names in the race.
Nibali, Quintana and co losing time
It must have been a bit alien Quintana, racing at below sea level – given the Colombian grew up and spent his build up to the Tour de France at 3,000m above it.
And I bet the diminutive Movistar rider wishes he was back up at those altitudes right now, having seen his Tour hopes severely dented by a terrible day out to the seaside.
Nibali showed last year that he can ride in poor conditions – his storming ride over the Tour cobbles a case in point – but lady luck wasn’t smiling at the Italian this year
While Quintana looked content, when dropped, to have his teammates try and pace him back to the front, Nibali wasted valuable energy and composure by shouting and gesticulating at riders from all teams to help him back to contention.
Thibaut Pinot also found himself in that back group, and with FDJ’s poor history in team time trials, the Frenchman may have seen his chances of consecutive podium finishes ended already.
Also missing out were the Ag2r-La Mondiale duo of Jean-Christophe Peraud and Romain Bardet, who also finished in the Quintana group and find themselves 2m25 and 3m00 back respectively.
Other than Froome and Contador, BMC’s Tejay van Garderen made his way into the front group with five other teammates, and that leads us nicely onto the next point…
BMC missing the chance to put TVG in control
Whether intentional or not, BMC missed a bit of a trick in the final 50km of the stage by not driving the pace faster than it already was.
The American team had six riders in the front group, including van Garderen, but they seemed content to simply sit on the back and let the other teams control the pace.
Etixx-Quick-Step were going for the win with Mark Cavendish, while Team Sky and Tinkoff-Saxo were controlling it for Froome and Contador.
Other than Etixx, no-one had as many men up the front than BMC, yet they took no interest in driving even more time into Quintana, Nibali and the other big contenders.
With five guys to burn out before the finish, the boys in red and black could have pushed the pace enough to get another 30 seconds out of the already struggling second group on the road.
As it stands, Tejay is sitting pretty in eighth place, but a two-minute gap over Quintana heading into the mountains would have been a lot nicer than the 90 seconds he currently holds.
Greipel outfoxing Cavendish
How often do we see it, a sprinter opens up the gas and Cavendish waits until the last moment to power past him?
Well this time it was the other way round as Andre Greipel got one over his former teammate and long-time rival.
Cavendish opened his sprint a very long way out, with the likes of Greipel and Peter Sagan trailing in his wake. But the Manxman couldn’t get clear and Greipel took advantage of the perfect leadout he’d been provided.
The big German moves into the green jersey – a competition Cavendish is looking to win for a second time after three years of domination in the classification by Peter Sagan.
Cancellara’s textbook race
What’s a Tour de France without seeing Fabian Cancellara in the yellow jersey?
The Swiss rider’s determination to get the bonus seconds for finishing third on the stage resulted in a much deserved maillot jaune – Cancellara’s 29th in his Tour de France career.
The Trek Factory Racing rider must have been disappointed with not winning the time trial on stage one, but having missed his beloved Classics season through injury, grabbing yellow on stage two is a sign of his resurrected season.
Looking at the rest of week one, Cancellara could keep hold of the jersey for some time to come, with cobbles and relatively flat stages between here and the stage-nine team time trial.
Cycling Weekly’s guide to the sprinters of the 2015 Tour de France