Peerless Jumbo-Visma extend their lead
If there was an award handed to the most improved WorldTour of recent seasons, Jumbo-Visma would run away with it.
The Dutch outfit have slowly been raising the bar over the last few years, bolstering their roster, pursuing a more professional atmosphere and claiming the results they desire.
Jumbo-Visma really been living up to their potential this year and look like the team best placed to end the Team Ineos hegemony at the Tour de France, and their TTT victory could be a symbolic moment in the squad’s development.
After a strong showing at the Giro d’Italia with Primož Roglič, who led the race in the opening week and finished third overall, the team have approached the Tour de France 2019 with dual aspirations – the general classification with Steven Kruijswijk and sprint glory with Dylan Groenewegen.
Their dominant victory in the team time trial, taking 20 seconds out of Team Ineos, makes it two-for-two wins and shows the team strength in a squad that could dominate this race.
Stage one winner Mike Teunissen has extended his overall lead to 30 seconds over his rivals, but his days in yellow are numbered.
Kruijswijk, who finished fourth in the Tour de France last year, now sits third overall and has a 20 second advantage over his nearest rivals from Ineos, Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal, but can the Dutchman hold his own in the mountains?
Bittersweet day in the hot-seat for Team Ineos
Surprisingly for a team with such phenomenal time trialling pedigree, Team Ineos have never won a Tour de France TTT.
Stage two of this year’s Tour looked like it might be the occasion for the British WorldTour outfit to break the curse, as the squad set off first and flawlessly tackled the 27.6km course in 29-17.
That set reigning champion Geraint Thomas and young prospect Egan Bernal up for a long wait in the hot-seat, as team after team fell short of their effort.
A few tense moments followed for Ineos, as Deceuninck – Quick-Step fell less than a second shy of their time, while Katusha-Alpecin, Sunweb and EF Education First all came within close grasp of the lead.
When it looked like victory may have been secured Jumbo-Visma, the last team out on the road, came along to spoil the celebrations by smashing the time of Ineos, denying them the yellow jersey in the process.
But Ineos’s disappointment should be tempered by their outstanding performance, which secured them time over most GC rivals.
While Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb), Katusha-Alpecin’s Ilnur Zakarin and Tejay van Garderen are within ten seconds of the Welshman, his most threatening rivals are at a more notable disadvantage – Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) is 21 seconds back, while Trek-Segafredo’s Richie Porte is around a minute down.
Final turn crash doesn’t derail Groupama-FDJ
There was cause for cautious celebration in the Thibaut Pinot’s camp, as his Groupama-FDJ squad were one of the most surprising performers in Brussels.
The French outfit finished eighth on the stage, 32 seconds back on winners Jumbo-Visma and just 12 seconds behind Team Ineos, keeping Pinot in the fight for the general classification.
Groupama’s performance was almost upended in the final turn, as promising youngster David Gaudu banked too sharply and lost his wheel, hitting the floor as his team-mates rode away.
Fortunately Gaudu was the last man in the train, so didn’t take anyone with him, and only suffered a superficial injury to his hand in the fall.
Pinot is now 37th overall, 42 seconds back on current leader Mike Teunnisen.
GC losers in a rough discipline
It may only be the second stage of the Tour de France 2019, but there have already been some major time casualties after the TTT.
The most notable victims of this unforgiving discipline were Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), who both lost more than a minute to the winners.
Ag2r have always struggled against the clock, both solo and as a unit, and stage two was no different as Bardet finished 59 seconds behind Team Ineos and 1-19 down to Jumbo-Visma.
Porte’s Tour misfortune continues as he chases Grand Tour success with a new team, Trek-Segafredo, with the squad only performing one second better than Ag2r.
The Australian now sits 1-28 down on leader Teunissen in 104th position, while Bardet sits 108th at 1-29.
Simon Yates true to his word, loses time
There was plenty of speculation pre-Tour about whether Simon Yates could target the general classification after his fairly disappointing Giro d’Italia finish in June.
But speaking at a Mitchelton-Scott press conference on the eve of the race, both team boss Matt White and Yates were adamant that the 26-year-old was riding in support of his brother Adam, returning the favour for the support he received in winning the Vuelta a España last year.
After saying he intended to lose time in the opening week, Yates proved himself true to his word during the stage two TTT, as he was dropped from the Mitchelton-Scott unit early in the stage.
The team performed well regardless, even if not living up to their previous stage-winning team efforts, with Adam Yates still in contention at 51 seconds down on Teunissen and 21 behind Thomas.
Simon Yates has now confirmed his place as an uber-domestique and in the process frees himself up to chase stage victory if the occasion should arise, as he is now 3-56 behind the leader in 162nd place on general classification.