Tour de France favourites Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali suffered an early blow to their general classification hopes, losing over a minute to Chris Froome and Alberto Contador on a windy stage in the Netherlands.
Racing in close proximity to the North Sea for much of the stage, strong winds caused several splits in the peloton, leaving Nibali, Quintana, Thibaut Pinot and other contenders struggling to catch up as Andre Greipel took the stage.
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Fabian Cancellara sprinted past Mark Cavendish to finish third on the day, behind Greipel and Peter Sagan, enough to see him gain the time bonus that sees him move into the yellow jersey.
The early four-man breakaway contained three members of wildcard teams, Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar), Jan Barta (Bora-Argon 18) and Armindo Fonseca (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), as well as Stef Clement of IAM Cycling.
While Etixx-Quick-Step made much of the early chase, with Cavendish favourite for the stage, the teams of the general classification contenders came to the front as the weather set in.
With just over 100km to race the pace in the bunch ramped up, reducing the break’s lead from 2m40 to just 45 seconds as Tinkoff-Saxo, Team Sky, Astana and Movistar put the pressure on.
The increased pace saw the peloton split in two, with a 20-second gap between the two groups. Joaquim Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde were two of the bigger name riders not to find himself in the front group initially.
The group got back together but a series of crashes split the peloton once more, with Geraint Thomas, Wilco Kelderman and Adam Hansen all going down in in treacherous conditions as the rain set in.
Quintana was the only big favourite second time around to find himself in the back group, with several Movistar teammates attempting to bridge the gap as the lead group sped up to try and distance him.
Nibali then missed out on another split as Etixx upped the pace once more with 45km to go, but Froome and Contador stayed with the leaders.
Then, Nibali punctured and found himself having to pace through the string of team cars to get back to his group, which trailed Contador and Froome by a minute with 20km to go.
Then it was Tinkoff-Saxo’s turn for misfortune as both Daniele Benatti and Sagan suffered flat tires, with no-one available to bring the Slovakian back into the fold as all focus was on protecting Contador. As it happened, he made it back on his own in enough time to contest the sprint.
As the front group went inside the last kilometre Cavendish opened his sprint early. Greipel sat on his wheel all the way and sped past him in the last hundred metres.
Cavendish ended up in fourth, as Cancellara crossed in third to take the yellow jersey into stage three. Had Cavendish not have sat up when he realised the stage win was out of reach, he would have seen teammate Tony Martin move into yellow.
Froome gained a valuable four seconds on Contador as the bunch split in the final metres, while Thomas does up to fifth overall after his finish in the front group.
Tour de France stage two result, Utrecht – Neeltje Jans (166km)
1. Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Soudal, 3:29:03
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo, st
3. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek, st
4. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Etixx-Quick-Step, st
5. Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC, st
6. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC, st
7. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, st
8. Tom Dumoulin (Ned), Giant-Alpecin, st
9. Tony Martin (Ger), Etixx-Quick-Step, st
10. Warren Barguil (Fra), Giant-Alpecin, st
47. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ, at 1m28
49. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, at 1m28
56. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 1m28
General classification after stage two
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek, 3:44:01
2. Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx-Quick-Step, at 3s
3. Tom Dumoulin (Ned), Giant-Alpecin, at 6s
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo, at 33s
5. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, at 35s
6. Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC, at 42s
7. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx-Quick-Step, at 42s
8. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC, at 44s
9. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC, at 48s
10. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 48s
14. Alberto Contador (Esp), Tinkoff-Saxo, at 1m
20. Ian Stannard (GBr), Team Sky, at 1m20
21. Mark Cavendish (GBr), Etixx-Quick-Step, at 1m24
29. Alex Dowsett (GBr), Movistar, at 2m02
31. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ, at 2m02
33. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, at 2m07
44. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 2m27