Plenty shall be eager to forget their opening day at 2020’s Tour de France, as rain turned roads to ice and the majority of the peloton introduced themselves to the tarmac at one point or another. Though a surprise in essence, once the attritional nature became apparent, it was clear conditions were ideal for Alexander Kristoff to win the stage and secure his maiden yellow jersey. Today’s offering is an entirely different prospect, setting the stage for a hotly contested battle to form the days breakaway, which shall then surely go onwards to decide the honours amongst themselves.
It is a 186km trip from Nice to Nice (sound familiar?), to provide the peloton a chance to say hello to some different roads in the area, mainly those which go up and send your hopes down simultaneously. A couple of Category 1 ascents will help form the day’s break and shake out anyone feeling the damage from the preceding day, while the infamous Col d’Eze is likely to act as a launchpad for a decisive move in the deciding kilometres back to Nice…again. Oh, it’s a total lottery for Stage 2 by the way, here we go!
Undoubtedly the favourite for many shall be the swashbuckling Julian Alaphilippe, far from experiencing an ideal start to his home tour, there is no denying his eagerness to find himself at the front of affairs as soon as possible. He has emerged strong from the season’s hiatus, looking capable of replicating the form which previously bestowed yellow upon his shoulders for quite some time, but he might find escapees unwilling to work with him because of this.
For those whose interest is not piqued by the moustachioed Frenchman, it is likely their hopes will look to Wout van Aert for potential glory, a man who has been imperious during the belated classics of 2020. If he can survive the bulk of the day without burning too many matches, then the deciding kilometres into Nice appear ideal terrain for him to exploit the form which has already delivered him Strade Bianche and Milano-Sanremo this year.
Not long in the memory of pundits, Greg Van Avermaet would have been a nailed on victor for today’s 186km offering, though doubt creeps across the greatness of all cyclists at times. If class truly is permanent, then the classics specialist will muster a charge today, knowing that victory shall surely guarantee the yellow jersey too.
Speaking of old goats, Alejandro Valverde is another who will be eager to find his best legs for Stage 2, as the combination of sustained climbing and a punchy finish plays into the hands of a rider who has crushed the dreams of many on similar days. At 40 years old, it is hard to fathom why he still wants to be lining up for the rigours of Le Tour de France after yesterday’s reality check, unless he really does just love beating riders who were not even born when he turned professional. Regardless, if on form, expect the sighing of forgone conclusions from amongst the day’s breakaway.
Sergio Higuita is in sparkling form right now and could well be interested in stretching his legs on day two, though his overall intentions for the race itself are somewhat unclear, as team orders might require him to stay calm for now. An uphill finish is likely to have proven more tantalising for the Colombian, yet while others tend to their bandages, he could spring into action and secure yellow for Colombia; rapidly becoming a common feature of the tour.
The natives would love to see ‘Wawa’ in action tomorrow, though Warren Barguil is often difficult to predict, with little middle ground between surging ahead up an HC climb or vanishing out the back before the cameras even catch sight of him. If he turns up in good shape, then the terrain will lend him more than enough to make life miserable for his rivals on day two.
Stopping short of naming the rest of the peloton, others to keep an eye upon if in the day’s breakaway are:
Pello Bilbao – Well versed in making moves stick on days like these, but could be restricted by team orders.
Lennard Kämna – Has all the makings of a great cyclist and might find today ideal to truly cement his prospects.
Romain Bardet – Reckons he is only here for stage wins, so why not today?
Nicolas Edet – Longstanding addiction to futile breakaways and rides for Cofidis; dream combo.
1st Lennard Kämna 2nd Julian Alaphilippe 3rd Alejandro Valverde