World champion Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) won stage two of the 2018 Tour de France after another crash-marred finale to the stage to take the yellow jersey.
Sagan was too fast for Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) in a vastly-reduced bunch sprint after a crash at 2km to go had taken out many contenders.
Yellow jersey Fernando Gaviria (QuickStep Floors) was among those inhibited by the crash, on a sweeping right-hand bend.
It left Sagan – already a favourite for the stage – to storm to victory, bursting out of Demare’s wheel and just about holding off the charge of Colbrelli on the line.
Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas climbed into the top ten overall, meanwhile, avoiding the late carnage to finish safely having already bagged a bonus second at the new bonus sprint.
Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), riding the 350th Tour de France stage of his career, was one of three men in the day’s breakaway, with former ONE Pro Cycling man Dion Smith (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and, for the first time in this year’s race, a WorldTour rider in Michael Gogl (Trek-Segafredo).
The day’s only climb featured early in the stage, with Smith leading the way over the top to take the King of the Mountains point; Gogl called for the medical car after the climb before dropping back.
With his job for the stage done, and needing to finish within 3’02” of Kevin Ledanois (Fortuneo-Samsic) to take the polka-dot jersey, Smith also sat up to leave Chavanel on his own up the road on his milestone day.
It made the job of the QuickStep-led peloton a little easier but there were still plenty of incidents to keep nerves high.
Tsgabu Grmay (Trek-Segafredo) was the first man to quit this year’s race, climbing off in the feed zone, while Rudy Molard (FDJ) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) both crashed heavily during the stage.
With one rider up the road, it also meant plenty of points up for grabs at the intermediate sprint for the peloton, where Sagan beat Gaviria. Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) and Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) were also interested but the other sprinters kept their powder dry.
Stage two analysis
Peter Sagan was favourite for this stage even before the drama at the end. Having avoided the crash he was the man to beat and nobody could manage it - despite a spirited effort by Sonny Colbrelli.
While the world champion is flying, however, Adam Yates and Mitchelton-Scott are not - Yates was one of three riders to hit the deck during the stage and, while all were OK, it does not bode well. They will need their full team flying during tomorrow's team time trial to avoid more time losses.
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) crashed with 31km to go and had to be led back to the bunch by Jack Bauer before the pace ramped up.
Chavanel was caught after leading through the bonus sprint – where Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas snaffled one second’s bonus – before attention turned to the sprint.
A mechanical with little more than 7km to go cost Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) his chance of contesting, while it was Team Sky initially leading the bunch to keep their GC men safe.
Positioning was vital given the twisting, technical and, at times, narrow finale and the turn with 2km to go cost several riders their hopes of sprinting – Michael Matthews among those caught up in the big crash, along with Gaviria in yellow.
Demare led the sprint out but Sagan tucked onto his wheel and was not to be denied – charging past to claim the stage win and the ten bonus seconds which, combined with his bonus on stage one, puts him in the race lead.
Tour de France 2018: stage two - result
1) Peter Sagan (SVK) - Bora-hansgrohe - 4.06.37hrs
2) Sonny Colbrelli (ITA) - Bahrain-Merida - ST
3) Arnaud Demare (FRA) - Groupama-FDJ
4) Andre Greipel (GER) - Lotto-Soudal
5) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) - UAE-Team Emirates
6) Timothy Dupont (BEL) - Wanty-Groupe Gobert
7) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) - Movistar
8) Andrea Pasqualon (ITA) - Wanty-Groupe Gobert
9) John Degenkolb (GER) - Trek-Segafredo
10) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) - QuickStep Floors +8"
1) Peter Sagan (SVK) - Bora-hansgrohe - 8.29.53hrs
2) Fernando Gaviria (COL) - QuickStep Floors +6"
3) Sonny Colbrelli (ITA) - Bahrain-Merida +10"
4) Marcel Kittel (GER) - Katusha-Alpecin +12"
5) Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) - Direct Energie +13"
6) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) - QuickStep Floors +14"
7) Geraint Thomas (GBR) - Team Sky +15"
8) Oliver Naesen (BEL) - Ag2r-La Mondiale - ST
9) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) - UAE-Team Emirates +16"
10) John Degenkolb (GER) - Trek-Segafredo - ST