Orica-GreenEDGE’s South African member Daryl Impey is within striking range of taking the leader’s yellow jersey after his eighth place in Sunday’s 156km second stage of the 2013 Tour de France from Bastia to Ajaccio in south-west of Corsica.
Heading into Monday’s third stage, there is a new race leader after German Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) – first overall at Sunday’s start – was dropped in the hills. He is Belgian Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Nissan) who won stage two with a solo attack from five breakaways with only 1.5km left to race.
In hot, summery conditions, Bakelants fended off by only one second the chasing peloton that had dwindled to only 92. Leading the main bunch for second place was Slovakian Peter Sagan (Cannondale), followed by Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
The result means that Bakelants’ overall lead heading into Monday’s 145.5km third stage from Ajaccio to Calvi will be one second on 92 riders. In second overall is Briton David Millar (Garmin-QuickStep), followed by Frenchman Julian Simon (Sojasun) in third place and Impey in fourth place.
Impey can expect the full support of Orica-GreenEDGE to try and take the yellow leader’s jersey, judging by the post-stage remarks of his Australian teammate Simon Gerrans, who is sixth overall at the same time after placing 16th in Sunday’s stage.
However, the Australian team should be buoyed by the position they now find themselves in after the unfortunate start on Saturday when their team bus became stuck in the finishing arch of stage one from Porto Vecchio to Bastia, and was only extracted when the peloton was 15km away.
Gerrans, a strong climber who could find himself in contention for the yellow jersey himself should Impey be unable to seize one, was optimistic about Monday’s stage; but he first praised Bakelants, telling Fairfax Media: “He obviously did a good ride attacking that breakaway like he did.”
However, Gerrans realised midway into the stage that he would be best working for Impey’s sake. The stage included two third category climbs before a second category climb to 95km, another third category ascent to 144km, then a tricky decent as part of a 12km run to the finish.
“I went up those hills pretty well in the middle of the stage,” Gerrans said. “I probably didn’t have the legs to jump away on the final climb, but I was able to stay with Daryl and help him in the finish. I obviously tried to lead Daryl out there (for the sprint finish), but I probably left him a bit early.”
One who delivered a veiled message of intent to his rivals was British Tour favourite, Chris Froome (Sky) who is placed 18th overall. He attacked alone on the descent from the top of the last categorised climb at 144km. Froome’s Australian wingman and podium chance Richie Porte is 24th.
Froome, whose spent a lot of the day near the front of the peloton to avoid the danger of crashing, said the move was on the spur of the moment.
Asked about the team’s plans for Sunday’s stage, Froome said: “Our main objective was to stay out of trouble, stay at the front and not really lose any time to the other big contenders.
“And (coming) into the finish, if Eddy Boasson Hagen was there, he was going to have a go for the sprint …. and he got fifth. It was a good stage for us, having kept our places on GC (general classification) and Eddy got to stretch his legs a little bit today.”
Reminded that he also got to stretch his legs with his escape that ended when he reached Ajaccio, Froome said: “I knew the decent was quite tricky and dangerous. I was on the front with Richie. Richie kept me at the front. I thought it might be a good time to push on a little bit, get ahead, take the decent at my own pace and stay out of trouble.”
A smiling Froome added: “It’s always good to keep people on their toes at the same time. It’s good.”