The big German rider won, the big American rider, oh-so-agonizingly close.
Marcel Kittel won stage two of the Tour de France, from Dusseldorf to Liege with his trademark, dragster speed on a wide, flat finish. In an all-out sprint with every top fastman spread out across the road, the 6′ 2″ star beat Andre Demare (FDJ) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal). A double Andre beat-down.
The big American rider, 6′ 5″ Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac) put on a display of boldness and strength, joining a breakaway of three riders who jumped away right from the opening kilometers. Taylor Phinney, Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie), Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo-Oscaro) and Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Gobert) never carved out a big lead but worked smoothly.
After splitting that group, Phinney and Offredo appeared strong enough to have a shot at holding off the sprinter teams on what was marked as a perfect day for the fast-twitch men. However, they were caught with just one kilometer to go.
That didn’t stop Phinney from soaking in the Tour vibe. “We got out there on the road today and we were running in the breakaway, and it felt like a dream,” said Phinney. “You’re racing a bike race but there are so many people out there. And you’re like – what is this? This is unreal. This is the Tour de France.”
Despite the huge disappointment of missing out on the win, Phinney did pick up the small number of mountain’s points to take the polka-dot jersey. He showed that his 10th place in the opening time trial was no fluke. Given his form and confidence, we hope to see him do well in Marseille for the final time trial.
“This was the plan this morning,” said Phinney. “To go out and get the KOM jersey. To have a plan work out on the first day of the race is great for the team. It impacts the general flow of things when we start off on a good note. This is my first year with the team, and I’m happy to be the guy that can remix the ignition as R. Kelley would say.” Thats why pro cycling needs Phinney — who else is throwing in the R. Kelly riff?
For all his imposing hardman looks, Kittel could barely contain his tears of happiness and relief at the finish. Sitting on the ground, his face buried in his hands, he took several moments stories compose himself. It was an endearing image and a reminder that Kittel is both outspoken and unafraid to show his emotions.
“I’m super-relieved became in reality, I honestly don’t care how many stages I win, it’s about moments, and if have to finish with 10 wins or whatever amount, still be very proud,” said Kittel. Clearly, that was a moment for Kittel after all the extra hype that comes with a Tour start in your home country.
“It’s a very special win for us, because Dusseldorf’s in Germany, and when we saw all the number of fans there, it made us very proud of this victory, it’s a chance I’ve had,” said Kittel.
It would have been quite a special win for Phinney, too. A legendary win, a fairy tale victory after nearly his career in a horrific accident three years ago in the USA Cycling Professional Road Race championships.
This is the Tour de France, le Grand Shindig, so score the big win for Marcel Kittel but score the comeback triumph for Taylor Phinney — and why not throw Yoann Offredo into the chapeau show? “Yohan is a guy that I’ve race with for a while,” said Phinney. “We’ve always been friendly with each other. When we crossed the line, I grabbed him and said: “Dude, we’re friends for life now.’ It’s his first Tour, too. We went through something special together today.”