Stage 1 of the 2014 Tour de France was dominated by German rider Marcel Kittel. Few could match his late pace, as he powered his way to a fiercely contested victory.
But as impressive as Kittel was, the day was dominated by controversy surrounding Mark Cavendish. He appeared to suffer an apparent shoulder injury caused by a collision near the finish line.
Eurosport captured an image of a clearly pained and distraught Cavendish on its Twitter feed:
Cavendish's tumble prompted immediate concerns that he would be unable to participate in the Tour's second stage. However, Eurosport attempted to quickly ease such fears, again via Twitter:
However, Sky Sports has reported that the 29-year-old did dislocate his shoulder. But Kittel will still face a tough challenge from reigning champion Chris Froome.
He was simply steady during the opening stage, but Froome knows what it takes to win this tour. He is part of a clutch of riders who can feel confident of victory on the second day.
Along with riders such as Ramanus Navardauskas and Peter Sagan, Froome is a strong candidate to take the yellow jacket away from Kittel during Stage 2.
Here is how the current standings look:
|2014 Tour de France Standings|
|2||Peter Sagan||Slovakia||Cannondale||Same Time|
|3||Ramanus Navardauskas||Lithuania||Garmin-Sharp||Same Time|
|4||Bryan Coquard||France||Team Europcar||Same Time|
|5||Michael Rogers||Australia||Tinkoff-Saxo||Same Time|
|6||Chris Froome||Great Britain||Team Sky||Same Time|
|7||Alexander Kristoff||Norway||Katusha||Same Time|
|8||Sep Vanmarcke||Belgium||Belkin||Same Time|
|9||Jose Joaquin Rojas||Spain||Movistar||Same Time|
|10||Michael Albasini||Switzerland||Orica GreenEdge||Same Time|
TV and Live Stream Information
Date and Start Time: Sunday, July 6, 11:20 a.m. BST/6:20 a.m. ET
TV Info: Available live on ITV4 (UK) and NBC (U.S.)
Live Stream: ITV Player, NBCSN
It will be interesting to see how the riders negotiate what will be an arduous route for the second stage. The Yorkshire setting has already posed some challenges for these participants. It is sure to catch a few cold as the Tour progresses.
Stage 2 Route
The riders will begin in York and speed their way toward Sheffield. Along the way they'll take in places such as the superbly named Blubberhouses, as well as Oxenhope and Cragg Vale.
A detailed map of the route is provided by LeTour.com. But it's frequent tour participant Geraint Thomas, writing for BBC Sport, who has provided a brilliant account of what the riders will encounter.
In particular, Thomas has focused on the nature of the terrain, specifically the climbs involved:
It's up and down all day, with narrow roads and twists and turns. There will still be a fairly decent sized group heading to the finish line together but I'm not sure the pure sprinters will be there, particularly with a short sharp climb near the end in Sheffield which, while only a few hundred metres long, has a section with a gradient of 33%. Riders like Alejandro Valverde and Simon Gerrans, the punchy riders that are fast but can get over the climbs, are likely to do well.
There will be a tense big race into the bottom of Holme Moss, which is a well-known climb from the Tour of Britain, to make sure you're in a decent position - we will want to be near the front with Chris Froome. It comes just 60km from the finish and it will be full gas from there on in.
Thomas is right to highlight how some of the steeper gradients won't suit those who thrive when setting a fast pace. That fact could have major implications for the second stage, particularly for Kittel.
The German wins or loses based on his speed, but his endurance will be tested by such a course. That's where natural power riders such as Sagan can take advantage.
However, Kittel used strategy to claim victory in the opening stage. It was a ploy based on holding his speed in reserve, keeping his capability for a final sprint past tiring riders.
His Giant-Shimano squad have developed a technique in which they leave it to the very last moment to begin their lead-out, meaning that they can hit the front of the race at a far higher speed than other teams; in Harrogate they hung back for a good 2km while Cavendish’s Omega‑Pharma made the pace before Kittel was launched towards the line.
That is a strategy that makes sense. But while it worked wonders in the opening stage, don't expect Kittel to repeat the feat again.
Holding back is a dangerous game to play against sprinters as consistent and steadfast as Sagan.
Kittel took his chance to outlast a very crowded pack on the opening day, but it was Sagan who impressed the most with some determined riding and a pace that rarely altered, even as the course did.
Predicted Winner: Peter Sagan
The Slovak is proving to be unflappable behind the handlebars. He will make a typically steady procession to victory.
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