Tour de France 2021: Focus switches to sprinters after Mathieu van der Poel roadshow

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Spectators at the Tour de France - EPA

Spectators at the Tour de France – EPA

Today’s live coverage gets under way at 1.30pm (BST)

07:35 AM

So, what’s on today’s menu?

Following two tough stages perfectly suited to the puncheurs, today should provide the sprinters an opportunity to come to the fore. Featuring just two category four climbs – the côtes de Cadoudal and Pluméliau – and a series of little kickers, the route includes 1,524 metres of vertical elevation before dropping down into Pontivy.

Stage three profile - ASOStage three profile - ASO

Stage three profile – ASO

With just two points up for grabs in the mountains classification, you would imagine Ide Schelling will be keen, once again, on getting into the breakaway. If the Dutchman takes one point and Mathieu van der Poel takes none, then Schelling will take control of the polka dot jersey by rights. As we witnessed during Sunday’s breakaway, however, a nice little rivalry with Anthony Perez (Cofidis), who trails Schelling by a single point, has developed and so we may see round three of that particular battle on the road to Pontivy.

As fun as it is watching riders scrap over single points in the mountains classificationcompetition, today, in theory, is all about the sprinters and so we can expect a new leader in the points classification later this afternoon. With a maximum of 70 points available for any one rider – 20 at the intermediate sprint in La Fourchette and another 50 at the finish line – I think we can expect a major reshuffling of the order in the points classification.

So, who can take the stage win? Difficult to see beyond Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) who has been contesting the intermediate sprints on the opening two stages which may mean the Australian is targeting the green jersey this year, or alternatively he was just testing his legs. Either way, Ewan must be regarded as one of the day’s favourites.

Ewan is not the only sprinter able to take the victory, though. Arnaud Démare arrived as the main man for Groupama-FDJ and much will be expected of the Frenchman. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) may fancy their chances, as will a certain Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step). Now wouldn’t that be a story!

06:30 AM

Catch-up: Highlights of yesterday’s stage . . .

. . . can be watched here . . .

06:30 AM

Bonjour!

Hello and welcome to our live rolling blog from stage two at the Tour de France, the 182.9-kilometre stage from Lorient to Pontivy.

Well, what an emotional stage win it was for Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) on Sunday who emulated his father Adrie by taking the maillot jaune, the leader’s yellow jersey, in emphatic style in Mûr-de-Bretagne. It was Van der Poel’s grandfather, though, who was on most people’s minds when he crossed the line following a trademark display of power and punch. Raymond Poulidor, who died in November 2019 just after his grandson’s breakthrough season on the road – Van der Poel had already won Dutch national, European and world cyclo-cross championships – famously never wore the yellow jersey despite winning seven Tour stages and finishing second three times, a feat that earned him the nickname the ‘Eternal Second’. Poulidor was a hugely popular rider in France and was very close to Van der Poel who, understandably, allowed himself to drop that steely guard of his in an emotional post-race interview.

Much has been said and written about Van der Poel over the past 18 months or so, his tactics have been criticised, his riding style likened to a threshing machine, he has been accused of arrogance and of being a bit of a cold fish. All fair points to a certain degree. However, when Van der Poel let that guard down in Mûr-de-Bretagne on Sunday afternoon, I think we all saw something quite wonderful: the human side to this quite supreme athlete. It would take a man or woman with a heart chiselled out of the pink granite local to Brittany to not have been moved by Van der Poel’s post-race tears.

Mathieu van der Poel - GETTY IMAGESMathieu van der Poel - GETTY IMAGES

Mathieu van der Poel – GETTY IMAGES

Van der Poel will wear his first maillot jaune at the Tour during today;s stage, the Dutchman leading the general classification by 8sec with Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) in second spot, while defending champion Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) is third another 5sec back. If you are looking for Geraint Thomas‘s name, then you will not see it in the top 10 after the Welshman dropped 10 places down to 20th. Sunday was not the greatest day for Ineos Grenadiers who did lot of work on the front on the approach to Mûr-de-Bretagne with very little to show for it.

Alaphilippe may have lost the maillot jaune to Van der Poel, but the Frenchman did keep hold of the maillot vert, green jersey, as the overall leader in the points classification. Incidentally, Alaphilippe, who actually took the lead in the points classification on Saturday after winning stage one, has now led the four Tour classifications at some point in their career – overall, points, mountains and youth – an achievement that that has only ever been done by five others.

Van der Poel also leads the mountains classification ahead of Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) despite the Dutch compatriots being on the same number of points. Van der Poel edges his compatriot by virtue of the fact that he was the first over the category three Mûr-de-Bretagne twice, while Schelling led the way over just one climb of the same ranking once during Saturday’s stage. It will be Schelling, however, who will wear the maillot à pois, or polka dot jersey, today.

Defending champion Pogacar is the highest placed young rider on general classification and so will once again wear the white jersey.