Astana's Vincenzo Nibali attacked 2km from the end of today's Stage 2 of the Tour de France in Sheffield and will swap the Italian national champion's jersey for the yellow jersey of race leader. Greg van Avermaet of BMC Racing and Omega Pharma-Quick Step's Michal Kwiatowski were second and third respectively, both 2 seconds behind Nibali.
It was an explosive finish to what had been a very tough stage, the series of climbs on the day’s route seeing riders tailed the off as the afternoon wore on, leaving just 20 or so in contention when Nibali made his move.
As the lead group hit the final climb of Jenkin Road, with a gradient at one part of around 30 per cent, the contenders for the overall victory were prominent, with Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador and Nibali at the front.
Heading towards the top of the climb, it was defending champion Chris Froome who put in an attack, the Sky rider possibly seeking to send a warning to his rivals that he is back in form as much as anything else.
Peter Sagan of Cannondale, winner of the points classification in the past two editions of the race, had remained with the leaders and took to the front on the descent, and would have been many people’s pick for victory.
But when, with 2 kilometres remaining, Nibali launched himself, neither Sagan nor the other members of the group was able to follow the Italian.
As yesterday, huge crowds greeted the race throughout the stage, with the climbs that peppered the route of today’s stage particularly packed.
Most of the seven members of the day’s break had been caught by the time the race reached Category 2 Holme Moss, the biggest climb on the day’s stage, crested with 57.5 kilometres of the 201 kilometre stage remaining.
Overnight leader Marcel Kittel of Giant-Shimano was always going to struggle on today’s parcours, and finished more than 10 minutes down on Nibali.
The sole rider not to start today was Mark Cavendish, who pulled out of the race this morning due to the shoulder injury he picked up at the end of yesterday’s opening stage in Harrogate.
Following his victory, Nobali said: "This is wonderful victory! It pays me off for all the sacrifices. The beginning of the season has been a difficult one for me but I've trained hard with my team-mates for the Tour de France and my confidence is now boosted by the two victories I just got, at the Italian championship and here today.
"But I want to keep working with serenity. My main goal is to get a good result at the end of the Tour de France. I don't want to lose my head. The Tour is a very hard race. I'm superstitious so I don't want to say that I'll win the overall. I'm delighted to get the yellow jersey after having won the red jersey at the Vuelta a Espana and the pink jersey at the Giro d'Italia.
"This is a huge satisfaction though. It was a very nervous race with a lot of spectators. I found the right time to escape. They watched each other behind but I was scared to get caught because of the head wind. For sure the Tour de France doesn't finish here."
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.