Vauquelin Wins Second Stage of Tour de France, Pogacar Takes Yellow Jersey

French rider Kevin Vauquelin cycles to the finish line to win the 2nd stage of the 111th edition of the Tour de France cycling race, 199 km between Cesenatico and Bologna, in Italy, on June 30, 2024. © Thomas Samson, AFP

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Bologna, Italy – In a thrilling second stage of the Tour de France, Frenchman Kevin Vauquelin emerged victorious after a grueling 199-kilometer ride from Cesenatico to Bologna. Meanwhile, Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar, the 2020 and 2021 champion, claimed the prestigious yellow jersey, signaling his early dominance in this year’s race.

Pogacar and Vingegaard Show Their Class

It took only two days for Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard to demonstrate their superiority. Pogacar launched a decisive attack from the peloton on the second ascent of the short but brutally steep San Luca climb, with only Vingegaard managing to keep pace. This move allowed Pogacar to seize the leader’s yellow jersey from Stage 1 winner Romain Bardet, while another top contender, Primoz Roglic, fell 21 seconds behind.

Vauquelin’s Impressive Breakaway

Kevin Vauquelin made it two consecutive French victories by triumphing in the hilly stage. He launched his attack up San Luca, following in the footsteps of his compatriot Bardet. Vauquelin, riding for the Arkea-B&B Hotels team, clocked nearly 5 hours and finished comfortably ahead of Jonas Abrahamsen and Quentin Pacher by 36 and 49 seconds, respectively. This victory marked Vauquelin’s first-ever Grand Tour stage win.

Stage Overview and Key Moments

The 199-kilometer route featured six categorized climbs, including two ascents up the notoriously challenging San Luca before concluding in downtown Bologna. The San Luca climb, though short at 1.9 kilometers, has an average gradient of 10.6%, with sections nearing 20%.

Pogacar showcased his strength during the first ascent up San Luca, accelerating to grab a water bottle from a team staffer, which seemed to bolster his confidence for his decisive second attack.

In the overall standings, Pogacar leads with Remco Evenepoel, the 2022 world champion and Spanish Vuelta winner, and Jonas Vingegaard sharing the same time. Olympic gold medalist Richard Carapaz is fourth, also with the same time, while Bardet dropped to fifth, six seconds behind. Evenepoel and Carapaz managed to catch up to Pogacar and Vingegaard after the descent from San Luca.

Stage Dedicated to Marco Pantani

The stage honored 1998 Tour champion Marco Pantani, who hailed from Cesenatico. The route passed by a museum dedicated to Pantani, who remains a beloved figure in Italy despite his tragic death in 2004. Fans painted Pantani’s name all over the roads, adding to the emotional resonance of the day’s race.

Crashes and Challenges

The stage saw a crash midway involving Wout van Aert, Laurens De Plus, and Matteo Jorgenson, but all three riders continued. Van Aert was later dropped on the first climb up San Luca, and world champion Mathieu van der Poel also fell behind.

Looking Ahead

Stage 3 on Monday offers a mostly flat 231-kilometer leg from Piacenza to Turin, presenting the first opportunity for a mass sprint finish. This stage is a chance for Mark Cavendish to break his tie with Eddy Merckx for the most career stage victories at the Tour, with both currently at 34. Despite struggling with heat and stomach issues in the opening stage, Cavendish showed improvement on Sunday.

The race will cross back into France during Stage 4 on Tuesday, marking the first major mountain leg with climbs up to Sestriere and over the Col du Galibier, one of the Tour’s classic and challenging ascents.

As the Tour de France continues, the competition heats up, with Pogacar and Vingegaard poised to battle for supremacy. Fans worldwide eagerly await the unfolding drama and the challenges that lie ahead.

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