SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND – Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali outfoxed other Tour de France title contenders to win a hilly second stage through Yorkshire countryside on Sunday, wresting the overall race leader’s yellow jersey.
The Astana team leader pointed a finger skyward as he burst out of a breakaway bunch at the end of the 201-km ride over nine rolling ascents and through the heath of northern England. Belgium’s Greg van Avermaet was second and Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland was third, each two seconds behind.
Over the last 6 km, several of the pre-race favorites to win the three-week race played a cat-and-mouse game, quickly exchanging leadership of the breakaway bunch. But Nibali, a 29-year-old rider who has won both the Italian Giro and Spanish Vuelta, timed his attack perfectly — bursting ahead with less than 2 km to go and holding off surging chasers.
“It was a fabulous day for me, I led a good action,” said Nibali, who collected his first Tour stage win and first yellow jersey. “It was difficult. There was a lot of headwind . . . I had the luck to attack at the right moment.”
Marcel Kittel of Germany, a powerful sprinter who often struggles on climbs, trailed nearly 20 minutes back and lost the yellow jersey that he had captured by winning Stage 1.
Nibali was up front with a bunch including defending Tour champion Chris Froome of Britain and Spanish two-time winner Alberto Contador — each of whom burst to the front of the escaping bunch near the end. Others in the group included 25-year-old American riders Andrew Talansky and Tejay van Garderen.
“It was a very hard day but the home crowd support was great,” said Froome, the Team Sky leader. “I’m tired, but I hope everyone’s tired after a day like today.”