For more than 50 years the Atomium has stood as a landmark in Brussels, its nine interconnected spheres – which depict nine iron atoms making up the unit cell of an iron crystal – a permanent fixture on the tourist trail.
It must have felt to Team Ineos’s riders as if they had been broiling in the afternoon sun for that long on Sunday after going out first in the team time trial and setting such a quick time that the next 20 teams failed to beat it.
Convention at the Tour de France dictates that in time trials the leading rider or team must sit “in the hot seat” until their time is beaten. Ineos’s five fastest riders crossed the finish line beneath the Atomium in 29 min 17.97 sec, flying around the 27.6km course at an average speed of 56.551kph.
By the time Jumbo-Visma, the 22nd and final team of the afternoon, crossed in 28-57.81 – an impressive 20 seconds quicker than Ineos – Geraint Thomas and his team-mates had been in the hot seat for nearly two hours.
Actually, they had cheated a bit. The riders snuck off, warmed down, got changed (into fresh Lycra) and watched the other teams from the podium “changing room” for a while, before settling back in their plastic fold-up chairs for the last half-hour of action. But any aching limbs this morning were well worth it for the time gained on their biggest rivals.
Thomas and Egan Bernal, Ineos’s co-leaders, surged into the top 10 in the general classification as a result of their efforts, putting 21 seconds into Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), 45 seconds into Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and almost a minute into Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and Romain Bardet (AG2R). Those sorts of losses are not easily recoverable in the mountains, and Bardet in particular can expect to lose plenty more in the individual time trial later in the race. His maillot jaune ambitions are as good as over already.
There was good news for another Frenchman, though. Thibaut Pinot’s Groupama FDJ showed that – unlike AG2R – they had learnt the lessons of recent Tours. They signed Stefan Kung for this season, and the three-time Swiss time trial champion helped them to a very respectable 29-29.28, just 12 seconds off Ineos’s pace.
Pinot will be very much looking forward to getting to La Planche des Belles Filles, one of his local climbs, later this week.
Who will be in yellow by then is anyone’s guess. Mike Teunissen, the surprise winner of Saturday’s opening stage, rides for Jumbo-Visma, so the Dutch rider stayed in it on Sunday.
Many are expecting his young team-mate, rising Belgian star Wout van Aert, to grab it off him today, though. The last 35km of the route from Binche in Belgium to Epernay in France – Champagne country – features six punchy climbs. It looks tailor-made for the cyclo-cross star, who is emerging as one of the sport’s most exciting riders.
One person who definitely will not be in yellow – either now or at any point in the race – is Simon Yates. The Vuelta a Espana champion insisted last week that he was only here to support his twin brother’s efforts. And while some felt he might have been bluffing, that Mitchelton-Scott might use him as a Plan B for the GC, it turned out he was not.
Yates intentionally dropped back early in Sunday’s TTT, dropping to 162nd overall, 3 min 56 sec in arrears. He will likely lose more in an effort to be allowed into a few breaks in the mountains.
Thomas sounded relaxed. With only Steven Kruijswijk of his GC rivals taking time out of him, he said he was happy with how the first two days had gone. In particular, the fact that he felt no ill effects from his crash into the barriers on Saturday.
“I have no injury issues,” the Welshman said. “I was going pretty slow when I hit the barriers yesterday so I’m absolutely fine.
“Looking at GC, it’s a good performance. Obviously we wanted to win but I think 20 seconds [to Jumbo-Visma] is a big enough gap to know a few mistakes didn’t cost us the stage. It was a positive day.”
Jumbo-Visma blow away Ineos to win team time trial
The wait for Ineos will continue. Jumbo-Visma have absolutely obliterated the field to win today’s team time trial and keep their Dutchman Mike Teunissen in the leader’s yellow jersey.
The team won that time trial by a whopping margin of 20sec.
And then there were five . . .
Jumbo-Visma have lost another rider but are, fortunately for them, flying and as it stands lead Ineos by around 14sec. Wanty-Groupe Gobert have finished and lost a stack of time. No surprise there.
Deceuninck-Quick Step miss out by a tiny margin
And the Belgian super-team misses out on top spot by the narrowest of margins. Ineos hold on by less than a second. Just Jumbo-Visma can beat Ineos now, but the Dutch team are losing men and now just six riders remaining. They are going well – really, really well – but not too sure if they can retain this pace all the way to the finish line.
Jumbo-Visma flying high
The seven riders of Jumbo-Visma were a whopping 10sec faster than Ineos at the first split. Now either they are in incredible form, or have they gone out too hard? EF Education First, meanwhile, have completed their ride and were 7sec slower than Ineos.
Dylan Groenewegen has popped and gone out of the back of the Jumbo-Visma train which has yet to reach the first time split.
Vincenzo Nibali et al finish just 15sec adrift of the Ineos pairing of Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal. The Italian is only here to chase stages, apparently. Yeah, right. Never write off the Shark. Ever.
Yates ships time to Thomas
Adam Yates and Mitchelton-Scott finish 21sec down on Ineos.
Deceuninck-Quick Step looking good
Deceuninck-Quick Step were around 1.3sec slower than Ineos at the first time split. The world time trial champions, who are missing some of the personnel that won that title in Innsbruck last September, are looking well drilled. Remember, they are a Belgian team and are on home roads today and so will be desperate to pull off a result.
Mitchelton-Scott down at second split
Not great news for Adam Yates and his team-mates who were 18sec down at the second time split. Bahrian-Merida, however, were only 10sec down on Ineos so potentially a half-decent day in the office for Vincenzo Nibali who has world time trial champion Rohan Dennis for company out on the road in Brussels here today.
Jumbo-Visma are on the road
EF Education First, who have been out in Girona recently training for this race today, were a shade over 3sec down on Ineos at the first time split. Meanwhile, Jumbo-Visma have rolled down the starting ramp.
Wanty-Groupe Gobert roll down the ramp . . .
. . . and one of their riders is using a road bike. Not entirely sure why he’s not on the usual time trial bike. Just one more team to roll down the ramp and that’s Jumbo-Visma, the team of overnight race leader Mike Teunissen. The Dutch squad has some big diesels in its ranks and in Laurens De Plus, Dylan Groenewegen, Tony Martin and Wout Van Aert are many people’s pick for today’s stage.
Sunweb set third fastest time
Few had mentioned Sunweb, but they have just finished their time trial and set a very fast time. Unfortunately for them, though, they could not match – or beat – Ineos. They just set the third fastest time, just a shade behind Katusha-Alpecin.
By the way, Mitchelton-Scott who set the fastest time in the opening 10km of the 27km team time trial, have dropped Simon Yates. That’s not great for the Australian squad who will be hoping to post a strong time today on behalf of Simon’s twin brother Adam who is their general classification rider here this year.
Dimension Data clock decent time
Sunweb, Bora-Hansgrohe (below), Lotto-Soudal, Mitchelton-Scott, Bahrain-Merida and EF Education First are all out on the course, while Dimension Data, have just completed their race with a half-decent time of 29min 51sec
Next down the starting ramp will be Deceuninck-Quick Step, Wanty-Groupe Gobert and then, finally, Jumbo-Visma.
Katusha-Alpecin go close, but no cigar
After leading at the two time splits, the Swiss team missed out on winning their first ever team time trial at the Tour de France by 6sec. Thay have, though, set the second fastest time on the day thus far.
Katusha-Alpecin lead at second split . . .
. . . they were 2sec faster than Ineos at the second split which comes a shade over 7km from the finish line. Trek-Segafredo and Richie Porte, meanwhile, have completed their race and will have been disappointed to finish almost a minute behind Ineos (57.5sec to be precise).
CCC roll back the years
The CCC team have set the second fastest time of the day so far, completing their race just 10sec slower than Ineos.
Meanwhile, Katusha-Alpecin which includes British rider Alex Dowsett who last month won his sixth national time trial title, has just set the fastest time at the first split. They were 3sec faster than Ineos, but can the squad hold that pace for another 14km to win this stage?
Movistar play a stinker
Movistarcomplete their time trial 45sec slower than Ineos. Meanwhile, Total-Direct Énergie, UAE Team Emirates, Trek-Segafredo, Katusha-Alpecin and Cofidis, Solutions Crédits are on the road.
Bardet loses almost one minute
Unsurprisingly, Romain Bardet finishes his team time trial alongside his Ag2r-La Mondiale squad 59sec behind Ineos.
That puts the Frenchman on the backfoot before he has even reached the mountains. So, so frustrating.
CCC down at first split
Greg Van Avermaet and his little firm were just over 4sec down on Ineos at the first time split. Good ride from to boys in orange.
Groupama-FDJ lose a man on the final left hand corner after his rear wheel appeared to go from beneath him, but team leader Thibaut Pinot was unaffected and the Frenchman crossed the line, along with four team-mates, to finish just 12sec adrift of Ineos.
Excellent work there from the team who many had written off in the race against the clock.
Astana complete their time trial . . .
. . . and it was not bad as predicted. Jakob Fuglsang lost just 19sec to Geraint Thomas.
Pinot down at first split . . .
. . but the Frenchman and his Groupama-FDJ team were just 8sec slower than Ineos after 13.2km of racing. It could have been much, much worse than that. Ag2r-La Mondiale were 28sec slower.
Greg Van Avermaetand his CCC Team have just rolled down the ramp. For those of you who pay attention to these things, this team – when they were known as BMC Racing – won last year’s team time trial, though much of the personnel has moved on since then.
Thomas first over the line
Geraint Thomas leads Ineos over the line to clock a time of 29min 18sec. Tucked in behind the Welshman was Egan Bernal. Six of their riders completed the ride as one compact unit, dropping just Luke Rowe and one other.
As it stands, that makes Thomas the highest-placed Ineos rider on general classification.
Astana down at first split
Astana and Jakob Fuglsang were 14sec slower than Ineos at the first time split. At that rate, the Dane could lose up to 30sec on Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal, the British team’s co-leaders, this afternoon.
By the way, Movistar have just got their race under way. Remember, the Spanish team has a trio of potential leaders: Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde.
Next down the starting ramp is another general classification hopeful, Romain Bardet. The Ag2r-La Mondiale rider is probably an even worse time trial rider than compatriot Thibaut Pinot and so, again, will be hoping he does not ship too much time to his main rivals here today.
Ineos looking smooth
Geraint Thomaset al are looking really good, working well as a tight unit and difficult to spot any weak links. Early days though as we cannot match the Ineos squad against any other times as they are the first team on the road.
Go Pinot, go!
Thibaut Pinotand his Groupama-FDJ squad are now out on the road. The Frenchman is not the strongest rider against the clock and, one imagines, today will be all about limiting his losses against those squads who are decent in the time trials and also include strong general classification contenders.
Astana next up . . .
. . . or down. Jakob Fuglsang who crashed heavily in the final 20km of yesterday’s stage and one of the Tour’s pre-race favourites spoke earlier and admitted he may struggle to press down hard on the pedals, which may be a problem in a time trial, after knacking his knee in that worrying fall on Saturday.
Arkéa-Samsic out on the road . . .
. . . and now it’s the turn of the French Pro-Continental team to hit the road. Not expecting too much from this mob, fully expect Warren Barguil to spend much of the ride sitting on at the back like the flâneur he is, possibly while having the greatest hits of Jacques Brel pumped through his radio earpiece from his team car by sports director Yvon Ledanois*.
* I don’t actually think this.
Beep, beep, beep . . .
And the eight-man team from Ines have rolled down the over-sized starting ramp to get today’s team time trial under way. A slight disadvantage at being the first team off as the last-placed team on the team classification, but sure they will survive. Interestingly, it is defending Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas who led the way, setting the pace and getting the entire squad off to a solid start.
What are the starting times?
What does the course look like?
It’s a relatively flat course which, apparently, is not too technical. There are a few twists and turns that will test the riders as they course along the sweeping boulevards, in theory as one tight unit. There are two time checks at Bois de la Cambre (13.2km) and Boulevard Général Wahis (20.1km) on the 27.6km course. Being Belgium, there are a smattering of tram tacks that the riders will have to navigate, but fortunately it is a dry day out in Brussels today.
By the way, the time of the fourth rider is awarded to the first quartet across the line. Any riders who are dropped by their team-mates and thus clock a slower time will be given the time in which they finish.
Hello and welcome to our live rolling blog from stage two of the 106th edition of the Tour de France, the 27.6km team time trial through Brussels.
Following yesterday’s chaotic race into the Belgian capital where pre-stage favourite Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma, Hol) crashed before team-mate and lead-out rider Mike Teunissen (Hol) popped up and pipped Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe, Svk) to the line to claim the biggest win of his career and the first yellow jersey at this year’s Tour, today’s race should, in theory, be a little more sedate. That’s not to say, though, that the teams and riders will be taking things easy. Far from it.
With just 10secs separating the top 170 riders in the general classification and all 22 teams having exactly the same time in the team classification, there is plenty to race for this afternoon. Not only will the squads be fighting for the bragging rights of winning the team time trial, but also the honour of taking – or retaining – the leader’s yellow jersey.
Inoes, who despite dominating the race since 2012 under the Team Sky banner, have yet to win a team time trial at the Tour in the four times they have featured (2011, 2013, 2015 and 2018) and today will be hoping to end that barren run. Indeed, in the likes of Geraint Thomas (GB), Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa), Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol), Gianni Moscon (Ita), Wout Poels (Hol) and Luke Rowe (GB) the British squad has a lot of very big engines. However, so do Jumbo-Visma, Mitchelton-Scott, Deceuninck-Quick Step and EF Education First and so it is difficult to say which team, if any, are the outright favourites for today’s stage which, incidentally, is the corresponding stage in which Édouard Louis Joseph Baron Merckx – Eddy Merckx to you and me – took his first ever maillot jaunewhen his Faema outfit won the team time trial in Sint-Pieters-Woluwe back in 1969.
Where are we?
Here’s a reminder of the route of this year’s Tour de France . . .
. . . and here are the details of each and every stage at this year’s race:
As it stands . . .
Here’s what the standings look like in the general, points, mountains, young rider and team classifications after one day of racing.
The Cycling Podcast: re-cap of yesterday’s stage
The Tour de France is off and running and Richard Moore, Lionel Birnie and François Thomazeau are in the centre of Brussels to discuss the opening stage.
The identity of the winning team was not a surprise but no one will have predicted Mike Theunissen would have ended the day in the yellow jersey. The Jumbo-Visma rider saved the day after his team’s sprinter Dylan Groenewegen crashed inside the final two kilometres.
The team discuss the unconventional sprint finish and hear from Jumbo-Visma rider Amund Grondahl Jansen and sports director Grischa Niermann.
There was also a crash for one of the pre-Tour favourites Jakob Fuglsang and the boys weigh up the likely impact of that before discussing the fall-out from Dimension Data’s decision not to select Mark Cavendish – or more to the point the differing accounts of how the team was picked from team owner Doug Ryder and sports director Rolf Aldag.
In the final part there’s the first instalment of the new series Outside the Team Bus with Alex Dowsett.