REPORT: Dual objectives achieved for EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale on Tour stage two

    Peter Sagan (BOH) sprinted to victory and into the Tour de France’s iconic maillot jaune in La Roche-sur-Yon on Sunday. For EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale, ambitions for day two of the Tour mirrored those expressed on the opening stage: keep Rigoberto Uran out of trouble and hope Lawson Craddock could safely battle to the finish.

    “It was a bit different today,” said road captain Simon Clarke. “There were narrow roads from 136-166 kilometers, and that was the main danger section. After that, which was basically just under 20km to go, the road widened up, and there was bit more clear of a run-in. There were two objectives today when it came to the race plan – one was to stay safe in that 30km section from the sprint until 20km to go. And then we had a moment to relax, compose, gather together and line up for the final.”

    #PinkArgyle achieved both objectives in what proved to be a nervous, crash-filled stage. All eight riders stayed upright. Uran finished with the main group. Craddock spent most of the stage riding at the back of the bunch before losing contact with the peloton in the build-up to the sprint. The Texan finished well within the time limit and anticipates starting the stage three team time trial on Monday.

    “Everyone — from a lot of riders in the peloton to the fans on the side of the road, seeing my name on the signs, I really appreciate all of that,” said Craddock. “It’s a difficult time for me right now in the race, but the encouragement from everyone really inspires me to keep riding.”

    “Lawson had an awesome ride just to get through another day like today with his broken shoulder,” said Clarke. “It was such a great effort. Things like this are character defining. I truly believe that a person’s character is defined not by what happens to them but how they react and how they bounce back. To have his head down and really committing for the team, it says a lot.”

    “[My injuries] felt a little better today, which was really encouraging,” noted Craddock. “The work that #PinkArgyle chiro Matt Rabin is doing has helped dramatically in 24 hours. I’ll go back now and see him immediately, continue to plug away. I think today was very difficult but it was an encouraging sign for me. Let’s hope I can make it through tomorrow as well.”

    Although the stage two and stage one profiles were similar, Sunday’s stage had a far more nervous feel than Saturday’s opener.

    “Everyone was aware after what happened yesterday of the impact that the small French villages and roads can have in the final of the race,” said Southam. “That increases everyone’s nerves, and it gets tense.”

    A trio of riders forced clear early. Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Michael Gogi (Trek Segafredo) and Dion Smith (Wanty Groupe Gobert) quickly opened up a three-minute gap before the route’s only categorized climb. After Smith scoopped up mountain points to earn the polka dot jersey, he and Gogi dropped back to the bunch, leaving Chavanel alone in the lead.

    In Chavanel’s wake, Luis León Sanchez (Astana) crashed out the race, and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT) found himself on the ground with 30 kilometers remaining.

    “Obviously there were a lot of crashes,” said Clarke. “Yesterday every single crash seemed to be right in front of us, and we managed to avoid them but only just. Today we managed to stay clear of most of the incidents. We weren’t caught up in any of them. It was a much better day for us safety-wise.

    The peloton scooped up Chavanel 13 kilometers from the finish line.

    A crash in a tight right-hand turn inside the final two kilometers took most of the peloton out of contention for the stage win, including stage one winner and overnight race leader Fernando Gaviria (QuickStep-Floors). None of the #PinkArgyle riders were involved in the crash but all were caught behind it.

    “Everyone did a sensational job today. We had clear instructions on how to approach the 30km section and how to approach the final, which side of round-abouts to take and that kind of thing,” said Clarke. “That information from the directors is vital when you’re barreling into a town at warp speed and need to know which side of the road is more favorable. With that kind of information and committed teammates, we really managed to deliver Rigo in a good position safely, which is a huge priority.

    “In one sense today was similar to yesterday, obviously slightly different theme with road widths and wind in the final, but similar approach, same goal and same result. We’re all happy with the outcome, with getting Rigo to the finish unscathed and in the front time.”

    Racing continues on Monday with a 37-kilometer team time trial that has been positioned as one of the most decisive stage of the of the 2018 Tour de France.

    “It’ll start creating the shape of the race very early in the Tour, so it’s really important for everyone to put in a good ride,” said Southam. “This may keep the time gaps small, so it could be that while it is important it is not totally decisive.”

    “We’re really looking forward to showcasing on the road the work we’ve done in the TTT – as an entire organization, not just the riders – to try to raise the bar there and produce a competitive performance,” said Clarke. “I’m sure Lawson will contribute in some way shape or form, whether he rides the whole race or commits to the early part of the race, we’re not sure yet, but he’ll find a way to be a part of it, and we all recognize that’s a special achievement in itself.”

    Visit ProCyclingStats for complete stage two results.