The second day of the 2021 Tour de France featured an exciting sprint and uphill finish with Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) from the Netherlands securing a win in Stage 2: Perros-Gueirec > Mur de Bretagne. Van der Poel also moved into first place in the GC standings ahead of Stage 1 winner Julian Alaphilippe.

Mathieu van der Poel Stage 2 Tour de France
Mathieu van der Poel crosses the finish line at Mur de Bretagne and scores a victory in Stage 2 of the 2021 Tour de France. (Image: Stephane Pool/AFP)

For the second stage in a row, Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) earned a spot on the podium with a third-place finish in Stage 2. Defending champion Tadej Pogacar, who finished in sixth place yesterday, was the second rider to cross the finish line at Mur de Bretagne. Pogacar finished six seconds behind van der Poel.

2021 Tour de France – Stage 2 Results
  1. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 4:18:30
  2. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) +0:00:06
  3. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) +0:00:06

Alaphilippe, who won Stage 1 to take an early lead, finished in fifth place and relinquished the overall lead and the yellow jersey. With time bonuses, van der Poel opened an eight-second lead over Alaphilippe in the general classification, who led by 18 seconds coming into Stage 2.

Van der Poel entered Stage 2 as a betting favorite, along with Alaphilippe. Insiders expected Alaphilippe would win Stage 2, so it was a bit surprising when the Frenchman won the crash-heavy first stage.

Cycling royalty: Poulidor > van der Poel

Van der Poel, 26, is the grandson of French cycling legend Raymond Poulidor. Poulider was one of the most popular riders in the history of cycling, not just in France, but all over Europe. The French nicknamed him “Eternal Second” because he was a runner up three times at the Tour de France in the 1960s. Poulidor also finished in third place five times, but could never beat out superstars Jacques Anquetil and Eddy Merckx.

Poulider’s daughter married a Dutch cyclist, Adri van der Poel, who was a six-time Dutch champion. The couple had two sons, including Mathieu, who also became pro cyclists just like their father and grandfather.

Adri van der Poel won two stages in the Tour de France in the 1980s, but like his father-in-law, he never won the maillet jeune and the whole shebang.

“I thought of my granddad of course,” said van der Poel, when asked about his thoughts when he crossed the finish line at Mur de Bretagne.

An emotional van der Poel fought back tears on the podium during the winner’s ceremony. His grandfather passed away last year. “He would’ve been proud to witness the moment,” added van der Poel.

Stage 2: Perros-Gueirec > Mur de Bretagne

The second stage began in Perros-Gueirec and included dual rides to the top of Mur de Bretagne. A six-pack of climbers joined the first breakaway, which included Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Jeremy Cabot (Total Energies), Simon Clarke (Qhubeka-NextHash), Jonas Koch (I-WG), and Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Van der Poel won an eight-second time bonus as the first rider to reach the summit of Mur de Bretagne the first time around. The peloton caught up to him on the descent, but his team worried if he could recover in time before the second ascent.

“I gambled a little bit, I knew I needed the bonus seconds if I wanted the yellow jersey,” said van der Poel. “I knew it was my last chance to win a jersey. It’s incredible.”

On the second and final climb of Mur de Bretagne, van der Poel attacked and Pogacar and Roglic gave chase. However, neither could stay on van der Poel’s wheel.

Next Stage 3: Lorient > Pontivy

Stage 3 features a 183 km route that’s “flat” yet lumpy, which means sprinters will be on display for the third stage of Le Tour.

The third stage begins in Lorient with a finish in Pontivy. Lorient is one of the largest fishing villages in France and the home to their shipbuilding industry. Pontivy is known for its potato pancakes and Rohan Castle, which is one of the last medieval castles constructed in Brittany.

2021 Tour de France – Overall Standings
  1. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 8:57:25
  2. Julian Alaphilippe (D-QS) +00:08
  3. Tadej Pogacar (UAE) +00:13
  4. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) +00:14
  5. Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) +00:24

Two Dutch riders are in the top five with van der Poel leading and Wilco Kelderman sitting in fifth place. Alaphilippe, the pride and joy of France, relinquished the yellow jersey and fell behind by eight seconds.

Pogacar is only 13 seconds off the lead in third place, while Roglic is in fourth place and 14 seconds behind van der Poel. Both Slovenians are still the betting favorites to win the Tour de France, with Pogacar at +125 odds and Roglic at +140 odds.

Team Ineos came into Le Tour with four riders who were GC contenders, but only Richard Carapaz and Geraint Thomas has a legit shot with two of their other stars — Richie Porte and Tao Geoghan Hart — already out of contention. Carapaz is in 18th overall and trailing van der Poel by 31 seconds. Thomas, the 2018 champion, sits in 20th place and 41 seconds off the lead.

Check out more of OG’s extensive coverage of the 2021 Tour de France.