Kévin Vauquelin secured a solo victory on the second stage of the 2024 Tour de France, covering the 199-kilometre route from Cesenatico to Bologna. The Arkea-B&B Hotels rider emerged triumphant with a decisive move on the second ascent of the brutal San Luca climb, finishing 36 seconds ahead of Jonas Abrahamsen.

The stage, dedicated to 1998 Tour champion Marco Pantani, featured six categorised climbs, including two ascents of the 1.9-kilometre San Luca climb, notorious for its steep 10.6% average gradient and sections nearing 20%. Fans had painted Pantani’s name all over the roads in tribute.

Early in the race, a crash involving Wout van Aert, Laurens De Plus, and Matteo Jorgenson marred the day, but all riders continued. Van Aert, however, was dropped on the first climb up San Luca, and world champion Mathieu van der Poel also fell behind.

Romain Bardet

The French riders made their presence felt with multiple attacks. Jordan Jegat and Axel Laurance launched assaults during the first ascent of San Luca, but it was Vauquelin who capitalised on the final climb. He attacked his breakaway companions, Nelson Oliveira and Jonas Abrahamsen, during the second ascent and maintained his lead to the finish.

“Of course, it’s the best (victory of my career). I had so many disappointments these last few months, struggling in training and the Tour de Suisse,” Vauquelin told France 2 after his win. “I believed in myself, seized opportunities, and used a bit of cunning. I knew the climb by heart.”

Behind Vauquelin, the race for the yellow jersey heated up. Tadej Pogacar seized the yellow jersey from Romain Bardet after a bold attack on the San Luca climb. Pogacar had already shown his strength during the first ascent when he accelerated to grab a water bottle from a team staffer lining the road, a move that foreshadowed his decisive attack.

Pogacar attacked from the chasing peloton up the second ascent of San Luca, with only Jonas Vingegaard able to follow initially. The duo was later joined by Remco Evenepoel and Richard Carapaz after the descent from San Luca. Pogacar’s effort not only secured him the yellow jersey but also created a time gap of 21 seconds over other contenders, including Primož Roglič.

“I think this went way better than I ever expected, so I’m really satisfied,” Vingegaard told NBC after the stage. “Honestly speaking, I didn’t have a good preparation for this race. I only had one and a half months to prepare, so I think I can be super happy with how everything is going so far.”

Bologna’s San Luca climb

Remco Evenepoel, reflecting on his performance, said, “I saw them always riding, it was never more than 10 seconds. I had to keep pushing to the line, I had no choice. Maybe we’ll come back faster if Carapaz helps.”

In the overall standings, Pogacar, Vingegaard, Evenepoel, and Carapaz now share the same time, with yesterday’s stage winner Bardet dropping to fifth, six seconds behind. Olympic gold medallist Richard Carapaz stated, “We worked well in the final kilometres, and the effort paid off.”

2024 Tour de France Stage 2 result

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All photo credits: ASO – Charly Lopez