Tadej Pogacar takes yellow jersey as Kevin Vauquelin wins second stage

Tadej Pogacar moved into the leader’s yellow jersey as Kevin Vauquelin won stage two of the Tour de France from a breakaway in Bologna.

Pogacar, a little over a month removed from his dominant victory in the Giro d’Italia, ignited his bid to double up in the Grand Tours with an attack late on the second ascent of the steep San Luca climb.

Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard was the only man who could initially follow, although Remco Evenepoel battled back on the descent to avoid any time losses to his main rivals.

Cycling Tour de France
Tour debutant Kevin Vauquelin took the stage win from a breakaway (Guillaume Horcajuelo/AP)

Notably Primoz Roglic could not do the same, among a large group of riders to concede 21 seconds to the new leader, with Carlos Rodriguez, Egan Bernal, Simon Yates, Tom Pidcock and Saturday’s stage winner Romain Bardet among that number.

Asked if he had wanted to go for the stage win, Pogacar said: “No, because the breakaway was too hard and in this weather, this heat, it would be unnecessary to kill my team-mates.

“We just left it to natural selection and it was like this in the end. For sure to have gone for the stage win could have also backfired so we decided to be more calm and tranquil, but in the final I tried to test myself.”

Pogacar has the yellow jersey but the day was just as significant for Vingegaard, competing in his first race since suffering a catalogue of injuries in the Basque Country in April and coming into the Tour with huge questions over his condition, but showing here at least he could live with Pogacar.

The main favourites had come to the foot of the San Luca climb for the second time still together, but as they rode alongside the famous 666 arches, gradients hitting 20 per cent on the road up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, Pogacar was biding his time for an attack.

As his UAE Emirates team-mate Adam Yates set a strong pace splits had already appeared, with Bardet dropping back in the yellow jersey and Roglic also distanced along with Geraint Thomas, before Pogacar made his move.

Pogacar, Vingegaard and Evenepoel finished two minutes and 21 seconds after 23-year-old Tour debutant Vauquelin took his first career Tour stage win, and the first for the Arkea-B&B Hotels squad, having been part of a 10-man breakaway allowed to prosper on the 199km stage from Cesenatico.

The breakaway had split after the first ascent of San Luca, once it became clear the peloton would not catch them. Vauquelin pulled clear alongside Nelson Oliveira and Jonas Abrahamsen on the approach the second ascent, then quickly distanced them once the road ramped up.

“Already to take part in the Tour de France is huge, but to win a stage and to get the team’s first victory, I’m very happy to deliver that victory,” said Vauquelin, who made it two wins from two for French riders to open the Tour.

After two difficult opening days, Monday will see attention switch to the sprinters – and Mark Cavendish’s first shot at a record-breaking 35th Tour stage win – with a 231km stage to Turin, the longest stage of this year’s Tour.