Victor Lafay launched a blistering acceleration to distance himself from the bunch – and pre-stage favorite Wout van Aert – in the final kilometer, as Stage 2 of the 2023 Tour de France arrived in San Sebastián.
Lafay crossed the line a bike length ahead of van Aert, who was seen to punch his handlebars in frustration at the finish line as he lost the sprint.
The Frenchman’s victory marks his first stage win at the Tour de France, and the first by a Cofidis rider in over 15 years.
Tadej Pogačar took twelve bonus seconds to close the General Classification gap to his UAE Team Emirates teammate Adam Yates – who retained the yellow jersey – and put a fraction more daylight between himself and Jonas Vingegaard with the real battles still to come.
In what was the longest stage of this year’s Tour de France (209 km), a long breakaway from EF Easypost’s American rider Neilson Powless was caught and later dropped by the peloton with 20 km to go on the Jaizkibel climb.
Powless will retain the King of the Mountains jersey for Stage 3 after taking the majority of the available mountain points on the day.
The intermediate bonus seconds at the top of Jaizkibel went to Tadej Pogačar as he beat rival and defending champion Jonas Vingegaard to the summit. This earned Pogačar eight bonus seconds, plus four more for his 3rd place at the finish line.
The pair momentarily looked to take the descent alone, with a 15-second time gap. However, Vingegaard had a vested interest to wait for the pursuivants in order to reconvene with 2022’s green jersey winner Wout van Aert and force a sprint finish.
Pogačar seemed in two minds, but decided against Vingegaard sitting on his wheel for the final 15 km and allowed the peloton to catch up.
With the bunch back together, it seemed that Wout van Aert would be the clear favorite for the win, and he did manage to bring back some menacing attacks in the final 3 km.
However, his Jumbo-Visma teammates were unable to counter the attack from Victor Lafay, leaving van Aert in 2nd place.
“it was 100 meters, 50 meters, and eventually I had it.”
Triumphant Victor Lafay reveled in his victory after the finish: “It’s a little bit unbelievable. Yesterday I was frustrated with the finish. It’s crazy”
“I just waited for the moment for the bunch to slow down and I hit it from behind, put it in the aero tuck. There was some hesitation because I’m not here for the GC, just here for the stage.”
Lafay’s victory comes after a strong ride on Stage 1 managing to stay with Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard for a long time before eventually being dropped near the finish.
“Yesterday when I was with them [Vingegaard and Pogačar] and it didn’t work out for me, but today it was the opposite. Because both riders were looking at each other, it was easier for me to go to the finish.”
Adam Yates, who retained the yellow jersey for Stage 3, was still clearly focused on doing a good job for his team leader Tadej Pogačar.
“We controlled all day, nobody wanted to help us. In the end, we set up Tadej for the bonus seconds, and in the final, I think we did a good job,” Yates told ITV4.
“It’s not easy – for sure we have to control some more days. Tomorrow’s a little easier on paper, but you never know with the Tour de France. Every day is super hard, super technical, it’s not just easy to go to the finish and keep yellow.”
Tour de France 2023: Stage 2 Results
1. Victor Lafay (Cofidis/FRA): 4 Hours, 46 Minutes, 39 Seconds
2. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma/BEL): Same time
3. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates/SLO): Same time
4. Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers/GB): Same time
5. Pello Bilbao Lopez (Bahrain Victorious/ESP)
6. Michael Woods (Israel Premier-Tech/CAN)
7. Romain Bardet (Team DSM/FRA)
8. Dylan Teuns (Israel Premier-Tech/BEL)
9. Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe/AUS)
Tour de France 2023 General Classification Standings After Stage 2
1. Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates/GB): 9 Hours, 9 Minutes, 18 Seconds
2. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates/SLO): + 6 secs
3. Simon Yates (Jayco-Alula/GB): + 6 secs
4. Victor Lafay (Cofidis/FRA): + 12 secs
5. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma/BEL): + 16 secs
6. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma/DEN): + 17 secs
7. Michael Woods (Israel Premier-Tech/CAN): + 22 secs
8. Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe/AUS): + 22 secs
9. Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious/ESP): + 22 secs