Tour de France: Victory for Victor Lafay as Cofidis take first stage in 15 years

Adam Yates holds onto yellow as Tadej Pogačar extends his lead over Jonas Vingegaard

Clock17:51, Sunday 2nd July 2023
Victor Lafay (Cofidis) wins stage 2 of the Tour de France

© Velo Collection (TDW) /Getty Images

Victor Lafay (Cofidis) wins stage 2 of the Tour de France

Victor Lafay ended Cofidis’ 15-year drought at the Tour de France with a superb win on stage 2 into San Sebastián.

The Frenchman attacked with 1km to go, catching a group of GC favourites by surprise, before holding off a late chase from second place Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates).

The win ended Cofidis’ long and miserable drought in the Tour de France, having not won a stage since Sylvain Chavanel’s victory in Montluçon in 2008.

“I just went for it. I just did everything that I could and really went for it,” Lafay said at the finish.

“I gave my best, I guess. There wasn’t much else that I could do. Yesterday I was a little bit frustrated but to do things today and realise that I can be there in the end that’s amazing. It was a really high pace today and at times I didn't feel great but as we got nearer the end I thought I could make it. I knew there would be attacks in the end andI thought I could go on downhill but in the end I thought I’d go for it, and it’s crazy. It’s a great, great, relief,” he added.

In the battle for the yellow jersey Yates retained his grip on the overall lead with Pogačar moving to within six seconds and Simon Yates (Jayco) dropping to third but on the same time. Courtesy of bonus seconds Pogačar now has a slender 11 seconds over sixth placed Vingegaard.

Elsewhere there were time gaps for Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroën), Dani Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers), Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal QuickStep) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama FDJ), who were all unable to live with a ferocious pace set by UAE Team Emirates on the Jaizkibel climb.

The stage had blown to pieces on the Jaizkibel climb with Pogačar and last year’s Tour winner Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) breaking clear. The pair sat up and were caught by a group containing yellow jersey Adam Yates and several other contenders.

On the long descent Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) attacked but like a number of late attempts, he was reeled in before the line. Even Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) put in a move rather than wait for the sprint but he too was nullified as Jumbo-Visma looked to set up Van Aert for the stage win.

With 1km to go though it was Lafay, who looked so impressive on the opening stage, who timed his move to perfection. He jumped from the back of the lead group, catching everyone by surprise with a huge turn of speed.

Despite a late surge from Van Aert, Lafay had enough in the tank to take his second Grand Tour stage win, having tasted success in the Giro d’Italia in 2021. For Cofidis the win brought an end to 15 years of near misses and failure, and for Lafay, the biggest day of his career so far. 

EF-Education plot their comeback

After losing Richard Carapaz to a crash on stage 1 EF-Education EasyPost were determined to rescue their Tour de France and it was little surprise to see Neilson Powless skip clear in a group that contained Edvald Boasson Hagen and Remi Cavagna. Powless had slipped into the King of the Mountains jersey courtesy of his aggressive ride on stage 1 and with several climbs on the menu the American was aiming to buttress his lead and potential take on the stage win.

With 135km to go the trio held a lead close to five minutes, a much bigger margin than the break had been afforded on stage 1, but the Côte d'Alkiza  saw Cavagna dropped as UAE Team Emirates set about controlling the race from behind. 

With 37km to go Powless said goodbye to Boasson Hagen, with the Norwegian dispatched on Côte de Gurutze. A crash downed O’Connor, and Vingegaard required mechanical assistance due to a puncture, before several sprinters sat up before the final climb.

On the infamous Jaizkibel and its 8.1km slopes, Powless held a slender one minute lead but when Rafal Majka started to set an unrelenting pace for the yellow jersey group the American’s lead quickly began to evaporate.

The EF-Education rider was eventually caught with 19.3km to go as Pinot and Alaphille were shelled from what remained on the peloton.

Towards the summit Adam Yates took over and he briefly set the pace for Pogačar and Vingegaard but just before the summit the Slovenian kicked, picking up the bonus seconds and the points, with only Vingegaard willing or able to follow.

A regrouping took place on the long and technical descent before Lafay took the stage win and Cofidis finally ended their long wait.

Dan Lloyd's GCN Analysis

I was not the only person scratching my head yesterday, bewildered that UAE Team Emirates were willing to expend so much energy defending the yellow jersey on what was only stage 2 of the race. Whilst the majority of the work was shared between just two riders, Mikkel Bjerg and Vegard Stake Laengen, convention would suggest that it would have been better to save some of that energy for more important stages to come, and to pass the yellow jersey to someone else.

That said, it was entertaining to watch - the tactics seen as most sensible are generally not the most exciting, so as a viewer there’s no reason to complain. Pogacar’s want to race hard whenever he pins a number on has clearly rubbed off on the rest of the squad, and their morale and team spirit appears sky high based on what we’ve seen so far.

Whether or not they’ll pay for their early efforts in the final week of the race remains to be seen, but what we can already conclude is that they are going to be aggressive wherever the opportunity arises, despite how events unfolded 12 months ago.

Race Results

1

fr flag

LAFAY Victor

Cofidis

4H 46' 39"

2

be flag

VAN AERT Wout

Jumbo-Visma

"

3

si flag

POGACAR Tadej

UAE Team Emirates

"

4

gb flag

PIDCOCK Tom

INEOS Grenadiers

"

5

es flag

BILBAO Pello

Bahrain Victorious

"

6

ca flag

WOODS Michael

Israel-Premier Tech

"

7

fr flag

BARDET Romain

Team dsm-firmenich

"

8

be flag

TEUNS Dylan

Israel-Premier Tech

"

9

au flag

HINDLEY Jai

BORA-hansgrohe

"

10

be flag

CRAS Steff

TotalEnergies

"

Provided by FirstCycling

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