Tour de France 2019: Stage 2 Preview

After a disappointing first day, could Ineos establish itself as the team to beat?


Whit Yost |

Stage 2 of the 2019 Tour de France features an undulating 27.6K team time trial through Brussels. One of only two time trials this year, it’s the first important test for those riders and teams with big ambitions. Teams will start in five-minute intervals in reverse order of the Team Classification following Stage 1, with the yellow jersey wearer’s squad going last. That means Ineos will start first at 8:30 a.m. EDT, and Jumbo–Visma will start last at 10:15 a.m.

Beginning at the Royal Palace, the course heads straight out to Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, where Eddy Merckx’s parents ran a grocery store while the Belgian was young, before looping south toward the first time check. The course then crosses under itself while heading north toward the finish line at the Atomium, originally built for the 1958 World’s Fair. Each team’s time will be taken when its fourth rider crosses the line.

The course suits powerful teams, with several long uphill drags that demand well-paced efforts. Teams that start too hard could find themselves depleted by the finish, with dropped riders failing to get the same times as their teammates. Don’t expect the team with the fastest time at the first time check to have the fastest time at the end.

Teams to Watch

Even without Chris Froome (who broke his femur in a mid-June crash), this looks like a perfect stage for Ineos to begin establishing itself as the team to beat. With defending champ Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal leading a field of established rouleurs and time trialists, Ineos might consider anything less than a one-minute margin of victory over its main competition a disappointment.

That said, Ineos didn’t do itself any favors on Stage 1. As a result of finishing in last place on the opening day, it will start first on Stage 2 and won’t have the times of other teams to use as a reference. If there’s an upset—and that’s a really big “if”—it could come from EF Education First or Team Sunweb, both of which have powerful Americans (Tejay van Garderen and Chad Haga, respectively) anchoring their squads.

Jumbo–Visma, whose Mike Teunissen took a surprise win on Stage 1 and now wears the Tour’s first yellow jersey, has several powerful time trialists, including Wout Van Aert and four-time world champion Tony Martin. While it might not end the day in yellow, the team should finish well, perhaps giving Teunissen a chance to reclaim the jersey on Stage 3.

And keep an eye on Movistar, Groupama-FDJ, and AG2R La Mondiale, teams filled with more climbers than time trialists. If they can stay within 30 seconds to a minute of Ineos, they’ll set themselves up well for the rest of the Tour, especially Thursday’s summit finish on La Planche des Belles Filles.

READ MORE ON: le tour news races Tour de France