George Bennett has stepped onto the winner’s podium with his Jumbo-Visma teammates after Jumbo-Visma won the team time trial.  Jumbo-Visma were excellent against the clock, taking the victory in the team time trial 20 seconds ahead of Team Ineos, with Deceuninck-Quick Step third.

The second stage starting and finishing in Brussels saw Team Ineos surprisingly start the day first of all, as they ended stage 1 as the lowest placed in the team standings.  The course ahead of them was a decent 27.6km in length and provided opportunity for significant time gaps to open up across the day.

Undeterred by the fact that they were first up the road, Team Ineos got underway to rapturous applause as fans swarmed at the roadside.  The British-based outfit blasted around the course, while Astana and Groupama-FDJ followed in what was giving all the impressions of a bit of a topsy turvy team time trial.  Typically these leading GC contenders would be among the last to start with their teams but not after just one stage of racing that was not without its problems for some of the GC contenders.

With an early average speed of 57.9kph, Team Ineos were 1.1kph faster than Astana with their GC hope Jakob Fuglsang.  Geraint Thomas, Egan Bernal and co sped around the course successfully to stop the clock in 29.17mins, while interesting to note that Groupama-FDJ had also gotten underway quickly, just 8 seconds slower than Ineos at the 13.2km check point to sit provisionally in second place.  They held their ground well to Team Ineos as well, losing just 2 seconds more to their rivals.

George Bennett is the second Kiwi in two years to stand on the podium at the end of a team time trial, photo Sirotti

It was surprising, but possibly due to the untechnical nature of the course coupled with the lack of serious difficulty over the parcours, that time gaps didn’t really open up as radically as we might have expected, with less than a minute separating the top 15 teams.  Among the teams to lose more significant time, however, were Romain Bardet and his AG2R La Mondiale team, crossing the line 59 seconds behind Team Ineos; and still with an even faster team to come.

CCC Team, who entered the stage as one of the pre-race favourites to take the stage and potentially the yellow jersey for Greg van Avermaet, were one of the teams to surprisingly find themselves down the overall standings.  They would eventually finish 7th on the stage 11 seconds behind Ineos, an average speed of 56.2kph, with Patrick Bevin among the four riders to cross the line together to stop the clock.

The biggest surprise of the day, however, initially came via Katusha-Alpecin.  The team featuring Ilnur Zakarin, Alex Dowsett, Nils Politt and Marco Haller blasted through the first time check 4 seconds faster than Team Ineos.  They faded in the final stages though, losing 9 seconds between the first time check to the finish line to stop the clock 5 seconds slower than Ineos; but still with a good performance for a team who are not renowned for their team time trialling ability.

One of the latest teams to go were EF Education First, with Tom Scully in their ranks.  The team who are still a big unknown in terms of who they might favour for GC challenges got underway with Scully himself leading the team away.  At the first time check EF Education First were 3.2 seconds down on Ineos and they continued to hold a good position over the second half of the course, stopping the clock 8 seconds adrift in what would eventually be good enough for 6th place.

Finally the yellow jersey of Mike Teunissen and the Jumbo-Visma team got underway with George Bennett in tow.  Yesterday’s big favourite for stage honours, Dylan Groenewegen, started the day quite heavily bandaged and looking in a great deal of discomfort.  Unsurprisingly he cracked early on and faced a battle to make the time cut; which he would successfully do in the end.

Meanwhile at the first time check Jumbo-Visma were absolutely flying with the likes of Tony Martin conducting matters in the train.  They stopped the clock 10 seconds faster than Katusha-Alpecin and 14 seconds faster than Team Ineos at the first check.  While they did that EF Education First crossed the finish like 7.2 seconds slower than Ineos.  Scully, who’d led the team off, had dropped off in the latter stages; having spent himself for his team.

The closest challengers pre-Jumbo-Visma were Deceuninck-QuickStep.  The wolf pack were looking extremely strong and in the final kilometre they were neck and neck for top spot.  They crossed the line just 0.82 seconds slower than Team Ineos in a scintillatingly close finish.  Ineos had spent the entire stage in the hot seat, but that would change with the team of the maillot jaune.

Wout Van Aert leads Jumbo-Visma towards the finish line, photo Sirotti

Jumbo-Visma had six riders by the time they’d reached 8km to go with George Bennett consistent in the team.  Mike Teunissen, Steven Kruijswijk, Wout van Aert, Tony Martin and George Bennett were the last men standing in the team with 5km to go and they held their ground as the time gap stretched further and further between them and Team Ineos.  With 1.5km to go the time gap was at 21 seconds.  With 800m to go George Bennett hit the front and put in one final massive effort for the team with Wout van Aert right behind him.  

Steven Kruijswijk was already tapping Bennett as Bennett dropped to the back of the train, knowing that the stage win was in the bag.  Van Aert led the team home, with Jumbo-Visma stopping the clock 20 seconds faster than Team Ineos, and immediately the celebrations started as the riders slowed.  

Mike Teunissen extended his overall lead, with his nearest non-teammate challengers 30 seconds in arrears.  George Bennett moved from 167th overall to 5th; his best ever GC position at the Tour de France.  Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal are the nearest challengers to Teunissen’s yellow jersey at 30 seconds, with Ilnur Zakarin 36 seconds back and Rigoberto Uran, Tejay van Garderen and Michael Woods all 38 seconds behind.


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