Tour de France 2024 stage two preview

The Tour continues it’s stay in Italy with a punchy finale into Bologna

Date: Sunday June 30, 2024
Distance: 199km
Start location: Cesenatico
Finish location: Bologna
Start time: 12:15 CET
Finish time (approx): 17:06 CET

Memorials to Marco Pantani remain a common feature of the Giro d’Italia, where virtually every year there is at least one stage that honours his memory. Now, as stage two departs from his hometown of Cesenatico, it’s a chance for the Tour de France to reflect upon his complex legacy.

Il Pirata is of course a beloved figure in his home country for his stunning exploits in the mountains, as reflected in the striking statue of him that proudly overlooks the Adriatic coast on the outskirts of Cesenatico, despite the doping scandal that overshadowed his career. Prior to the positive test that forced him to leave the 1999 Giro d’Italia and miss the subsequent Tour de France, he’d already left his indelible mark at the Tour. He’s become synonymous with the race’s most famous climb, Alpe d’Huez, which he won two stages on, and to this day, holds the record for the fastest ever ascent, but also launched famous victorious attacks on two of the biggest mountains in this year’s route, Plateau de Beille and Col du Galibier, on his way to overall victory in 1998. If that was the high of his Tour de France career, his return in 2000 (just four years before his tragic death) was a more ambivalent affair, as the vulnerabilities and sensitivities of his personality played out in a feud with Lance Armstrong, whom he angrily tried to punish with attacks for the perceived slight of gifting him a victory on Mont Ventoux. 

Like stage one, stage two’s route features plenty of climbs, but only short, punchy hills, rather than the sort that mountain goats like Pantani would savour. The key climb will be San Luca, a short (1.9km) but very steep (10.6%) effort that will be tackled twice inside the final 33km, and familiar to many in the peloton as the climax of the autumnal Giro d’Emilia Classic. Primož Roglič has especially fond memories of it, not only winning that Classic on three separate occasions, but also triumphing in a time trial featuring a climb at the 2019 Giro d’Italia Grande Partenza

Unlike the Giro d’Emilia, this stage won’t finish at the top of San Luca, but 13km away from its second ascent, which may discourage the likes of Roglič and other GC contenders to try an attack on. Instead, punchy stage hunters are bound to make moves; the question is whether they can get a big enough gap to make it to the finish in Bologna, or if everything will come back together for a sprint? And in the case of the latter, how many sprinters will be left, and how many will have been distanced on the climb? 

Route profile sourced via ASO


Stage one ended up proving as unpredictable as first thought after DSM-Firmenich-PostNL teammates Frank van den Broek and Romain Bardet surged up the road to take the stage win and the yellow jersey, and stage two looks like a similarly tough stage to call.

The San Luca climb is brutally tough ascent and much closer to the finish than stage one’s final climb, meaning there is a half-chance of seeing some GC action, particularly from Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Primož Roglič (Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe), who thrive on steep inclines like this. But with so many tough stages to come, including the first proper mountain stage on Tuesday, the overall contenders may want to keep their powder dry.

Therefore it could be a chance for the punchy stage hunters. Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease a Bike) showed some impressive form on stage one, but he may not be allowed the leeway to attack and instead have to hope it comes down to a reduced bunch sprint.

Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) will be keen to try and take a victory in the Italian national champion’s jersey on home soil, and has showed excellent form heading into the race. He certainly has the engine to hold off chasers, but may lack the firepower to lose the climbers in the first place over the climb. His teammate Ben Healy is another option for the American team too.

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) certainly does have the firepower to drop almost anybody when he wants to, but he may also want to hold back for future stages and was good to his word when he said stage one was too hard for him (much to this predictor’s chagrin).

Those that go well in the Ardennes Classics may fancy their chances here. Maxim van Gils (Lotto-Dstny), Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), Paul Lapeira (Decathlon-Ag2r La Mondiale), Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), are all potential attackers on the final climb.

Stage two winner prediction

We think Maxim van Gils will take victory on stage two of the Tour de France.

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