There was clearly a transponder issue: Fabio Aru did not finish ninth and Peter Sagan did finish tenth. Kittel is up to third on GC, six seconds behind Geraint Thomas - who leads Stefan Kung by five seconds.
Düsseldorf - Liège
Tour de France - 2 July 2017
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Kittel's 10th Tour win was one of his most emotional...
So, Peter Sagan actually faded out of the top ten in that sprint. Fabio Aru, oddly enough, managed to get ninth place.
Marcel Kittel breaks down in tears after his 10th Tour stage win. He's surrounded by his Quick-Step team-mates as they do a group hug and a roar - winning in their native Belgium. 10 bonus seconds will put Kittel within six seconds of Geraint Thomas on GC.
The big German held off Arnaud Demare and Andre Greipel for the win, with Cavendish there for fourth it seems. All the big names were there - with Groenewegen and Matthews just behind with Sagan and Bouhanni, I think.
Victory for Marcel Kittel of Quick-Step Floors!
Sagan and Bouhanni on the front... but they're all there...
Lotto Soudal are on the front as they swallow up the break and pass under the flamme rouge...
Many riders have dropped off the back of the pack... and on a long straight, the two leaders look over their shoulders and they will know that the game is up.
It's coming down quickly now - Phinney has one last throw of the dice but they only have 12 seconds now as Bahrain Merida are the latest team to edge forwards. Lotto Soudal are there too.
It's come down to 20 seconds now as Quick-Step and Dimension Data pick up the slack...
Juraj Sagan is now leading the chase for Bora and his brother, Peter Sagan, the world champion. Still 30 seconds though for Phinney and Offredo.
Lotto Soudal have Adam Hansen on the front but no one team has committed to do the work - and it means they're letting it slip through their hands. The gap is 30 seconds for the two leaders.
The gap is still 35 seconds so Phinney and Offredo are doing their best to deny the seemingly inevitable. This would be a huge coup if they can pull it off.
The rain capes and jackets are coming off. It's getting feisty in the pack. Ignatas Konovalovas of FDJ has a flat - not great for Demare, for he is one of the Frenchman's lead-out men. The gap is 38 seconds still.
We should add that the rain has stopped - in fact, it hasn't been raining in Liege and the roads are dry. The sprinters will be happy with that, for sure. There's even a spot of sunshine...
Bora-Hansgrohe, Quick-Step Floors and Dimension Data are on the front now for their men Sagan, Kittel and Cavendish. The gap is still 52 seconds.
Superb effort from this leading duo of Phinney and Offredo, who have extended their lead to 55 seconds over the peloton. They're both strong classics riders with big engines: they'll struggle to stay out, for sure, but they'll give it their best shot.
Phinney continued his surge after that climb and is riding with Offredo on the front of the race. They have dropped the others and have 43 seconds to play with as they zip under the 15-to-go banner.
Katusha, UAE Team Emirates, Cofidis and LottoNL-Jumbo had riders in that crash. Richie Porte was also held up, but managed to continue without hitting the deck or changing his bike. We haven't had news about the Katusha rider who went down first, but it seems like everyone is back with the main pack now.
Meanwhile, the leaders are onto the Cat.4 Cote d'Olne. And it's Pichon who puts in an attack... and Phinney has his work cut out to round him just in time to take the point over the line, to double his tally to 2pts and secure the polka dot jersey for tomorrow.
Bike change for Froome, who has the right bike now. Kwiatkowski and Knees have slowed to help drag him back to the pack. Heart-in-mouth moment for the defending champion. This is reminiscent of that sodden stage on the cobbles a few years ago, when Froome crashed numerous times before calling it a day.
Froome is signalling for his team car - he's clearly not happy with his replacement bike, which does appear to be too small for him. After the highs of yesterday, Froome has hit rock bottom today in the rain.
LottoNL-Jumbo's Dylan Groenewegen also went down in that crash - so that's two falls in two days for the young Dutchman.
As a result of that crash, the peloton has slowed up. The Froome-Bardet chasing group have managed to join the back of the peloton after their frantic chase. The break still has 40 seconds.
Ag2R-La Mondiale and Sky have formed an alliance as they chase back on with their GC men Bardet and Froome. The defending champion has tears in his bib shorts, and doesn't look too happy. He was being paced by Kwiatkowski until his other team-mates joined in. Bardet has Naesen, the Belgian national champion.
Both Chris Froome and Romain Bardet went down in that crash. Both riders needed to swap bikes before continuing on their way. Replays show that the pile-up was caused by a rider slipping right on the front - it looked like one of the Katusha-Alpecin riders who lost his front wheel, causing a raft of riders to hit the deck. Sky were badly hit because they were right on the front - ironically, to keep out of trouble.
CRASH: Lots of riders down after hitting some road furniture after a roundabout. Team Sky and Ag2R-La Mondiale have been badly hit, it seems.
The gap is tumbling down now: it's dropped to just 40 seconds for the four leaders.
We've named most of the big sprinters but there's a load of other fast men ready to cause an upset: the likes of Oliver Naesen (Ag2R-La Mondiale), John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo), Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates), Jens Keukeleire (Orica-Scott), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), Michael Matthews (Team Subweb), Dan McLay (Fortuneo-Oscaro) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Merida) may try their best to get in the mix.
Here are some of the main contenders today - and of the Big Five, Marcel Kittel has the best win ratio this season: 63% of his sprints have resulted in a triumph.
Another rider to watch in today's sprint is the former Dutch national champion Dylan Groenewegen. He was one of three LottoNL-Jumbo riders to crash during yesterday's sodden ITT, but he's being sprinting well this season and has a half-decent lead-out train. Like French duo Demare and Bouhanni, he has never won a stage on the Tour before; but this is only his second appearance and, on his day, he has the speed to shine. Could the 24-year-old go under the radar, or will he be feeling the after-affects of his tumble yesterday?
Of course, Aix-la-Chapelle is the French name for the German town of Aachen - which is still very much inside the German border. So those cobbles were still in Germany - but the riders are now, indeed, in Belgium.
Now in Belgium, the terrain gets a bit lumpier - so do stay tuned, because it will definitely get a bit better... There's that second climb too, which comes 20km from the finish.
COBBLES! Typical that just as the race crossed the border into Belgium, the breakaway hits a cobbled section at Aix-la-Chapelle. They have 2:30 to play with now - and the peloton will have to be careful when they come along because those cobblestones looked rather slippery. The locals are out in their droves despite the weather - I guess this is positively barmy for Belgium.
It's raining again on the Tour as the leaders - with a gap of 2:25 - edge closer to the Belgian border. Remember that all these escapees are Tour debutants. Phinney is the biggest name, but you may recall the name Offredo: the Frenchman, 30, finished 14th in both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix earlier this season, and he made further headlines after being attacked with a baseball ball while out training in the spring.
Not long to go until we cross the border into Belgium - and it's still the slight figure of Tiago Machado of Katusha-Alpecin who is still setting the tempo on the front of the pack for his team-mate Alexander Kristoff, the Norwegian sprinter. Kristoff hasn't won a Tour stage since picking up two in 2014 - and it's fair to say that he hasn't really been the same rider since he won the Tour of Flanders in 2015.
The gap is down to 1:35 now for the four leaders. Another rider to watch today is, of course, Britain's Mark Cavendish. The Dimension Data rider has 30 wins to his name on the Tour - trailing the all-time leader Eddy Merckx by four wins, the same amount of victories he notched in last year's Tour. But he enters the race after a season disrupted by glandular fever, and has said he doesn't expect he'll be too competitive. Time will tell how off-the-boil Cav is, but you get the impression that he's tactically playing down things. Deep down, he'll be itching - and expecting - to pick up wins, such is his competitive streak and supreme confidence.
It's quite windy out there too on these long, straight, flat roads that head towards Belgium. Perhaps today is the day Nacer Bouhanni finally wins a stage on the Tour? The Frenchman from Codifis has won on both the Giro and Vuelta, but never in his home Tour - primarily because he always seems to avoid racing it, or crashes out when he does. He's had an up-and-down season, plus lost out to Demare in the French national championships recently.
Taylor Phinney, who looks all but certain to wear the polka dot jersey tomorrow after taking that solitary KOM point earlier today, drinks a mini can of Coke in the break. Phinney could be pegged back by another rider in the second climb just before the finish - but unless it's someone who finished above him in the ITT yesterday, then he will wear the polka dots. Phinney was 12th yesterday. The only rider who could feasibly pup him is Michal Kwiatkowski of Sky, but it's unlikely the Pole will attack on the climb when his team-mate Thomas is in yellow. 27-year-old Phinney crashed horrifically in 2014 and has been on the comeback trail ever since. He's finally getting some races under his belt and the form is coming back following his move from BMC in the winter.
Puncture for Pierre Latour, the French national time trial champion, who is currently second in the white jersey standings after a solid ITT yesterday. Latour will be a key climbing lieutenant for his Ag2R-La Mondiale leader Romain Bardet in the mountains.
FDJ send a man onto the front to earn their right to fight at the finish. The French team have high hopes for French national champion Arnaud Demare, the 2016 Milan-Sanremo winner. Demare has never won a stage on the Tour, but he's been in good nick this season and recently won the green jersey at the Dauphine, the annual Tour dress rehearsal. Interestingly, FDJ have not won a sprint on the Tour for 14 years... so it's time that rotten run ended.
The rain has now eased up a little but it's the same script: Thomas de Gendt, the breakaway hunter, sets the tempo on the front of the pack. His Lotto Soudal team-mate Andre Greipel - one of the favourites for the win today - just popped back to see his team car. The gap is 2:20 for the four leaders.
We're over half-way through this stage now with the four man break of Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac), Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie), Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo-Oscaro) and Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) riding 2:30 ahead of the pack. They have been out since kilometre zero, effectively.
The riders look pretty wretched out there in this rain - with the race Belgium bound, it's more like a sodden spring classic out there. Everyone seems to be in rain jackets or arm warmers except Tiago Machado of Katusha and Julien Vermote of Quick-Step.
The rain can't dampen German spirits, mind. The fans have done their country proud today, that's for sure.
Belgium's Thomas de Gendt leads the peloton for Lotto Soudal. The weather is horrendous: it's raining even heavier than yesterday, the whole of Battersea coming down on them hard. The gap for the four leaders is up to 2:40.
Katusha, Bahrain Merida, Dimension Data, Lotto Soudal and Quick-Step all have men near the front as they approach the intermediate sprint. And it's Kristoff who crosses first for fifth place and 11 points, followed by Colbrelli, Matthews, Demare, Sagan and Kittel. A little last of things to come at the finish in Liege, perhaps.
Offerdo leads the four-man break as they approach the intermediate sprint. He has Phinney in his wheel, with Boudat and Pichon behind. And it's Phinney who opens it up for Cannondale - but he's edged out by Thomas Boudat of Direct Energie, who picks up the maximum 20pts over the sodden line. The video below shows just how bad the conditions have got out there for the riders...
Gosh, it's rather grim out there now as the rain enters cats and dogs territory. Intermediate sprint coming up in about 5km.
The rain is getting heavier now as numerous riders drop back to pick up jackets and waterproofs. The gap for the four escapees is 2:15 so it's fairly stable. Here's a good insight into what happens when the peloton is chasing down a break ahead of an expected bunch sprint...
The rain is not heavy, but it's definitely coming down a little. The fans don't seem to bothered - there are no umbrellas out yet - but you can see the drops on the TV screens. Not long to go until the first intermediate sprint of the race, at Moenchengladbach.
Katusha-Alpecin have send a man onto the front to help out Lotto Soudal. They have Alexander Kristoff for the sprints, although the Norwegian has not been very strong this season. The gap is down to 2:20 as the rain starts to fall.
So, who were the big losers yesterday? When it comes to GC, only one rider - Simon Yates - finished within 30 seconds of Chris Froome, who already has a healthy gap over his rivals. Yates's Orica-Scott team-mate Esteban Chaves was the big loser - shipping 1:03 to Froome over 14km - but it wasn't exactly great for the likes of Richie Porte, Nairo Quintana, Romain Bardet or Alberto Contador either...
We should add that the rain that blighted the Grand Depart yesterday in Dusseldorf has gone: it may be cloudy but it's not wet, and the fans have come out accordingly. The streets are lined with spectators - it's a really impressive sight. Chapeau to everyone in Germany out there showing their support and lapping it all up. The Germans have about 80 more kilometres to enjoy before the race crosses the border into Belgium, where the crowds will no doubt be just as vast.
Lotto Soudal, Quick-Step Floors and Dimension Data all have one man on the front of the peloton ahead of the Sky train. They're managing to keep the break's advantage just above the three-minute mark - keeping it sensible with the final sprint for their men Greipel, Kittel and Cavendish in mind.
In fact, we're hearing that Luke Durbridge of Orica-Scott, who also crashed yesterday, has been forced to join Izaguirre and Valverde on the sidelines. The Australian damaged ligaments in his ankle yesterday, gave it a go today, but found it too painful, so he pulled up after 25km.
He may not have crashed out of the race like Valverde or Izaguirre, but yesterday couldn't have gone much worse for Frenchman Tony Gallopin. Firstly, he was woken up at 5am by a call from the French police informing that his house had been broken into and his car stolen. Then, during the sodden ITT, he crashed on that same corner and slammed into the barrier. Gallopin finished last, 3:03 down on Thomas, and so is the Lanterne Rouge at this early stage of the race.
Puncture for Marcel Kittel, one of the big favourites for the win today. And it takes quite a long time for his Quick-Step Floors mechanic to change his front wheel - perhaps because the German is riding on disc brakes, which are notoriously harder to whip on and off.
A second Spaniard crashed out of the Tour yesterday: Valverde's former team-mate Ion Izaguirre, of Bahrain Merida. Izaguirre, a stage winner from last year, fractured a bone in his lower back, the lumbar. He was targeting a top-ten finish and so that's a huge blow for him and his team.
A reminder that Alejandro Valverde was forced out of the Tour yesterday after crashing on a wet corner and sliding into a barrier at top speed. The Spanish veteran was operated on last night and it was confirmed that he had broken his kneecap. It's unlikely that the 38-year-old will ride again this season. He also injured his tibia and gluteus, plus fractured a bone in his left ankle. A terrible blow to Valverde, Movistar and Nairo Quintana, who has lost his most capable lieutenant at the earliest possible moment in the race. Given Valverde was in the form of his life, it's a huge blow for us fans as well, who will be denied his attacking verve in the mountains.
Meanwhile, Stefan Kung wears the white jersey in his debut Tour. The Swiss rider from BMC finished second yesterday and leads Pierre Latour (FDJ) by 20 seconds and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) by 24 seconds in the youth classification.
Although he is only third in the points classification, the green jersey is being worn today by Vasil Kiryienka of Belarus. The Sky rider has 15 points - with Thomas on 20 and Kung on 17. But with the intermediate sprint and expected bunch finish today, that will change: make no mistake, we'll have a sprinter in green tonight. It's most likely to be Marcel Kittel, too, after the German finished ninth in the ITT and picked up 7pts in the process.
A reminder of the top 5 on GC: Thomas, Stefan Kung +5, Vasil Kiryienka +7, Tony Martin +8, Matteo Trentin +10. Sky, remember, have four in the top eight - with Froome sixth and Michal Kwiatkowski eighth.
Geraint Thomas is the first Welshman to win a stage on the Tour and the first Welshman to wear the yellow jersey - what a ride that was yesterday from the 31 year old Team Sky rider. And given he has 16 seconds on Marcel Kittel - and there's an uphill kick of a finish on Monday - he could well keep hold of it for a while, even with the bonus seconds available for the top three of each stage. With Chris Froome 12 seconds back, it will be interesting to see how Sky play things on stage 5 to La Planche des Belles Filles.
So, all four of these breakaway riders are Tour debutants. In fact, the entire Wanty-Groupe Gobert team of Yoann Offredo are making their first appearance in the Tour. Not a bad way to get things under way, eh?
The gap is already up to three minutes for the four-man break as the peloton passes over the summit, taking things very easily. Team Sky are near the front for their man Thomas, in yellow, while the Lotto Soudal and Quick-Step Floors teams of Germans Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel both have sent one man forward too...
American Taylor Phinney puts in a dig to crest the summit of the first climb of this Tour in pole position - and with it snare the one solitary KOM point that puts him in the virtual polka dot jersey. The 27-year-old is making a belated debut in the Tour - and that's quite a way of kicking things off.
The riders are already onto the first climb of the day, the Cote de Gradenberg. Expect a ding dong battle for the four escapees...
Four riders ahead: three French riders and one rider from the United States. The leaders are: Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie), Taylor Phinney (Cannondale Drapac), Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo).
There's a flurry of attacks from the outset as riders battle to get into the first break of this race. There's a lot at stake: the chance to wear the first polka dot jersey, primarily, but also simply the kudos and a nod to the sponsors.
They're off! Christian Prudhomme, the race director, waves his flag - and the stage is underway.
The riders are currently riding through the neutral zone in Dusseldorf ahead of the official start of this first road stage of the 104th edition of the race. The pack has already stopped for an impromptu rendition of the Marseillaise by a big band - but now it's show time...
Here's what today's stage is all about: a flat stage book-ended by two small climbs that will decide who wears the first polka dot jersey of the race. A bunch sprint is on the cards - but remember, we said the same about stage 1 of the Giro and that went off-script with Peter Postlberger pulling off a coup to deny the sprinters...
There was heartbreak for Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde of Movistar after the 38-year-old was forced out of the race after crashing badly into the barriers. Valverde, who broke his kneecap in the incident, lost his balance on a corner that claimed numerous victims, most notably his former team-mate Ion Izagirre of Bahrain Merida. 28-year-old Izaguirre - who won stage 20 last year - was also forced to withdraw.
A perfect day for Team Sky saw the British team finish with four riders in the top eight as defending champion Chris Froome put a major dent into the hopes of his general classification rivals at the earliest opportunity in the 104th edition of the world’s biggest bike race. Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is a further second back on Froome, while Spaniard Alberto Contador (Trek Segafredo) trails the triple Tour champion by 42 seconds ahead of Sunday’s second stage.
Yesterday, Welshman Geraint Thomas won a sodden opening time trial of the Tour de France in Dusseldorf to seize the yellow jersey on a day dominated by Team Sky. Thomas laid his Giro d’Italia nightmares to rest with a commanding performance over a slippery 14km course, coming home in a time of 16 minutes and four seconds – five seconds quicker than Switzerland’s Stefan Kung (BMC) and seven seconds ahead of team-mate Vasil Kiryienka of Belarus.
Bonjour le Tour! Hello and welcome to live coverage of stage 2 of the Tour de France - a 203.5km largely flat ride from Dusseldorf to Liege as the race bids farewell to Germany and enters Belgium.