2023 Tour de France Stage 2 Preview

Vitoria-Gasteiz > San Sebastian-Donostia 209km

When I first saw this stage, I thought it was one for the breakaway, but I’ve changed my mind. This is a day where the teams of climbing sprinters will control the morning attack and try to set up a reduced sprint. You might look at the Jaizkibel and think, they don’t stand a chance, but climbing sprinters continue to climb better than ever before. 


It looks like a bit of rain in the first half of the stage, but it should be dry for the finish.

The Climb

The mythical Jaizkibel, but not from the same side as San Sebastian. The climb is split in two by a small descent, first up is 3km at 5.2%, then it’s 3.6km at 7.4%. This isn’t an easy climb; we’ll have to see which of the fast men back themselves to survive.


There’s a nasty kicker just outside of 3km to go, it is around 700m at 4.6%. This opens the door for a late attacker, especially as there shouldn’t be too many domestiques left. There’s a right-hand bend with 1.3km to go, which is followed by a fast left-hand bend with just 600m to go. The finishing straight is 6m wide, I’ve seen wider.


Step forward the teams of the climbing sprinters. It’s a very easy stage to control, even though this is the longest stage in the whole race. Make sure the break is relatively weak, then sit back and wait for the final 30km. The Jaizkibel is obviously too hard for the pure sprinters, but riders like Van Aert and Girmay will be licking their lips. The first half of the climb is into a headwind, which is even better news for those riders, but they all know the second half is going to be very hard. 

The second half has a light tailwind and with 8, 5 and 2 bonus seconds at the crest, the GC teams will take over and line this one out. For a sprinter to survive, they’ll have to be climbing very well. The sprint for the bonus seconds will see a small group get off the front, they’ll access the situation and see if it’s worthwhile pushing on the descent, a similar position to what happened in this year’s Paris-Nice. Back then, Pogačar and Vingegaard were joined by Latour, but Vingegaard was the first to decide not to work, mainly due to a raging headwind. This time that won’t be a problem, but the 8.6km of flat at the end of the stage isn’t great news for those who want to push on and stop a sprint.

In terms of the sprint, Jumbo-Visma, Intermarché and Alpecin-Deceuninck are likely to be the main teams, they have the best of the climbing sprinters. I think it’s certain we’ll see Van Aert and Girmay survive, but will Philipsen? He’s been working on his climbing, and as his big goal is the green jersey, this is an enormous moment for him. The ASO have decided this is a “flat” stage, there’s 50 points on offer at the finish, something which I found quite surprising. As I’ve mentioned, the second half of the climb will be full gas, but Philipsen should be surviving 3.6km at 7.4%. Teams that want a sprint need to be very careful once Pogačar and the rest sprint for the bonus seconds, they need someone straight on his wheel making sure he doesn’t get any fancy ideas of pushing on. The good news for those teams is that Vingegaard should be with him, he’ll then refuse to work as Jumbo-Visma want a sprint for Van Aert. 

The finale isn’t easy either. If you’re a sprinter who’s gone very deep on the climb, the rise that finishes with 2.7km to go is a nightmare. It might not be long or steep, but it’s enough to make some riders lose positions, which then requires another effort to move back up the bunch before the finish. As always, a good lead out will be a big help, and Christophe Laporte should be the man for the job. Not only is he a brilliant lead out man, but he also climbs very well. He’ll be there to guide Van Aert in the closing stages and step up the sprint, Wout starts this stage as the favourite, but they need to be watchful of someone launching a late attack on that little kicker.


Wout Van Aert – he’s the favourite for me, but it’s not a foregone conclusion. He’s 100% certain to survive the Jaizkibel (that’s why he’s the favourite), and he’ll have teammates to help him in the final kilometres. The team also need to ensure Vingegaard is protected, so he might not have as many teammates as some of his rivals. Van Aert has a very fast sprint, but he’ll be a little concerned by the presence of Philipsen, he’s not as quick as the Alpecin man. A good lead out could negate the speed difference, that’s why Laporte is so important. 

Biniam Girmay – this is a wonderful chance for him to win his first Tour de France stage. Girmay is a big talent, but I don’t think he’ll win a big bunch sprint in the race, which means he’s only got two chances of taking a win, stages 2 and 8. Intermarché will be fully committed for him in this stage, but do they have the men to support him in the final 5km? I think he’ll survive the climb, and he should have the likes of Rui Costa, Zimmermann, and Smith to help with positioning, but if he’s going to win this stage, he’ll need Mike Teunissen. Intermarché need a rider to rival Laporte, and Mike is that man, Laporte is doing his old job after all. Girmay showed in Tour de Suisse that he can beat Van Aert in a sprint, we’ll see if he can do it on the biggest stage.

Jasper Philipsen – he’s been working on his climbing, it’s not like he was poor in this department, but it’s all to do with winning stages like this. Philipsen has proven to be one of the best in the world in 2023, he approaches the Tour full of confidence, he could finish the race with several stage wins and the green jersey. I expect him to survive the climb, but he’ll have to use up more energy than Wout and Bini, which could have an impact on his sprint. Alpecin should have Hermans, Kragh and van der Poel to help in the closing stages, that would be an incredibly strong sprint train if Philipsen survives.

Mads Pedersen – can he survive the climb? He wasn’t at his climbing best during the Giro, but that doesn’t mean he won’t match the best here. I don’t know if he survives, it all depends on his current shape. If he does, he should have Stuyven to help in the final kilometres. If he doesn’t survive, Stuyven will get to sprint.

Mathieu van der Poel – will be unleashed if Philipsen gets dropped. I’d love to see him attack on the final kicker and see if he can hold on for the final 3km.

Corbin Strong – after a wonderful season, I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do. A win is probably asking a bit much, finishing in the top 5 in a Tour stage would be a hell of an achievement for him.

Prediction Time

The sprint teams to control and set up a sprint from a group of around 60 riders.

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I’ll go risky and take a win for Jasper Philipsen. They won’t drop him on the climb and his sprint train looks very strong compared to the others.