AJACCIO, Corsica — Jan Bakelants pulled away close to the finish line to win Sunday’s second stage of the Tour de France and take the race leader’s yellow jersey for the first time in his injury-plagued career.
The 27-year-old Belgian made his move with a few hundred meters remaining and did enough to withstand a late charge from Slovak sprinter Peter Sagan for the biggest achievement of a frustrating career in which he turned professional at age 23.
“It’s difficult to believe what happened today. It’s fantastic,” said Bakelants, who had a knee operation this year. “Today it may be the first and last time I ever wear the yellow jersey.”
He won in 3 hours, 43 minutes, 11 seconds, with Sagan and third-place finisher Michal Kwiatkowski one second behind him.
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The 97-mile trek started from Bastia and, after four moderate climbs, finished in Ajaccio, where Napoleon Bonaparte was born in 1769.
German sprinter Marcel Kittel started the day in the lead after winning Saturday’s crash-marred first stage, but the rolling hills took their toll and he finished nearly 18 minutes behind.
The day after more than a dozen riders crashed, a small white dog ran into the road about 2. 5 miles from the finish line, barely managing to dash out of the way before the onrushing pack passed through.