SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain (AP) — It took a late breakaway by Victor Lafay for French team Cofidis to end its 15-year winless streak at the Tour de France. Cofidis won the second stage on Sunday after Lafay moved to the front and held off a late charge by the favorites to clinch the victory, with Adam Yates keeping the overall lead after the opening two stages in northern Spain.
Cofidis hadn’t won in the Tour since Sylvain Chavanel triumphed in the 19th stage of the 2008 edition.
“It’s a relief for Cofidis to finally get a stage win,” Lafay said. “I’ve been hearing about this for five years since I joined the team. I’m happy to free the team from this burden. We’ll keep going. We want more.”
The French rider took the lead within the final kilometer (0.6 miles) and held on for victory in what was the Tour’s longest stage this year. The peloton came charging at the end but couldn’t catch up with him ahead of the finish line.
“When I attacked, I didn’t even evaluate if it was going to work or not,” said Lafay, whose only other victory at a Grand Tour race had come in the 2021 Giro d’Italia. “Then I was seeing the finishing line getting closer and my power getting lower in numbers but it has worked out. It’s crazy.”
The 27-year-old Lafay maintained the tradition of French stage wins in San Sebastian after Louis Caput in 1949 and Dominique Arnould in 1992.
Wout van Aert of Jumbo-Visma was second and Tadej Pogacar third at the finish line in the Basque Country city of San Sebastian after a hilly stage of more than 200 kilometers (124 miles).
Yates, the winner of the opening stage on Saturday, finished close behind to retain the overall leader’s yellow Jersey. He was six seconds ahead of race-favorite Pogacar and his twin brother Simon Yates, who was second on Saturday.
“It’s not easy to defend this jersey,” Adam Yates said. “The next two days are easier on paper, yet this is the Tour de France and every day is super hard and super technical. We’ll see what happens.”
Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard recovered after being involved in a minor crash in the peloton earlier in the stage. He dropped to sixth overall.
American Neilson Powless of team EF Education-EasyPost retained the red polka dot jersey for best climber. The winner of the San Sebastian Classic in 2021, Powless was among the three-man break that moved to the front early on, and eventually took the solo lead before the peloton caught up and dropped him with about 20 kilometers (12 miles) to go. He was 49th overall, nearly 10 minutes off the lead.
The 110th edition of cycling’s biggest race is taking place amid continued unrest in France after a fifth night of riots triggered by the deadly shooting of a 17-year-old by police.
Monday’s third stage begins in Spain but crosses into France in a 193-kilometer (120-mile) route that is mostly flat and will culminate with the first sprint finish of the Tour this year.
Torstein Traaen rode with a fractured elbow after a crash in the opening stage. Enric Mas and Richard Carapaz withdrew from the race after getting injured on Saturday.