Sheffield - Vincenzo Nibali rode himself into the yellow jersey after a daring
late break to win the second stage of the Tour de France on Sunday.
Italian champion pointed to the national flag on his Astana team jersey
after winning his first Tour stage at the fourth attempt.
29-year-old former Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana champion finished
two seconds clear of the field at the end of a punishing 201km ride from
York to Sheffield in northern England.
Belgian Greg Van Avermaet was second with Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland in third.
Avermaet moved up to third in the overall standings with Peter Sagan,
who was fourth on this stage and second on Saturday's opening stage from
Leeds to Harrogate, moved into second overall.
The Slovak, winner
of the green jersey the last two years, had been the favourite to win
this stage but was left behind by Nibali's break.
Kittel, who started the day in yellow after winning Saturday's stage,
finished almost 20 minutes behind in a group of sprinters.
It was a thrilling finish to an exciting stage that featured nine categorised climbs which eventually made the difference.
The 4.7km long second category Holme Moss climb was the first to split the field 57.5km from the finish.
that the leaders rolled at breakneck speed and following the next four
third and fourth category climbs, there were around 15 riders left to
fight out the victory.
Overall contenders Contador and Froome both
tried their luck on the short, steep, final Jenkins Road climb before
Nibali, one of the overall contenders, used his descending skills to
gain a gap on the field.
World champion Rui Costa and Froome gave
chase but neither committed fully, each looking to the other to take the
lead, and Nibali had just enough to hold on.
Seven riders got
away in an early break as soon as the stage began but they never managed
to extend their lead to more than three minutes.
By the time they
reached the Holme Moss hill, the toughest climb of the day, with still
more than 60km to race, their lead was down to just seconds and the
break was clearly doomed.
Frenchman Blel Kadri, did try to stay
away and managed another 20km out on his own before he was caught on the
next bump in the road, the third category Midhopestones climb, after
spending 160km in the lead.
By now the main sprinters, including Kittel, had long been shelled out the back.
pace kept going up, led by the Garmin-Sharp team of American Andrew
Talansky, the Criterium du Dauphine winner, and that reduced the lead
group to less than 20 riders.
Around 20-30 others got back in
contact on the descent while another Frenchman, Pierre Roland, broke out
for home on his own after going over the penultimate Oughtibridge climb
18km from home but his burst lasted only 10km.
Contador and Froome's late accelerations further shredded the field but Nibali had the last laugh.