Ajaccio: Belgium`s Jan Bakelants of the Radioshack Leopard team won the second stage of the Tour de France on Sunday to take the overall race leader`s yellow jersey by a margin of one second.
The 27-year-old, making his debut in the race, broke away from the pack and resisted a fightback from the leading members of the peloton to win the 156-kilometre ride across Corsica from Bastia to Ajaccio.
Bakelants edged out Slovakia`s Peter Sagan and Poland`s Michal Kwiatkowski to replace Germany`s Marcel Kittel in yellow.
"I saw at 500 metres from the line that I still had a decent gap on the pack and I said: `Hold this, it`s going to be the nicest day of your life,`" Bakelants told reporters.
"Maybe it will be the first and last time in my career that I wear the yellow jersey, but I am overwhelmed," added the rider who nearly missed out on the Tour because of a succession of injuries, including a knee problem that required surgery.
Bakelants, a former winner of the Tour de l`Avenir, also becomes the first Belgian to win a stage in the Tour de France since Jelle Vanendert in 2011.
He now tops the overall standings by a margin of one second from a mass pack of riders, including Australia`s former Tour winner Cadel Evans and this year`s favourite Chris Froome, who punctured a solid stage with a brief attack on the last climb of the day.
Froome could have opened up a gap on his main rivals in the general classification if he had continued to push towards the finish line, but instead he opted to slow down on the descent, leaving a group of six riders to fight out the stage win.
Spain`s Juan Antonio Flecha and France`s Sylvain Chavanel, who was celebrating his 34th birthday, were in that group but neither could keep up with Bakelants.
Kittel sprinted to victory in stage one but was well off the pace on Sunday during a stage that featured a series of tricky climbs, and came in more than 17min 30sec later, although that was still good enough for him to take the green jersey for the best sprinter.
"It was not as hard a stage as it maybe looked," Kittel said. "The yellow jersey was a big help on the climbs, I had goosebumps with people shouting my name.
"I don`t know how the green one will feel, but it will be a special experience too."
The relatively short ride between the island`s two largest towns, but across its mountainous interior, was not expected to favour a sprinter.
It featured a total of four climbs, including the category two ascent of the 1,163m Col de Vizzanova and the category three Cote du Salario right at the approach to Ajaccio, a city best known as the birthplace of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
As a result, Kittel and fellow sprint specialist Mark Cavendish were nowhere to be seen as the finish line approached, although last year`s green jersey winner Sagan was one of several riders close to snatching victory on the line.
The climbs were dominated by Frenchmen, with Europcar rider Pierre Rolland ending the day in the polka dot jersey for King of the Mountains after reaching the Col de Vizzanova first, while Blel Kadri is just behind him after winning the Col de la Serra climb.
After the chaos that marred the finish to Saturday`s opening stage, organisers will be pleased that Sunday`s ride passed off without any major incidents, while there was relief for the Omega Pharma-
QuickStep team as German rider Tony Martin came through the stage after suffering a nasty fall 24 hours earlier.
The Corsican leg of this year`s Tour will conclude with a short 145-kilometre ride north from Ajaccio to Calvi on Monday.