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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 earlier 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.
The 97-mile trek started from Bastia and, after four moderate climbs, finished in Ajaccio, where Napoleon Bonaparte was born in 1769.
With the finish in sight, Bakelants found himself with five other riders and instinct told him that he may never get a better chance to make a name for himself.
"I felt the others weren't going at 100 percent so I stayed back, but then I saw the peloton were closing in on me," the RadioShack rider said. "With 500 meters to go I had a look and I saw that I was still 100 meters clear of the peloton. I gave everything I had and I made it by one second. But that doesn't matter, I have the yellow jersey."
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 in 169th spot.
Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha and Cyrille Gautier attacked up the final ascent, and Tour favorite Chris Froome then launched a surprise attack to go after Gautier when the Frenchman pulled away. But Froome's attack fizzled out and the main pack swallowed him up.