"It didn't feel that hard on the climb but then Richie [Porte] went".
Over a Spring Classics terrain, the fugitives yanked out some more time over the bunch, sitting around 2:30 for the first 15-km of Belgium.
This was an eighth career stage win for Sagan, who is aiming to win the points leaders' green jersey for a record-equalling sixth time in a row.
For Team Sky, it is a chance to keep the yellow jersey in the hands of Geraint Thomas or the time might pull a surprise move to allow Chris Froome get some time against his rivals. "That's the nature of the race", Froome told reporters afterwards.
"Everything is legal and the equipment was validated by the race commission", he said. At only 1.6km long it was tough enough to remove the pure sprinters from contention but not long enough to give the climbing specialists an advantage.
Bury's Simon Yates, of Orica-Scott, was the second best of the general classification hopefuls, giving up 25 seconds to Froome, while Richie Porte of BMC conceded 35 seconds.
Also, a horse brigade with trained dogs will inspect every day the stretches to be continued, to discard the presence of explosives.
Thomas, who won the opening time trial Saturday, remained five seconds ahead of Swiss rider Stefan Kueng in the overall standings.
Kittel claims second stage, Froome survives crash
Yesterday, in the opening time trial in Dusseldorf, Germany, Alejandro Valverde and Ion Izagirre abandoned due to crashes. Sagan seemed to be cruising to victory until his right foot slipped out of his pedal in the last few hundred meters.
French police say they have been unable to find any witnesses, but there certainly appears to be no suggestion that the car was a BMC team vehicle or even a Skoda.
'Bubble pads' - small raised dots - featured on the upper arms of several Sky riders' jerseys.
Frenchman Elie Gesbert, on his 22nd birthday, had been the first rider to set off under grey skies and a sprinkling of rain as the 2017 Tour got underway.
With shorts shredded and backside skin scraped a bit, Froome had to change his bike twice before chasing the main group for 10 kilometres.
"Obviously I got tangled up in it, but I came out of it okay".
"We summoned the team's sports directors to check the jerseys".
The following day the GC contenders will face their first mountain test with a summit finish to La Planche des Belle Filles, and although Martin wasn't prepared to speculate beyond tomorrow's stage, he was happy with his form after testing his legs into Longwy today.
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