CHERBOURG-EN-COTENTIN, France (AP) The Tour de France can rarely be won in the first week.
It can be lost, though.
Stage 2 on Sunday was a case in point.
Four contenders for the overall title lost time over a wet and challenging route that resembled a course for a single-day classic, with two short climbs – one of them very steep – near the finish.
If a key contender continues to lose time over easier stages in the first week, he will find it difficult to get back into contention once the mountains come later in the race.
Vincenzo Nibali, the 2014 champion from Italy, and top French hope Thibaut Pinot each finished 11 seconds behind stage winner Peter Sagan as they struggled up the final climb.
''It was like a classics finale, on slippery roads, a bit complicated,'' Pinot said. ''There are still a couple of tricky stages to come. I need to be patient but all in all I'm satisfied.''
Two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador fell to the ground for the second consecutive day and lost 48 seconds.
''I lost more time than I had hoped to lose,'' Contador said. ''I hit the handlebars and I was hurt on the other side from yesterday. I must stay calm, not lose morale. … The Tour has really started on the wrong footing. I'm not happy at all. It's cycling. I must see if I can make up some time in the Pyrenees and the Alps.''
Richie Porte, the co-captain of the BMC squad with American standout Tejay van Garderen, punctured a tire toward the end and didn't have any teammates to help him ride back into the peloton. Porte dropped 1 minute, 45 seconds – likely ending his chances of overall victory.
Porte, an Australian, was Chris Froome's top support rider at Team Sky during the Briton's Tour wins in 2013 and 2015. He joined the BMC squad for this season with hopes of individual glory.
Froome, the Kenyan-born British rider who is favored to defend his title, is placed well in fifth overall, 14 seconds behind leader Sagan.
Nairo Quintana, the two-time runner-up from Colombia, also hasn't lost any time in the overall battle and is positioned seventh with the same time as Froome.
The other overall favorites who have not lost time are Spanish Vuelta champion Fabio Aru of Italy, Romain Bardet of France and van Garderen.
After a flatter Stage 3, more trouble looms in a hilly Stage 4, followed by the first mountain test on Stage 5.