It’s fair to say that the top of Jenkin Road hasn’t been the backdrop to too many feats of sporting drama over the years, but yesterday, the thousands who crammed onto the super-steep Sheffield street and beyond, bore witness to just that.
It was at Jenkin Road’s summit that Stage Two of the Tour de France, from York to Sheffield, really exploded into life, with the big guns making a last gasp push for victory.
Alberto Contador twitched first and pushed for the front and last year’s champion Chris Froome soon followed suit as both attempted to get a clear view from the top.
However, living up to his nickname, The Shark, Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali used his predatory instinct to time his move to perfection, attacking on the sharp descent.
Nibali rocketed through Sheffield’s old industrial heartland and with jubilant fans, up to ten-deep, lining the roads, the Astana rider stormed over the line leaving behind him a trail of rivals.
The rest of the field had struggled to piece together a definitive attack and that had allowed Nibali an almost free run to claim the yellow jersey.
Belgian Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) was second, two seconds behind, with Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) third.
Contador was 13th and Froome 19th, the Briton moving to fifth overall after his sixth-placed finish in Harrogate on day one, but the day belonged to maiden maillot jaune winner Nibali who hailed the support that he and the rest of the riders had expereinced over two days in Yorkshire which began with the Grand Depart, in Leeds on Saturday.
He said: “I dedicate this jersey to the public of England because they have been so amazing and gave us great support. The support was incredible.
“This is wonderful victory,” Nibali added. “This is a huge satisfaction.
“It was a very nervous race with a lot of spectators. I found the right time to escape.
“They watched each other behind, but I was scared to get caught because of the head wind. This victory’s very important for me, for Italy and for the team.”
The day had begun on something of a downer with news of Mark Cavendish’s injury during the finish at Harrogate on Saturday causing him to miss Stage Two.
That had left just three British riders in the field, with Froome’s Team Sky team mate Geraint Thomas coming in 23rd and Simon Yates, a late addition to Le Tour with Orica-GreenEdge in 68th.
Thomas described the crowds along the route as ‘unbelievable’ and claimed he ‘had goosebumps’ whiletaking on one of his old stomping grounds, Holme Moss.
“I had goosebumps going up Holme Moss, it was that good,” said the Welshman. “I can’t describe it, it was an amazing feeling.
He added: “My legs felt dead on those heavy roads, it was hard going.
“I rode on the front at the end for the boys and maybe could have saved a bit more for the finale but you do your bit for the team.”
While, Thomas, like everyone involved in the event, was full of praise for the huge numbers which had come out to watch, the 28 year old admitted their coming onto the roads had caused a few hairy moments.
“We’re not used to bike racing in this country so people don’t know how fast we go and that we use every inch of the road.”