Skil-Shimano?s Paul Martens took over as race leader of the Ster Elektrotoer after winning Thursday?s second stage which finished on the Cauberg climb ? famous for being the final ascent of the Amstel Gold Race. The second-year German pro outgunned Maarten Wynants of the Quick Step squad in a four-up sprint for his biggest win since taking a stage of the Tour of Luxemberg last year..

Britain?s Mark Cavendish finished, as he put it to CW after the stage, ?a good way behind the main bunch. I lost contact on a climb with the peloton and then hammered it in the grupetto for a good while. But we never caught up again.?

Cavendish said that despite the disappointing result, ?I felt a lot better than I had done the day before, [where Cavendish took fourth in the bunch sprint after several days frantic travelling that left him running on empty] but today wasn?t my kind of stage.?

Stage three?s 192 kilometre stage on Friday from Verviers to La Gileppe is equally lumpy ? parts of the course are the same as for Liege-Bastogne-Liege – but the British sprinter is more optimistic about Saturday?s final stage to Eindhoven ? ?which is dead flat. It should be a bunch sprint.?

In theory the T-Mobile rider will not be taking part in the Sunday team time trial ProTour race in Eindhoven, although he is down as a reserve. Then next week he heads to Italy for training before coming back for the National Championships.