Cavendish takes 21st Tour de France stage victory in Tournai
Mark Cavendish wins, Tour de France 2012, stage two
Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) showed he is still the man to beat in the sprints as he won stage two of this year's Tour de France in Tournai this afternoon.
Even without a lead-out train, Cavendish was able to position himself in the right wheels, and brilliantly overhauled Lotto-Belisol's Andrè Greipel, who did have a number of team-mates working for him, before the line. This was Cavendish's 21st Tour de France stage victory.
Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) took third, while yesterday's winner in Seraing Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) came home in sixth. The one consolation for Sagan is that he will take the green jersey by virtue of his stage placing and seventh in the intermediate sprint.
RadioShack-Nissan's Fabian Cancellara remains in the yellow jersey, while Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) and all the other GC favourites enjoyed a stress-free day.
The racing was uncomplicated as the parcours. A three-man breakaway went 22km into the stage - Anthony Roux (FDJ-Big Mat), Christophe Kern (Europcar) and King of the Mountains leader Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank).
With the bunch uninterested in racing hard, the trio were allowed a maximum gap of eight minutes. Morkov took the solitary point on offer in the mountains classification on the fourth-category Côte de la Citadelle.
Once the peloton upped the pace, their advantage decreased rapidly. Roux was the last to be caught, having gone solo with around 30km remaining. He was caught 14.7km from the finish.
There were punctures aplenty in the run in - Sky's Michael Rogers and Steve Cummings (BMC Racing) were among those affected, but luckily there were no large crashes to report.
With this being the first sprint finish of this year's Tour, nobody knew exactly how well Cavendish, Greipel et al were going. However, as has been the case since 2008, when it comes to a bunch kick, the world champion is the one to beat.
It wasn't such a good day for Argos-Shimano's Marcel Kittel. The sprinter struggled with a bad stomach, and was riding at the back of the peloton towards the end of the stage before being dropped 12km from Tournai.
Cavendish: "The most importance race of the year".
"A win in the Tour de France is a win in Tour de France. It's special enough just to say that, because they don't come easy," the world champion said after the stage.
"It's the most importance race of year, it's what I base my season round. I always knew it was going to be hard this year. If anything, it's [being in a team with Bradley Wiggins] has made me more relaxed. In past, I've had a dedicated team. This year, it's different. I wanted to win without a team, so I was like 'I'll give it a shot and see what happens'."
"I had Bernie Eisel and Edvald Boasson Hagen there, but I prefer to do it on my own in final but they were there in case of any trouble."
Tour de France 2012, stage two: Visé to Tournai, 207.5km
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Sky in 4-56-59
2. Andrè Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol
3. Matt Goss (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
4. Tom Veelers (Ned) Argos-Shimano
5. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-ISD
6. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale
7. Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) FDJ-Big Mat
8. JJ Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
9. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Rabobank
10. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp
39. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky
68. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky all at st.
175. Steve Cummings (GBr) BMC Racing at 20 secs
179. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Sharp at 51 secs
General classification after stage two
1. Fabian Cancellara (Sui) RadioShack-Nissan in 10-02-31
2. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky at 7 sec
3. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma QuickStep at same time
4. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 10 sec
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky at 11 sec
6. Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha at 13 sec
7. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing at same time
8. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 17 sec
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 18 sec
10. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp at same time
82. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 1-41
101. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Sky at 2-30
151. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Sharp at 4-10
158. Steve Cummings (GBr) BMC Racing at 4-19
Michael Morkov scooped up the day's King of the Mountains point from a three-man escape
The bunch on stage two
Mark Cavendish takes his 21st Tour win
Fabian Cancellara keeps yellow
Tour de France 2012: Latest news
Rogers back on form and backing Wiggins in the Tour
Martin to continue in Tour despite fractured wrist
Liquigas coach tips Sagan for future Grand Tour win
Cancellara's win lifts morale in RadioShack team
Hincapie makes history with 17th Tour start
Goss has eye on Tour's green jersey
Hincapie's lucky seventeen bike
Evans ready to fight for his Tour title
Tour de France 2012: Teams presented in Liege
Millar misses Tour presentation due to illness
Nibali plans mountain attack in Tour
Sky Tour de France recon: Photo special
Hesjedal ready to take on Tour
Tour 2012: Who will win?
Tour won't knock Cavendish down
Brailsford: You've got to prioritise
Tour de France 2012: Stage reports
Stage two: Cavendish takes 21st Tour stage victory
Stage one: Sagan wins at first attempt
Prologue: Cancellara wins, Wiggins second
Tour de France 2012: Comment, analysis, blogs
Analysis: How much time could Wiggins gain in Tour's time trials
CW's Tour de France podcasts
Blog: Tour presentation - chasing dreams and autographs
Comment: Cavendish the climber
Tour de France 2012: Photo galleries
Stage two by Graham Watson
Stage one by Graham Watson
Prologue photo gallery by Andy Jones
Prologue photo gallery by Roo Rowler
Prologue photo gallery by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2012: Team presentation
Sky and Rabobank Tour de France recce
Tour de France 2012: Live text coverage
Cycling Weekly's live text coverage schedule