If today’s second stage of the Tour de France was the so-called calm before the storm, then tomorrow’s pavé-fest is going to be off the Beaufort scale.
Comeback man Sylvain Chavanel won this afternoon in Spa, claiming the maillot jaune in the process, as the last remnant of a long and brave breakaway on the rain-soaked roads of the Ardennes.
The win comes just over three months after Chavanel fractured his skull in a crash in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Ironically, it was over several of La Doyenne’s climbs that the Tour de France was today fought – and nearly fragmented, due to crashes.
The Quick Step rider was part of the day’s significant early breakaway, which also included teammate Jerome Pineau, Marcus Burghardt (BMC Racing Team), Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre-Farnese), Rein Taarame (Cofidis), Sebastien Turgot (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) and Omega Pharma-Lotto pair Jurgen Roelandts and Matthew Lloyd.
While fellow Frenchman Pineau went on to take the King of the Mountains jersey, Chavanel capitalised on bunch hestiation after the day’s talking point, a big crash on the descent of the Cote de Stockeu, 30 kilometres from the finish.
Several contenders hit the deck on the treacherous section, including Lance Armstrong and Bradley Wiggins. However, Andy Schleck was the worst-affected favourite.
For a moment, the Saxo Bank rider’s Tour hopes looked to be shattered as he clutched his right arm. However, joined by several Saxo Bank teammates and brother Frank in a fierce pursuit, Schleck closed a three-minute gap to a slowed bunch at the top of the last climb, the Cote de Rosier.
Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Transitions) and yesterday’s stage winner Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) were not so fortunate, finishing over thirteen minutes down.
Tyler Farrar finished further back, and has been taken to hospital for X-rays.
After coolling their pace to allow the chasers back on, the peloton then fanned out across the road and rode tempo to the finish in Spa, crossing the line without contesting the sprint as a form of protest.
In front, resilient Chavanel capitalised on the chaos to take stage victory. After escaping with Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto) on the Stockeu, their slender 45-second advantage surged towards two minutes as the bunch hesitated.
That was all the invitation Chavanel needed. He dropped his companion 18 kilometres from the finish, and rode over the day’s last climb, the Cote du Rosier, and alone into Spa to take an emotional victory and his first maillot jaune.
The weather forecast for tomorrow’s third stage between Wanze and Arenberg, which encompasses six sectors of pave in the last 30 kilometres, is sunny. However, after today’s muted finale, it remains to be seen how the bunch will ride it.
Cycling Weekly will be covering Tuesday’s stage three with live text updates
Tour de France 2010, stage two: Brussels-Spa, 201km
1. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step 4-40-48
2. Maxime Bouet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 3-56
3. Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Milram
4. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Katusha
5. Christian Knees (Ger) Milram
6. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
7. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team
8. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Milram
9. Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Francaise des Jeux
10. Bernhard Eisel (Aut) HTC-Columbia all same time
17. Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Cervelo
80. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
95. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky
101. Steve Cummings (GBr) Team Sky
114. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Transitions
148. Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Columbia at 9-49
151. Charly Wegelius (GBr) Omega Pharma-Lotto
154. Christian Vande Velde (Usa) Garmin-Transitions
161. Daniel Lloyd (GBr) Cervelo at 13-37
191. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Transitions at 19-03
General classification after stage two
1. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step 10-01-25
2. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Saxo Bank at 2-57
3. Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Columbia at 3-07
4. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Transitions at 3-17
5. Lance Armstrong (USA) Team RadioShack at 3-19
6. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 3-20
7. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 3-24
8. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team RadioShack at 3-25
9. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky at 3-29
10. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Milram at 3-32
Points classification: Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step
King of the Mountains: Jerome Pineau (Fra) Quick Step
Young riders classification: Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Columbia
Team Sky chases
Sylvain Chavanel wins
The bunch roll in together – no sprinting
Lion King: Sylvain Chavanel takes the lead
Tour de France 2010: Latest news
The Feed Zone: News and views (July 5)
Sky banks on Thomas ahead of cobbled stage
Cavendish’s sprint train weakened with Hansen out
Armstrong under fire as Landis allegations reach mainstream
Team Sky’s decision to put Wiggins off early back fires
Millar and Thomas hold their nerve in Rotterdam rain
Armstrong defiant in wake of latest revelations
Thomas looks to prologue and sporting new stripes|
Florencio kicked out of Cervelo team on eve of Tour
Tour teams presented in Rotterdam: What the riders said
Andy Schleck faces rough ride over Tour cobbles
Riis: Tour is the goal for Schlecks despite sponsor problems
Armstrong on Arenberg: There will be carnage
Cavendish set for green jersey battle at the Tour
Hunt and Lloyd look forward to making their Tour debuts
Tour de France 2010: Stage reports
Tour de France 2010: Photos
Tour de France 2010: Videos
Tour de France 2010: Race guide
Tour de France 2010: Pictures