Cavendish Wins Second Straight Stage of 2009 Tour
Mark Cavendish (Columbia) has won his second consecutive stage of the 2009 Tour. The Manxman took a bunch sprint to win Stage 2, a rolling, 196-km affair from Marseille to La Grande-Motte, in 5:01:24. Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) outlegged Cyril Lemoine (Skil) for second. Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) remains the maillot jaune.
The break of the day formed in the first km. Maxime Bouet (Agritubel) attacked, and Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel), and Koen de Kort (Skil) joined him. The quartet's advantage ballooned to 12:45 at 50 km, but the heat and a chase led by Columbia, Saxo Bank, Cervelo, Francaise des Jeux, Rabobank, and Garmin reduced the fugitives' advantage to 4:00 with 50 km remaining.
With 32 km left, the key move of the race was made. Columbia led the field into a crosswind and formed an echelon. All of the Columbia men save one drove the 28-man lead group, which contained Cancellara and Lance Armstrong (Astana) but lacked all of the other heads of state. With 25 km left the lead group's advantage was 0:30. Five km later, Armstrong sent teammates Yaroslav Popovych and Haimar Zubeldia to the front to assist the Columbians.
With 10 km remaining, the break led the pursuit by 0:33 seconds. The bunch could not organize a chase, and the break was obviously the winning one.
In the last km, Hushovd had third wheel behind Cavendish and his teammate Mark Renshaw. When Cavendish surged, Hushovd tried unsuccessfully to pass him. Lemoine fought his way to the front for third.
The events of the last 30 km were devastating for many GC contenders' hopes. The first chase group came in 0:41 after Cavendish and the lead group crossed the line. Alberto Contador (Astana) lost that amount of time and is now 0:19 behind his older, cagier teammate Armstrong. Cadel Evans (Silence) started the day at 0:23 but is now at 1:04. Levi Leipheimer (Astana) went from 0:30 to 1:11, and Andreas Kloeden, Leipheimer's teammate, went from 0:22 to 1:03. This is only a partial list of the damage done by the break.
Stage 4 will be a more telling one. The rolling, technical 39-km team time trial in and near Montpellier will shake up the standings and serve notice as to which teams are the strongest. In the Stage 1 time trial, Astana placed four men--Contador, Armstrong, Leipheimer, and Kloeden--in the top 10. Expect the Astana men to win Stage 4. Who will be in the yellow jersey? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!