Hushovd Takes Stage 2 of Tour
Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) has won Stage 2 of the Tour de France. Hushovd took a bunch sprint to win the rolling, 164.5-kilometer ride from Auray to Saint-Brieuc in 3:45:13. Kim Kirchen (Columbia) finished second, and Gerald Ciolek (Columbia) finished third. Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) remains the maillot jaune.
The stage was ridden in rainy, windy conditions. The first 10 minutes or so of the stage were neutralized, but after Christian Prudhomme dropped his flag, Danny Pate (Garmin) attacked, and Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), Murilo Fischer (Liquigas), and Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) joined him. On the day's first climb, the Cote de Bieuzy-Lanvaux (23.5 kilometers), the break was caught.
Chavanel attacked near the summit, and Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) joined him. Their advantage grew to 6:30 at 100 kilometers, but the peloton began to narrow the gap. At the summit of the Category 3 Cote de Mur de Bretagne (93 kilometers), the escapees' advantage was below three minutes.
On the day's final climb, the Cote de Saint Mayeux (96 kilometers), Christophe Moreau and David Le Lay (both from Agritubel) counterattacked. The pair got to within 1:30 of the leaders.
Voeckler punctured at about 100 kilometers, but he changed bikes and rejoined Moreau quickly. The pair decided to wait for the Agritubel men. With 56 km left, the two pairs merged.
Behind, Francaise des Jeux took over at the front. With 52 kilometers remaining, the break led the bunch by 2:40. The lead dropped to about 2:00 with 40 kilometers left and 1:35 with 35 kilometers remaining.
Quick Step lent its muscle to the chase. With about 30 kilometers remaining, Rubens Bertogliati (Saunier Duval) crashed. Mauricio Soler (Barloworld), the 2007 King of the Mountains competition winner, fell off the pace, the Colombian having been injured in a Stage 1 crash.
With 20 kilometers left, the bunch was about 1:00 behind the break. For a time, the break held off the field. With 11 kilometers remaining, however, Credit Agricole went to the front, and the break's lead was down to 0:30 with five kilometers left.
With three kilometers left, Chavanel attacked. He was reeled in the last two kilometers, and Fabian Cancellara (CSC) attacked just short of the one-kilometer banner. Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) took Cancellara's wheel, and Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole) brought Hushovd to the front. With 200 meters to go, Hushovd charged into the lead and took the win.
In the overall, Valverde leads Kim Kirchen (Columbia) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank) by 0:01. Stage 3 will be another sprinters' stage. The rolling, 208-kilometer run from Saint Malo to Nantes has no categorized climbs and should end in a sprint finish. Who will win? Robbie McEwen (Silence)? Hushovd? Robert Hunter (Barloworld)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!