McEwen Wins Stage 2 of Tour; Hushovd Takes Yellow Jersey
Robbie McEwen (Lotto) has won Stage 2 of the Tour de France. The Australian took a bunch sprint from Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) and Jean-Patrick Nazon (Ag2r) to win the rolling, 197-km run from Charleroi to Namur in 4:18:39. At the finish, Hushovd gained enough bonus seconds to take the maillot jaune from Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo).
The stage began under partly cloudy skies. At 10 km, Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner), Christophe Edaleine (Cofidis), Jerome Pineau (Brioches La Boulangere), Mark Scanlon (Ag2r), and Christophe Mengin (La Francaise des Jeux.com) sallied off of the front. The break's lead maxed out at 5:00 at 48 km before Quick Step and Credit Agricole began to chase.
At 159 km, Lotto joined the pursuit, and Euskaltel and Phonak moved to the front to keep their GC men out of crashes. With 23 km left, the bunch caught the break. Fassa Bortolo sent two riders to the front to keep the pace fast.
With 20 km remaining, Fabio Baldato (Alessio) attacked and forged a ten-second lead before being caught five km later. Hushovd punctured and had to chase with his teammates' help to rejoin the peloton. Given the timing of the Norwegian's misfortune, his presence in the final sprint was remarkable.
The sprinters' teams battled for position at the front. Fassa Bortolo and Quick Step led the way. In the last two km, McEwen, Hushovd, Nazon, and Danilo Hondo (Gerolsteiner) outfought Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) for position at the tail of Fassa Bortolo's train.
With 300 m left, Hushovd lunged into the lead. Behind him, Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC) crashed and took down Jimmy Casper (Cofidis) with him. McEwen battled to the front and surged with 250 m remaining. The Australian won by about a bike length.
Gian Matteo Fagnini (Domina Vacanze), Mario Cipollini's leadout man, crashed at km 156. Fagnini suffered a broken collarbone and abandoned. With Fagnini's departure, the aging Lion King's hopes for a stage win became more remote.
In the overall, Hushovd, the first Norwegian to wear the yellow jersey, leads Cancellara by 0:08 and McEwen by 0:17. Stage 3, the first stage to depart from Waterloo, Belgium, will probably not change this state of affairs. The twisting, rolling, 210-km ride to Wasquehal, France should again end in a bunch sprint. Who will take it? Hushovd? McEwen? Petacchi? Check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/ and find out!
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