Steegmans Wins Stage 2 of Tour
Gert Steegmans (Quick Step) has won Stage 2 of the Tour de France. The 26-year-old Belgian, a leadout man for team captain Tom Boonen, took the flat, 168.5-km run from Dunkirk, France to Gent, Belgium in 3:48:22 after Boonen eased up in the last 200 m to reward Steegmans for services rendered. Boonen took the runnerup spot, and Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) finished third. Fabian Cancellara (CSC) remains the yellow jersey.
After morning rains, the skies cleared. At 18 km, Marcel Sieberg (Milram) made the first move. Ruben Perez (Euskaltel) and Cedric Herve (Agritubel) joined the German, and the day's only break had formed.
Initially, the bunch did not chase, and the trio's lead maxed out at about 6:00 at 70 km. Perez became the virtual yellow jersey, while CSC rode tempo to keep the gap manageable.
CSC began to chase, but the pursuit took time and distance. Intermittent rain, narrow roads, and what the riders call "traffic furniture"--roundabouts, speed bumps, and road dividers--held up the riders. Predictor joined the chase in support of Robbie McEwen, and the gap was down to 2:00 with 25 km left.
Quick Step joined CSC at the front, and the break was doomed. The trio's lead was 1:00 and falling with 12 km remaining. With three km to go and the bunch bearing down, Sieberg attacked his companions. He need not have bothered. The bunch reeled them in.
With two km left, a crash occurred. Freddy Rodriguez (Predictor), Tomas Vaitkus (Discovery Channel), and Cancellara were among those who wound up on the ground. The field split, and about 25 riders contested the sprint. With 200 m left, Steegmans took a pull, but Boonen made no move to come around him. The two-time world champion pointed to Steegmans to tell him that the stage was his.
After the stage, Boonen said, "If you get the chance to give a gift to a teammate, you take that chance. All year he does work for me. I wasn't going to pass him on the line and rob him of his chance for glory. It's the perfect end for our team."
Because the crash occurred in the last three km of today's stage, it did not affect the general classification. Cancellara leads Andreas Kloden (Astana) by 0:13 and David Millar (Saunier Duval) by 0:21. Stage 3 will not affect this state of affairs. The flat, 236.5-km ride from Waregem, Belgium to Compiegne, France will be settled by a bunch sprint. Who will take it? Boonen? Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole)? Oscar Freire (Rabobank)? McEwen? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!