95th Tour de France
Stage 2 - Auray to Saint-Brieuc - 164.5 km (102.0 mi)
06 July 2008
Thor Hushovd is no stranger to sprint finishes at the Tour de France. The Norwegian leader for Credit Agricole, Hushovd has felt both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat in previous editions of the Tour. Thor was the points classification in 2005, taking the green jersey in Paris despite not winning a stage. A year later, he was in the yellow jersey after winning the prologue in Strasbourg -- when a fan, near the finishing straightaway of stage one, leaned out too far holding one of the ubiquitous cardboard fingers from green jersey sponsor PMU and sliced Hushovd's arm open. Today, however, everything aligned perfectly in the hometown of five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault as Hushovd held off a hard-charging Kim Kirchen to take his sixth career Tour stage victory.
"It was a really hard sprint, with the wind in the finale and in the climbs, but I knew it was a sprint that fits me well," Hushovd told reporters after his trip up to the podium and kisses from the podium girls. "My team-mates did a good job again, and especially Mark Renshaw. He was awesome until with 200 metres to go and then it was just up to me to do a sprint. Today everything worked out 100 percent."
The day started among the slate-and-granite cottages of Auray as 179 riders pushed off northward through the region of Brittany on stage two. The weather, which was kind enough to hold for the race start yesterday, was less forgiving today as the omnipresent wind and intermittent rain challenged the riders on the road. As is the standard in recent Tours, the attacks started immediately after the official start just outside Auray. Before the village even had time to recede into the background, American Danny Pate (Garmin-Chipotle) started the opening breakaway of the stage. Several riders tried to follow, but only three hung on to form the first lead group -- Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), Murilo Fischer (Liquigas) and Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis).
The riders stayed away for the first twenty-three kilometers, but with the first climb rapidly approaching the Bouygues Telecom team drove the pace and reintegrated the field to protect Thomas Voeckler's lead in the King of the Mountains competition. Chavanel attacked on the fourth-category Cote de Bieuzy-Lanvaux to claim the maximum points; behind, Voeckler was again battling Bjorn Schroder for second as they were technically tied in the KOM competition with eight points apiece. Schroder, however, opened his sprint up the climb too early, and Voeckler easily sat on to take second at the line as the German faded back.
Chavanel and Voeckler, with their efforts over the first climb of the day, opened up a half-minute gap on the peloton as they arrived at the first intermediate sprint point of the day at Camors. Chavanel took first place ahead of Voeckler, the two apparently agreeing that the Cofidis rider should take the sprints while the polka-dot jersey holder take the mountain points. The two continued to press and increase their advantage, with the Caisse d'Epargne team of yellow jersey Alejandro Valverde working hardest at the front of the peloton to bring the field back together...
The breakaway group gained a maximum advantage of six-and-a-half minutes with about a hundred kilometers to go in the stage. As the peloton passed through the second intermediate sprint at Pontivy, Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux) took the third-place points behind the breakaway duo and consolidated his hold on the green jersey behind Valverde (if the yellow jersey is also leading another competition, the second-placed rider in that competition wears the other jersey... and Gilbert is currently in second). The riders started getting fidgety as the next feed zone came up.
Yet yesterday's crash by Herve Duclos-Lassalle at the stage 1 feed zone in Moulin-Trancher repeated itself today. As Frank Schleck (Team CSC) muffed his grab of the day's food, Nicolas Jalabert (Agritubel) touched wheels with Schleck and hit the pavement. He was uninjured, getting back on the bike and continuing without further incident, but these crashes on each of the first two days indicate just how dangerous getting fed can be on a bicycle. Riders can burn over 6000 calories of food on an average Tour stage, so getting that fuel is essential -- yet still as dangerous as ever.
Soon after the feed zone, the riders started clawing their way up the Mur de Bretagne, the first category-three climb of the Tour. Voeckler and Chavanel remained away, the two having a brief discussion before Chavanel took the top points ahead of the mountains leader. Christophe Moreau (Agritubel) took third place over the climb out of the peloton. Soon after the summit, though, there was no respite as riders were immediately faced with the final climb of the day, the fourth-category Cote de Saint-Mayeux. Voeckler led out Chavanel again, consolidating his lead on the polka-dot jersey with no categorized climbs on tomorrow's stage, and Moreau again took third in the chasing peloton.
Voeckler flatted before the final intermediate sprint of the day at Corlay. After getting a replacement bicycle, he quickly reintegrated with Chavanel. The two decided, with Moreau and his teammate David De Lay breaking away from the peloton over the final climb, to sit up a little and wait for the two Agritubel riders to bridge the gap. In a breakaway situation, the more riders to work together the greater the chances of staying ahead of the peloton to the finish. The chase group caught up with the leaders with about fifty-six kilometers left to race. The four began working to hold their advantage over the main field.
Four kilometers later, the gap was already down to only 2:40 as Francaise des Jeux turned up the heat at the front of the peloton to try to set up Gilbert for the day's final sprint and more points toward the green jersey. The rain which had been falling all throughout the day let up a bit, and Caisse d'Epargne began assisting Gilbert's squad to protect the interests of the yellow jersey, Alejandro Valverde. With two teams driving the peloton, the seconds started shaving away on the lead. With thirty-five kilometers left in the race, the lead had already shrank to only 1:35.
With less than thirty kilometers left to race, Saunier Duval rider Rubens Bertogliati crashed just as Quick Step was joining the charge at the head of the bunch. The teams without riders in the break were starting to get antsy, turning up the pressure in an attempt to get the peloton back into one group. The Breton winds were lashing ceaselessly, crosswinds forcing the teams to form echelons -- an angled line of riders designed to provide maximum drafting and wind protection for the greatest possible velocity. At twenty kilometers, the gap was down to one minute; however, the peloton was beginning to lose steam. Six kilometers later, the advantage was still at 59 seconds.
Bertogliati had been joined by Mauricio Soler, last year's King of the Mountains, in a desperate struggle to keep from losing too much time behind the peloton. Soler, who crashed hard at the end of yesterday's stage and is obviously suffering through major wrist pain, is struggling mightily today. Doctors suspect a broken wrist, but x-rays were unable to reveal the break Saturday night as Soler's wrist was still too swollen. The Tour de France is an unforgiving beast -- one minute a rider is among the best in the world, the next he is but an injured animal struggling to remain with the herd.
Ten kilometers from the finish the gap is down to 42 seconds... with five kilometers left it is a half-minute. Christophe Moreau was doing the hardest work at the front of the breakaway, driving his three fellow Frenchmen in a desperate struggle to stay clear. As the uphill finishing straight came into view in Saint-Brieuc, Chavanel broke away from his companions in a bid to take the stage. Voeckler followed...
... but to no avail. The peloton was barreling up from behind, the sprinters smelling victory in Hinault's hometown. Chavanel stayed away longest, but around the final kilometer he too was swept up by the chasers. World time-trial champion and former Paris-Roubaix winner Fabian Cancellara broke free and looked to have the race won in the final kilometer. However, the tenacity of the sprinters is not to be understated -- and Hushovd is certainly veteran enough to know his best point of attack. Inside 400 meters, the Norwegian dieseled past Cancellara and held off the advancing pair of Gerald Ciolek and Kim Kirchen to take his sixth career Tour stage. Valverde finished twelfth, safely toward the front of the peloton, and will ride again in yellow tomorrow.
Results - Stage 2
- Thor Hushovd (NOR) Credit Agricole -- 3.45.13 (43.84 km/h)
- Kim Kirchen (LUX) Columbia
- Gerald Ciolek (FER) Columbia
- Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld
- Erik Zabel (GER) Milram
- Iouri Trofimov (RUS) Bouygues Telecom
- Oscar Freire (ESP) Rabobank
- Jimmy Casper (FRA) Agritubel
- Martin Elmiger (SWI) AG2R La Mondiale
- Leonardo Duque (COL) Cofidis -- all s.t.
- Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne -- 8.21.20
- Kim Kirchen (LUX) Columbia -- +0.01
- Oscar Freire (ESP) Rabobank
- Juan Jose Cobo (ESP) Saunier Duval
- Cadel Evans (AUS) Silence-Lotto
- Jerome Pineau (FRA) Bouygues Telecom
- David Millar (GBR) Garmin-Chipotle
- Riccardo Ricco (ITA) Saunier Duval
- Frank Schleck (LUX) Team CSC
- Filippo Pozzato (ITA) Liquigas
- Kim Kirchen (LUX) Columbia -- 54 pts
- Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne -- 49
- Thor Hushovd (NOR) Credit Agricole -- 46
- Oscar Freire (ESP) Rabobank -- 36
- Philippe Gilbert (BEL) Francaise des Jeux -- 32
- Juan Jose Cobo (ESP) Saunier Duval -- 27
- Jerome Pineau (FRA) Bouygues Telecom -- 26
- Erik Zabel (GER) Milram -- 26
- Gerald Ciolek (GER) Columbia -- 26
- Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld -- 26
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
- Thomas Voeckler (FRA) Bouygues Telecom -- 19 pts
- Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) Cofidis -- 11
- Bjorn Schroder (GER) Milram -- 9
- David De La Fuente (ESP) Saunier Duval -- 4
- Lilian Jegou (FRA) Francaise des Jeux -- 3
- Christophe Moreau (FRA) Agritubel -- 3
- Geoffroy Lequatre (FRA) Agritubel -- 1
- David Le Lay (FRA) Agritubel -- 1
- David Arroyo (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne -- 1
BEST YOUNG RIDER
- Riccardo Riccò (ITA Saunier Duval -- 8.21.21
- Andy Schleck (LUX) Team CSC -- +0.06
- Iouri Trofimov (RUS) Bouygues Telecom
- Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne
- Maxime Monfort (BEL) Cofidis
- Roman Kreuziger (CZE) Liquigas
- Trent Lowe (AUS) Garmin-Chipotle
- Thomas Lovkvist (SWE) Columbia
- Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) Liquigas -- +0.17
- Eduardo Gonzalo (ESP) Agritubel