97th Tour de France
Stage 2 - Brussels to Spa - 201.0 km (124.6 mi)
05 July 2010
All it takes is one crazy day and something like this is bound to happen. It was a rainy day today as the 194 riders remaining in the Tour de France pushed off from Brussels on their 201km ride to Spa. Along the way, six categorized climbs would greet the peloton on this rolling stage through the Ardennes in Belgium. It was the sort of day that attacking breakaway specialists circle on the map as soon as a new grand tour route is announced.
And there are few riders who are more combative in the pro peloton than Sylvain Chavanel. The 31-year-old French cyclist, riding for Quick Step after a long tenure with domestic squad Cofidis, was adjudged the most aggressive rider two years ago in the Tour de France. He is a three-time national time-trial champion, winner of shorter stage races like the Four Days of Dunkirk (2002, 2004) and the Tour de Haut-Var (2003), and the points jersey winner at the 2009 Paris-Nice. Yet there was one thing before today that is the dream of every French rider, something which had never happened to Chavanel during the course of his decade-long career -- he had never worn the maillot jaune as a race leader in the Tour de France.
So almost as soon as the riders coursed out of Brussels, there was Chavanel initiating a breakaway that would ultimately stick to the finish. He slipped off the front 15km into the stage, soon joined by seven other riders -- Matt Lloyd and Jurgen Roelands (OmegaPharma-Lotto), Marcus Burghardt (BMC), Sebastien Turgot (Bouygues Telecom), Reine Taaramae (Cofidis), Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre) and teammate Jerome Pineau -- and quickly building over a minute advantage within the first ten kilometers. The skies were clear, the air was cool, and the ride coursed smoothly through the Belgian countryside.
Within twenty kilometers of setting off on the break, the eight leaders were four and a half minutes up on the main field. By the time they reached the first sprint point just before the 40km mark in Perwez, Roelands beating Chavanel and Gavazzi at the line to take the six points, they had ballooned the gap to seven minutes and counting. It would prove the maximum advantage, Saxo Bank latching onto the front of the peloton and driving the gap down by over a minute and a half over the next ten miles. Working for current maillot jaune Cancellara as well as the man they hope will weair it into Paris, last year's runner-up Andy Schleck, the Saxo riders were setting a hard tempo at the front to hopefully keep the jersey in their ranks another day -- after all, they hoped that defending Paris-Roubaix champion Cancellara would get to wear yellow on the cobblestones of his greater glories.
By the feed zone in Ampsin, before the first climb of the day had even begun ramping upward, the seven-minute advantage had been trimmed in half by guys like Jens Voigt, the German diesel driving the main field to ride ever faster toward the rogues off the front. Soon after departing with their musette bags full of calories, the cyclists were greeted by the 2.2km stretch of climb up the 6.2% average grades of the Cote de France. A fourth-category climb, it wasn't the Alps or Pyrenees, but it did offer the first King of the Mountains points of the 2010 Tour. We would see polka dots on someone's shoulders by the end of the stage. Battling one another to the summit, it was Pineau taking the three points for the win over Lloyd and Taaramae.
After Roelands took another six points in the second intermediate sprint of the day in Seny, the gap still holding steady around three and a half minutes, the leaders were hit in quick succession by the next two fourth-category climbs. Pineau once again pipped Taaramae and Lloyd to the top on the 4.5% slopes of the 3.9km Cote de Filot. Another repeat performance saw him netting the maximum mountain points at this point in the stage, taking the summit of the Cote de Werbomot (4.5km, 3.5%) and putting him in pole position to be wearing the red polka dots at the end of the day.
On a descent out of Basse-Bodeux, just over fifty kilometers from the finish, a crash split the main field just as they'd pulled to within two minutes of the breakaway... yet it seemed to do nothing to the pace of the peloton. With rain coming down now as the riders continued their east-southeast progression toward Spa, it looked as though the breakaway would be swept up by Saxo Bank. Voigt was once again at the front, pounding the pedals in the rainfall and exhorting those behind to keep up. Inside of forty kilometers remaining, the gap had dropped down to around just 40 seconds as Pineau collected maximum points yet again at the top of the third-category Cote d'Aisomont (4.5km, 5.2%).
Looming ahead, though, were those two infamous climbs of Liege-Bastogne-Liege nightmares, the third-category Cote de Stockeu (3.0km, 5.9%) and the Cote de Rosier (6.4km, 4.0%). The latter would come just a dozen kilometers from the finish line in Spa. Anything was still possible at this point. Chavanel, after getting dropped on the descent of the Aisomont, clawed his way back and was left with just Roelands as the duo started the slopes of the Stockeu. Using it as his springboard just as a classics rider might in April, Chavanel dropped Roelands and continued on alone with hopes of glory in his mind. Pineau was hovering between 45 seconds and a minute ahead of the main field, the breakaway fractured behind him, descending cautiously down the Stockeu and toward the Rosier.
If only the peloton had had the same good sense as the Frenchman. Overcooking the descent himself, Gavazzi hit the tarmac. A motorcycle with a cameraman on back skidded to avoid Gavazzi and itself went off the road. Riders behind started hitting the deck as well. Andy Schleck was injured, Tyler Farrar took a nasty fall, and the peloton was left in disarray as Chavanel already started to negotiate the climb up the Rosier. Cancellara, unscathed, helped reduce the pace amongst the small group that was ahead of the crash that split the field so that other leaders could latch on. Sacrificing his yellow chances on the Roubaix route for the good of his teammates and the entire race, the Swissman proved himself one of the classiest riders currently on the roads with his magnanimous move.
It also meant that Chavanel was gaining advantage back, putting himself in position to don the yellow for that first long-sought time. Roelands had linked back up on the descent of the Stockeu, and the pair rode upward on the final twenty kilometers toward Spa together, now a minute and a half between them and the remnants of the peloton. By the summit, having dropped Roelands yet again on the climb, the French veteran had increased his lead to nearly three minutes on the main field. It would increase to nearly four minutes by the end, Chavanel completing the 201 kilometers in 4:40:48 and staking out a nearly three-minute lead in the overall classification. It was a masterful ride by a hungry French rider who has proven yet again that, when he sets his mind to getting clear on a stage, few others in the cycling ranks can match his grit and determination and sheer breakaway willpower...
RESULTS - STAGE 2
- Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) 4:40:48
- Maxime Bouet (AG2R) +3:56
- Fabian Wegmann (Milram)
- Robbie McEwen (Katusha)
- Christian Knees (Milram)
- Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
- Thor Hushovd (Cervelo)
- Linus Gerdemann (Milram)
- Matthieu Ladagnous (FdJeux)
- Bernhard Eisel (Columbia) all s.t.
- Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) 10:01:25
- Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) +2:57
- Tony Martin (Columbia) +3:07
- David Millar (Garmin) +3:17
- Lance Armstrong (Radio Shack) +3:19
- Geraint Thomas (Sky) +3:20
- Alberto Contador (Astana) +3:24
- Levi Leipheimer (Radio Shack) +3:25
- Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) +3:29
- Linus Gerdemann (Milram) +3:32
Brent Bookwalter (BMC)
Janez Brajkovic (Radio Shack)
Michael Rogers (Columbia)
- Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) 44
- Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) 35
- Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 34
- Mark Renshaw (Columbia) 30
- Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) 26
- Robbie McEwen (Katusha) 24
- Matthieu Ladagnous (FdJeux) 22
- Daniel Oss (Liquigas) 20
- Jose Joaquin Rojas (Caisse d'Epargne) 19
- Sebastien Turgot (Bbox-Bouygues) 19
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
- Jerome Pineau (Quick Step) 13
- Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) 8
- Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) 8
- Maxime Monfort (Columbia) 5
- Matthew Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 4
- Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 3
- Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) 2
- Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre) 2
- Marcus Burghardt (BMC) 2
- Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) 1
BEST YOUNG RIDER
- Tony Martin (Columbia) 10:04:32
- Geraint Thomas (Sky) +0:13
- Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) +0:22
- Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) +0:28
- Kristjan Koren (Liquigas) +0:32
- Daniel Oss (Liquigas) +0:33
- Jose Joaquin Rojas (Caisse d'Epargne) +0:39
- Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (Caisse d'Ep)
- Jakob Fuglsang (Saxo Bank) +0:40
- Robert Gesink (Rabobank) +0:41
Alexandr Pliuschin (Katusha)
Be sure to come back every day to follow the Tour de France here in the Non-Traditional Sports World... and to keep up with all of Bigalke's writing, follow him on Twitter or Facebook!