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July 05, 2010

Stage 2: Chavanel survives to yellow

SPA, BELGIUM - JULY 05: After assisting injured cyclists, a medic cleans his case of blood along stage 2 of the Tour de France July 5, 2010 in Spa, Belgium. The 201km route with six categorised climbs travels from Brussels to the city of Spa. France's Sylvain Chavanel won the second stage, taking the overall leader's yellow jersey from Fabian Cancellara. The iconic bicycle race will include a total of 20 stages and will cover 3,642km before concluding in Paris on July 25. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)It must have seemed like a great idea to organizers. Run a stage of the Tour over some of cycling's hallowed ground, using parts of Liege-Bastogne-Liege for today's Stage 2, and 7 cobbled sectors that feature in Paris-Roubaix tomorrow.

Throw in rain, and the generally squirrely nature of a first-week Tour peloton, though, and you've got the recipe for a demolition derby. One of the riders who might reasonably have feared the day's profile was Sylvain Chavanel, who fractured his skull on this course a little more than 2 months ago.

Instead, Chavanel rode away from the field with only about 15 kilometers ridden on the day, joined by teammate Jerome Pineau, who would take max points over each of the day's climbs to take over the polka-dot jersey, Marcus Burghardt, Matt Lloyd, Reine Taaramae, and 3 others.

Behind, the descent of the Col de Stockeu looked like the train station scene of “Gone with the Wind,” with riders all over the roadside. Some reporters estimated 70-80 riders went down, and there were reports of soigneurs climbing out of cars to help their riders, then falling down themselves. Some riders (and Eddy Merckx) have suggested there must have been some sort of oil on the road (leading to my favorite tweet of the day), because the road seemed so much more treacherous than when it's been raced in LBL in the past.

Both Andy and Frank Schleck, Alessandro Petacchi, Robbie McEwen, Alberto Contador, George Hincapie, and Lance Armstrong spent time on the tarmac, with the largest crash occurring at around 30km to ride, when a photo motorcycle trying to avoid a downed rider became the first domino. With confusion reigning in the peloton, Chavanel's break, which had appeared doomed, had new life.

July 05, 2010 - 06134192 date 05 07 2010 Copyright imago Panoramic 05 07 2010 Tour de France 2010 2 Stage Brussels Spa Sylvain Chavanel FRA Quick Step Photo News PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxFRAxITAxBEL Cycling men Wheel Road Tour de France Award Ceremony Single Vdig xkg 2010 vertical Highlight premiumd o0 Stage victory cheering happiness Yellow Jersey Emotions.Armstrong and Contador found themselves allies on the road, as they were dropped from the yellow jersey group, but rode together back into Cancellara's company, as Cancellara and Riis calculated whether it was better for Cancellara to hold the yellow jersey, or to sit up and wait for the Schlecks. With Cancellara off the gas, the group mostly came back together, with a few notable exceptions.

Caught up in the many crashes were seemingly the entire Garmin-Transitions team, with Christian Vande Velde having to withdraw with two broken ribs, continuing his disastrous season. Nearly as bad were Tyler Farrar's injuries -- a fractured wrist, sprained elbow, and scratches and bruises suffered in two separate crashes. David Millar may have a broken rib, but didn't have x-rays. Julian Dean and Robbie Hunter also went down.

Cancellara spent a fair amount of time in discussion with the race director, apparently trying to get the day's GC losses neutralized. Barring that and apparently with the consent of other riders, Cancellara went to the front of the pack at the end of the stage, and decreed that no one would contest the sprint. Chavenel took the stage by 3:56 ahead of a 6-wide pack, which led race officials to withhold sprint points from everyone but Chavanel. This didn't sit too well with Norwegian champion and defending green jersey winner Thor Hushovd, who had apparently targeted today's stage, and hoped to improve in the points competition:

"I've been riding all day for the stage win and the green jersey and I end up with nothing," Hushovd continued. "This is not fair. Will the same thing happen tomorrow? Will the times for GC be taken before the pavés sections? If Alberto Contador or another big rider crashes tomorrow on the cobblestones, he's entitled to ask for the race to be neutralised too! So when will we race, really?"

Posted by Frank Steele on July 5, 2010 in 2010 Stage 2, Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Christian Vande Velde, David Millar, Fabian Cancellara, Frank Schleck, George Hincapie, Julian Dean, Lance Armstrong, Sylvain Chavanel, Top Stories, Tyler Farrar | Permalink

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Comments

I don't understand... with all the speculation about oil on the road--why wouldn't someone go back and check? Seems like the organization would want to know...

It looked pretty green there--in the wet areas of Washingon, sometimes moss grows on some roads and bike paths and makes it as slick as ice. I wonder if maybe it was something like that?

Posted by: MarvinK at Jul 6, 2010 1:21:41 AM

I wonder if the GC guys will wait in the mountains so that none of the points guys that finish outside of regulation are kicked out??

Posted by: Drew Johnston at Jul 6, 2010 3:16:20 AM

Interesting how Cancellara wanted to hold the whole race up on Stage 2 when Andy was down and in a spot of trouble, yet on Stage 3, it’s every man for himself and Andy suddenly is back in contention. Conditions are what they are and everyone has to deal with them. No race should be stopped by anyone other than the officials. To me, it calls to question what Cancellara’s intentions REALLY were on Monday.

Posted by: John at Jul 7, 2010 2:58:50 PM