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July 03, 2006

Stage 2 on the road

This is being touted as a day for the sprinters, but there are a couple of small climbs late in the stage that could trigger a break by a classics-style rider or a small group.

Two Spaniards, Aitor Hernandez of Euskaltel-Euskadi and David de la Fuente of Saunier Duval, attacked from the line, and got as much as a 10:30 lead on the soft-pedaling peloton, led by Discovery Channel.

With 120 kilometers to ride, world champion Tom Boonen and former yellow jersey Thor Hushovd went mano a mano for a 2-second time bonus. Boonen edged out Hushovd, keeping Hincapie in yellow, for now.

At the second sprint of the day, Hushovd takes 3rd -- that gets him back the 2 seconds Hincapie took yesterday. If Hincapie wants to keep the yellow jersey (and it doesn't look like Discovery wants to work for it), he's going to have to either beat Hushovd at the last intermediate sprint, the final sprint, or both.

Gap is down to 3 minutes with 38 kilometers (around 23 miles) to ride. De la Fuente took the 3rd mountain sprint, ahead of Hernandez, who has fallen off de la Fuente's pace. Fabian Wegmann, riding in the polka-dots, went out and took 3rd over the 4th-category climb.

Hincapie is near the front, surrounded by Credit Agricole riders. De la Fuente takes the sprint, and the peloton has overtaken Hernandez with less than 1 kilometer to the sprint -- that means there's a 4-second and a 2-second bonus up for grabs.

CA is all over the front, Hincapie sits up, there goes Boonen, Hushovd, and O'Grady, and Boonen takes 4 seconds, Hushovd, 2 seconds, and O'Grady misses out. There are time bonuses for 1st through 3rd place on the finish as well.

Hincapie trails Hushovd by 2 seconds in the overall. Boonen is another 5 seconds back, with a shot at bonus time in the finish. The sprinters' teams are going to be all over anyone who tries to get away late -- the stakes are too high for them.

De la Fuente is still off the front, and will lead over the 2nd-to-last climb, but they'll probably catch him before the last climb. Fabian Wegmann has sprinted out of the field to take 2nd-place KoM points, ahead of Laurent Lefevre. Wegmann, Lefevre, and an Euskaltel-Euskadi have taken the opportunity to go after de la Fuente. Wegmann has caught de la Fuente to take max points on the last 4th-category climb of the day. Wegmann has shed his compatriots, and gone hard for the line, but he's getting reabsorbed.

All together now, with less than 8 kilometers (5 miles) to ride.

Calzati launches a probing attack, is caught, and T-Mobile's Matthias Kessler goes off the front. He's got 6 seconds on the last uncategorized climb. Kessler's out to 10 seconds with 5 k, and there's no organized chase.

At 4k Kessler has 12 seconds. At 3k, he's got 14 seconds. Milram is trying to chase him down, Lampre is chasing -- there's a crash in the field.

With 1k, he's got 9 seconds, and the field is chasing hard. Kessler's getting reeled in. He's caught in the last 50 meters, and Robbie McEwen pops up for the stage victory. Stuart O'Grady was on his wheel, Hushovd pulled out of the pedal right at the line, but he'll be back in yellow.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 3, 2006 in George Hincapie, Robbie McEwen, Thor Hushovd, Tom Boonen | Permalink


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