Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tour De France: Stage 2

Many iconic moments of cycling involve riders going through grueling and even dangerous circumstances to come out a winner.  So when race organizer is putting together a three week stage race like the Tour they look to create circumstances that will create these moments.  It excites the fans and turns every stage into an epic event.  Stage two of this years Tour was in Belgium, the home of the spring classics, and so how better to create those moments than by sending the riders along one of the legendary routes used by Liege-Baston-Liege one of the classics.

The riders are very much aware of this design by the race organizers and as riders they are very much opposed to it, especially in a three week race.  A one day race, sure why not, but a three week race.  The biggest race of the year.  Careers can be made and lost in the Tour.  Entire seasons lost on a slippery, dangerous road.  There had already been much anger over the inclusion of cobbles in stage three of this year's Tour and so when stage two turned into a death march over the last 40km as rider after rider crashed on the wet, twisty, narrow roads they as a group protested.

I hope this helps to explain what happened in stage two yesterday.  At least one season was lost, that of Christian Vande Velde.  He had already had a bad season, crashing for the second year in a row in the Giro, but now his season and in many ways his career are over, never getting a chance to try and repeat his fourth place finish back in 2008.  My favorite part of his fourth place in 2008 was Lance's crack saying that if Vande Velde could finish in fourth, he figured he could easily return and win it all.  So this was another stroke of luck for Lance, a rival now out of the race.

But Lance's luck wasn't 100% yesterday as he too crashed, though I have read nothing about his condition afterward.  I know that his lieutenant Levi Leipheimer crashed for the second straight day and will be feeling banged up and this will hurt Lance's chances of the overall.  The truth is I believe all the primary contenders went down except for maybe Carlos Sastre and Cadel Evans.  This will have been the second day in a row for Alberto Contador to crash and the two Schlecks were very banged up yesterday.

Sylvain Chavanel is the new overall leader.  He was away alone when all the crashing started yesterday and with the peleton protesting behind and riding slow he was able to build a nice gap and secure the win and the overall lead.  He is a good cobbles rider and so should manage to hold onto his lead in stage three.  I can remember a time when everyone thought Chavanel was the great French hope, but that was long ago.  Now he has turned into more of a one day and short stage race specialist.  I was very happy to see him have some success yesterday.

As a big fan of Garmin - Transitions I have to say this Tour has been a complete failure so far.  With Vande Velde out and Farrar terribly banged up by his crash yesterday they will have to start hunting for stage wins.  They have two solid cobbles riders, and I believe they will try and setup the win for David Millar today.  Good luck.  

I should also point out that this race may have killed Thor Hushovd's shot at repeating as the points champ.  He was counting on stage two for a top finish and hopefully a win.  He'll be looking for the same in stage three.  With these two finishes way ahead of his points rivals he would have had a solid lead in the points competition.  Because of all the crashing and the agreement not to race for the finish yesterday they nullified all the points from yesterday's finish and so Hushovd missed out on a big opportunity.  This means he'll be aiming to win stage three for sure since he no longer has the sprint speed to take on the likes of Mark Cavendish. 

General classification after stage 2
1 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step 10:01:25
2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank 0:02:57
3 Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia 0:03:07
4 David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Transitions 0:03:17
5 Lance Armstrong (USA) Team Radioshack 0:03:19
6 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:03:20
7 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 0:03:24
8 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team Radioshack 0:03:25
9 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:03:29
10 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team Milram 0:03:32

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