In characteristic missile fashion Mark Cavendish won the final sprint for his 21st Tour de France victory, and his first stage for 2012.
The Manx Missile answered all questions about who could win a freelance sprint, and in delicious irony, used the wheel of his previous teammate Andre Greipel to come across the line with typical spectacular Cav’ flourish.
Though he did not win the Green Jersey today, Cavendish is now in second place behind Peter Sagan.
Beating out all of the other sprinters to the line, the final 5 km of the mostly flat stage from Vise to Tournai was a battle of the big teams, each one trying deliver their sprinter–Cavendish, Matt Goss, Peter Sagan, Mark Renshaw, Andre Greipel, Marcel Kittel, Peter Sagan– to the finish, or keep their general classification star–Cadel Evans, Fabian Cancellara, Bradley Wiggins, Sylvain Chavanel, –to the finish without a time-sapping crash.
Cancellara, Wiggins and Evans retained their overall standings for the Yellow Jersey, with Cancellara once again in the Maillot Jaune, a position he should be able to retain all the way to the first mountain stages.
Those don’t really begin until stage 7 or 8, when the riders enter first the departement of the Haute Savoie, followed the next day by a six col climb from France into Switzerland.
Despite offical Sky team pronouncements that Cavendish’s first priority would be to help Wiggins win the Tour the sprinter from the Isle of Man demonstrated not only that he is looking for stage wins, but also may be seeking the Green Jersey this year.
So much for official statements, which we heard even from Sky teammate Bernhard Eisel this morning, the team director, and Cavendish himself, but we’ve seen those official statements being reversed in the past as soon as the topography of the race is altered.
It was one of those days at the Tour de France, destined to have a break at the beginning and also predictably to be overpowered by the peloton at the end for a massive sprint finish on this mostly flat stage from Vise to Tournai.
Even the most accomplished CBS Sports commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had to search for something interesting to say, and maybe even to surpress a yawn while the miles dragged on interminably.
At 0.5 km to the finish Peter Sagan found himself near the front, with Andre Greipel not far behind: Cavendish was still more than 10 riders behind.
As an accomplished winner, Cavendish knows it doesn’t pay to come out too early in the final 800 meters, and finessing the timing is something he has almost always done well. When he hasn’t, tears have flowed.
At five kilometers to the finish, every team with any stakes in the game–and that was most–were keeping their riders up near the front of the pack.
Among them were the sprinters’ teams jostling for position, and the general classifcation contenders’ teams, trying to keep their riders from a crash in the final minutes before the finish: BMC team for Evans, RadioShack Nissan for Cancellara, Garmin-Sharp for Farrar, RaboBank for Renshaw, Team Sky for Cavendish, and finally Lotto Belisol moved into position for Andre Greipel.
With 15 km to the finish, only one man from an early break, Anthony Roux sporting a wrist injury, was still out in front while multiple teams hammered behind him to bring their top sprinters to the front.
Peter Velits led the charge at Omega Pharma-QuickStep for an eventual lead out for Sylvain Chavanel.
Marcel Kittel’s team Agros-Shimano brought their sprinter back from the tail of the peloton where he was suffering from a stomach virus.
The black and red jerseys of Cadel Evan’s BMC team also took turns at the front aiming to keep their guy from being in a crash in the back, or losing time behind one.
And Michael Morkov who had sustained a breakaway all day today–and yesterday–stayed up front in the peloton: would he also try to sprint in the finish?
Meanwhile, Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) positioned himself behind the wheel of Mark Cavendish at 8.2 km to go. Danielo Hondo stayed out in front to line up his sprinter Alessandro Petacchi for the Lampre-ISD Team.
Despite an early breakaway by three brave riders, Anthony Roux who was nursing an injured wrist, Michael Morkov who powered away in the break yesterday, and Christophe Kern, who stayed away for most of the stage, the peloton overruled on this mostly flat stage.
At the intermediate sprint in Soignies at 153 km from the start, no questions were answered as each sprinter, Matt Goss, Mark Cavendish, Mark Renshaw, and Andre Greipel sprinted against a lead out of leading Green Jersey winner and Boy Wonder, Peter Sagan.
With no one to lead them out, each sprinter was on their own, and Matt Goss led over the line, followed by Renshaw, then Cavendish, and fourth Sagan. Well behind in the overall intermediate sprint position was Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) in 14th. Where was Robbie Hunter when it came to a lead out for Farrar? In fact, where was Farrar?
Earlier today Hunter said he would be there for Farrar: “Tyler follows me blind, and it’s good to have someone who really trusts you behind you.”
Well, it’s still early to see how the sprinters will play out this year, but the way things are shaping up, all bets are off for the Yellow, the Green and even the Polka Dot jerseys which should make for a much more exciting 21 days.
With a seventh place finish in Soignies (after the three break leaders, Kern, Markov and Roux) Sagan was leading the Green Jersey points with 49 points from stage one, and an additional 9 from Soignies, for a total of 58.
The three man breakaway consisting of Michael Markov (STB), Anthony Roux (FDJ) and Christophe Kern (EUC), developed about 22 km from the start of this 207.5 km stage from Vise to Tournai.
Markov pushed through the one category 4 climb at Citaadelle de Namur –a 4.5 percent grade–to retain the Polka Dot jersey which he won yesterday by staying ahead of the peloton in the undulating Stage 1 from Liege to Saraing, Belgium.
As they continued to stay out ahead of the peloton, Kern was first over the Sprint line in Soignies, followed by Roux, then Morkov, though none of the riders sprinted across the line, saving their energy with the hopes of reaching the stage finish ahead of the peloton.
The maximum time distance the break established was at one time 8 minutes, but at 45 km to the finish, that advantage had been whittled down to 2 minutes 50 seconds.
At 27.9 km from the finish, two of the three, Morkov and Kern were absorbed by the peloton. Frenchman Roux continued ahead on his own with a 45-second advantage, injured wrist and all.
But at 19.8 km from the finish, the RadioShack Nissan team was heading the peloton with their Yellow Jersey guy–Cancellara, tucked in behind them. Within minutes Roux was overtaken.
Even though it carries no points for overall wins at the Tour, Roux was able to achieve most aggressive rider of the day.
General Classification Standings at End of Stage 2, TDF 2012
|1.||SUICANCELLARA Fabian||12||RADIOSHACK-NISSAN||10h 02′ 31”|
|2.||GBRWIGGINS Bradley||101||SKY PROCYCLING||10h 02′ 38”||+ 00′ 07”|
|3.||FRACHAVANEL Sylvain||192||OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP||10h 02′ 38”||+ 00′ 07”|
|4.||USAVAN GARDEREN Tejay||9||BMC RACING TEAM||10h 02′ 41”||+ 00′ 10”|
|5.||NORBOASSON HAGEN Edvald||102||SKY PROCYCLING||10h 02′ 42”||+ 00′ 11”|
|6.||RUSMENCHOV Denis||131||KATUSHA TEAM||10h 02′ 44”||+ 00′ 13”|
|7.||BELGILBERT Philippe||4||BMC RACING TEAM||10h 02′ 44”||+ 00′ 13”|
|8.||AUSEVANS Cadel||1||BMC RACING TEAM||10h 02′ 48”||+ 00′ 17”|
|9.||ITANIBALI Vincenzo||51||LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE||10h 02′ 49”||+ 00′ 18”|
|10.||CANHESJEDAL Ryder||61||GARMIN-SHARP-BARRACUDA||10h 02′ 49”||+ 00′ 18”|
|11.||GERKLÖDEN Andréas||15||RADIOSHACK-NISSAN||10h 02′ 50”||+ 00′ 19”|
|12.||NEDMOLLEMA Bauke||153||RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM||10h 02′ 52”||+ 00′ 21”|
|13.||BELMONFORT Maxime||16||RADIOSHACK-NISSAN||10h 02′ 53”||+ 00′ 22”|
|14.||SLOBRAJKOVIC Janez||181||ASTANA PRO TEAM||10h 02′ 53”||+ 00′ 22”|
|15.||USAVANDE VELDE Christian||68||GARMIN-SHARP-BARRACUDA||10h 02′ 53”||+ 00′ 22”|
|16.||ESTTAARAMAE Rein||81||COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE||10h 02′ 53”||+ 00′ 22”|
|17.||FRAPERAUD Jean-Christophe||71||AG2R LA MONDIALE||10h 02′ 54”||+ 00′ 23”|
|18.||ITAMARCATO Marco||125||VACANSOLEIL-DCM||10h 02′ 54”||+ 00′ 23”|
|19.||RUSGUSEV Vladimir||134||KATUSHA TEAM||10h 02′ 55”||+ 00′ 24”|
|20.||ESPZUBELDIA Haimar||19||RADIOSHACK-NISSAN||10h 02′ 55”||+ 00′ 24”|
|21.||NEDPOELS Wouter||126||VACANSOLEIL-DCM||10h 02′ 55”||+ 00′ 24”|
|22.||SVKSAGAN Peter||57||LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE||10h 02′ 55”||+ 00′ 24”|
|23.||IRLMARTIN Daniel||65||GARMIN-SHARP-BARRACUDA||10h 02′ 55”||+ 00′ 24”|
|24.||IRLROCHE Nicolas||79||AG2R LA MONDIALE||10h 02′ 56”||+ 00′ 25”|
|25.||AUSROGERS Michael||108||SKY PROCYCLING||10h 02′ 56”||+ 00′ 25”|
|26.||NEDWEENING Pieter||209||ORICA GREENEDGE||10h 02′ 56”||+ 00′ 25”|