A rainy day in Belgium led to another day of crashes at the Tour, as riders tumbled on the hilly 201-kilometer race from Brussels to Spa. Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) worked a day-long break over the Ardennes hills ahead of the chaos, ultimately taking the stage win and the overall lead.
Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) sacrificed the yellow jersey he has worn since after Saturday’s prologue, slowing his group to allow teammates Frank and Andy Schleck — along with most of the other GC favorites — to rejoin the front pack following a crash. Cancellara also met with race officials near the end of the race and agreed to neutralize sprinters’ points at the finish. The Swiss champion relayed the information to the lead peloton.
A crash on a slippery descent about 165km into the race delayed many of the GC favorites; most rejoined the Cancellara group before the finish. Oil from a crashed motorcycle may have contributed to the chaos.
Americans Christian Vande Velde, Dave Zabriskie (both Garmin-Transitions) and George Hincapie (BMC), did not rejoin Cancellara’s group and finished about four minutes back. Garmin’s Tyler Farrar was almost 20 minutes back at the finish. Vande Velde later dropped out of the race due to broken ribs.
“I didn’t know what was going on behind me, although I did hear there’d been a crash,” Chavanel said at the finish. “All I know is that I gave it everything I had.
“But whether the stage ended up being neutralized or not, it doesn’t take anything away from my win.”
Cancellara said waiting for his fallen comrades and neutralizing the finish points was only fair.
“It was the right thing to do to wait, so everybody comes together to the finish line together,” he said.
“When you have everybody on the ground and people five minutes behind because they can’t find their bike then it’s only normal.
“I think fairness comes before being selfish. That was the reason why I spoke with (race official Jean-Francois) Pescheux … There’s other things to think about than the yellow jersey.”
Pescheux said it was “a tacit agreement.”
“Cancellara came to see me to tell me there had been enough injuries in the peloton today.
“(He said) there were (potential) leaders stuck behind and that no one wanted to sprint for second place.”
Break du jour
Chavanel initiated the break of the day with an attack just after the 10k mark. He was soon joined by seven others, who opened up a gap of over seven minutes ahead of the Saxo Bank-led peloton on the rolling first half of the route.
As the race approached the first categorized climbs, Saxo trimmed the break’s gap back to about four minutes.
The break remained intact over the first three categorized climbs (all Cat. 4), but hit the slopes of the fourth climb, the Cat. 3 Côte d’Aisomone, with barely a 44-second lead as Saxo’s Jens Voigt took some massive pulls.
Lloyd and Turgot fell off the break on the climb and were absorbed by the hungry pack.
Gavacci was next to fall off, then Burghardt.
Gavacci, fading back to the peloton on the descent of the Côte d’Aisomont, fell on a slippery wet corner. As the peloton passed him, there was a crash in the pack involving Andy and Frank Schleck, Farrar, Allesandro Petacchi and others. Lance Armstrong and Christian Vande Velde also were delayed.
- Reine Taaramae (Cofidis), 33rd at :45
- Jerome Pineau (Quick Step), 42nd at :49
- Sebastien Turgot (Bouygues Telecom), 62nd at :53
- Sylvain Chavanel(Quick Step), 87th at :59
- Jurgen Roelands (OmegaPharma-Lotto) 93rd at 1:02
- Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre), 142nd at 1:15
- Matt Lloyd (OmegaPharma-Lotto), 162nd at 1:21
- Marcus Burghardt (BMC), 171st at 1:22
“It was carnage in the true sense of the word. Sixty guys must have crashed in different places,” said Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford.
“It was ridiculously slippy,” said Brailsford. “They were coming down the last couple of descents and there were guys in the trees.”
Up front of the chase group, Cancellara was in a small group that stalled to wait for the Schlecks and others to rejoin.
Armstrong, Basso, Contador and others were almost three minutes behind the Cancellara group at one point, but managed to rejoin before the final climb started.
The Schleck brothers, however, took longer to rejoin, but their teammate Voigt buried himself to haul them back up to the yellow jersey group. On the slopes of the final climb, the Col du Rosier, the only major GC contender who hadn’t re-attached was Vande Velde.
Meanwhile, Chavanel had shed his last break companion, Roelandts, on the final climb and was building a lead of over two minutes ahead of the Cancellara group on the climb.
- Cat. 4 km 98.0 – Côte de France (2.2 km 6.2%)
- Cat. 4 km 128.5 – Côte de Filot (3.9 km 4.5%)
- Cat. 4 km 136.0 – Côte de Werbomont (4.5 km 3.5%)
- Cat. 3 km 161.5 – Côte d’Aisomont (4.5 km 5.2%)
- Cat. 3 km 167.5 – Col de Stockeu (3.0 km 5.9%)
- Cat. 3 km 189.0 – Col du Rosier (6.4 km 4%)
As Cancellara continued to control the lead group, Chavanel’s lead grew to 3:57 by the finish. The yellow jersey group limped in calmly, with no sprint for the remaining stage podium spots and sprinters’ competition points. — AFP’s Justin Davis contributed to this report.
The story of Tuesday’s stage 3 will be the seven sections of pavé, and the carnage that is likely to ensue.
The stage begins in Belgium, taking the peloton through three sectors, starting 128km into the stage in Ormeignies. These three sectors are not long, but with all the GC teams wanting their leaders at the front, watch for crashes before they even reach the cobbles. A reduced peloton is likely to reach the four sections of Paris-Roubaix pavé found on the run-in to the finish in Arenberg. The final 27.5km of the stage will be a reverse of the middle part of Paris-Roubaix, crossing four sections of cobblestones (numbers 14, 15, 16 and 18 in the Hell of the North), with the last cobbles ending just 7.7km before the finish.
- Race officials decided not to award sprint points at the finish, other than Chavanel’s. Chavanel now leads the points competition.
- Mickael Delage (Omega Pharma Lotto) withdrew from the race following a crash in the first 100km of the day.
|Best Young Rider (GC)
|Team GC leader