Team Sky’s Mark Cavendish produced a quite brilliant display to win stage two of the Tour de France in Tournai.
The first sprint finish of the race came down to an absorbing battle between the fast men and it was the world champion who proved once again that he is the quickest around as he overhauled André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) in the final 200 yards.
Before then he had positioned himself with stunning precision, moving from wheel to wheel before getting in the ideal spot right behind Greipel.
There was still work to do on the flat-out drag race to the line, Cavendish coming through to win by half a bike length with Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) in third.
“It wasn’t too technical but there was enough technicality to make it a bit chaotic with all the other riders there. Normally I’m out of the way in the front but today I could kind of freestyle.
“It wasn’t as windy as I thought it was going to be and that didn’t play as much of a factor. It’s been a good start to the race for the team. Brad stayed out of trouble and hopefully he can continue on towards yellow. We’re here to win the yellow jersey. I’m here to do what I did today.
“I’ve been on the back foot but I’ve been more relaxed than ever coming into this Tour de France as the pressure hasn’t been there for me to do anything. [A win] doesn’t give me any more confidence as it’s never easy to win a Tour de France stage, with a team or on your own.”
The train of André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) worked effectively at the line, but in the end, was not enough for a motivated Cavendish. First it was Marcel Sieberg’s turn, then birthday boy Jürgen Roelandts took over. Greg Henderson, the last man, increased the pace. Greipel took over swiftly, but was beaten by Cavendish by half a wheel.
Greipel originally claimed that Cavendish was helped by the Lotto Belisol and Orica-Greenedge leadout squads, but later congratulated the Manxman on his win.
Matt Goss gave ORICA-GreenEDGE its first Tour de France stage podium today as he sprinted to third in Tournai. His strong sprint came on the heels of another successful intermediate sprint. Goss was once again the best of the bunch mid-stage, winning the sprint and garnering 15 points for fourth place towards the green jersey competition.
“Goss nailed the intermediate sprint,” said Sports Director Matt White. “The team rode well as a single unit today. I’m happy with how thing stand. We wanted to win the stage, of course, but it was only our first opportunity in the sprints. We still have plenty of chances.”
“It was a pretty hectic finish, and the boys did what they could,” said White. “They rode well, but they were a little lost towards the end there. For our first sprint with this group, it was a pretty good outcome. It was encouraging to get some points back on Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), and we were right in the mix for the win with Gossy.”
The BMC Racing Team took to the front near the end of Monday’s second stage of the Tour de France to keep defending champion Cadel Evans out of trouble.
In the G.C. contest, Marcus Burghardt, George Hincapie, Manuel Quinziato and Michael Schär all took turns in the final 15 kilometers shepherding Cadel Evans through the run-in to Tournai at the end of the 207.5 kilometer stage.
“It’s hard to stay in position when everybody wants to be in the front,” Burghardt said. “I think we handled it well today and it is a big advantage with an incredibly fast bike.”
“I let him know how much we’d appreciated riding in Belgium these past three days,” said Fabian Cancellara after stage 2 ended in Tournai, Belgium, bringing an end to the peloton’s time outside of France. “I also told him that the cycling fans and reception from the Belgian public is the best anywhere.”
“Other than that, it was business as usual today. Our objective was to bring the jersey to the finish without crashing. We spent the least amount of energy possible but the finish was still pretty intense and hard. It wasn’t my best day but I look forward to tomorrow having a good day again and defending the jersey for another day.”
Regarding wearing the Maillot Jaune, Cancellara said: “There are always things going on when you have the yellow jersey. Whether it’s at the end of the race or in the morning in the hotel, you are responsible for a lot of things. It’s enjoyable of course but it takes away from other rest.”
Up next is stage 3 from Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer. It’s 197 km/122mi with six rated climbs, all stacked in the final 50km of racing before arriving in Boulogne-sur-Mer. A clever, punchy rider could attempt an escape to seal a win in the 99th Tour de France.