Monday, July 05, 2010
It was a remarkable run for the Frenchman who has won 6 stages of the Tour before, but never the Yellow Jersey, and he did so by staying out ahead of the peleton for more than 180 km.
Chevanel took off 10 km after the start of the race, and stayed in a 7-man break for the entirety of the stage, until again at about 10 km from the finish at the Col du Rosier, the Frenchman stepped up the pedal again, dropping his break and going solo to his win in Spa.
After the stage, he was jubilant: "When I think about it, I realize that this season started with a plague of problems, and yet I never gave up....I made a mark next to this stage in my mind a long time ago, and I succeeded...Now I have almost three minutes ahead overall! So I think I can go far," he said.
Indeed, Chevanel had achieved a lead over the prologue leader's Yellow Jersey then on the shoulders of Fabian Cancellara, by 2 minutes and 57 seconds--and a good part of that time was due to Cancellara's own fault when he slowed the peleton in consideration for fallen riders.
With some roads borrowed from the famous Liege-Baston-Liege race that Eddy Merckx has won five times, the peleton endured several crashes along slippery descents, resulting in delays for star riders, and splits in the peleton behind the breakaway.
Armstrong who was caught in the last crash, had leg and hip scrapes and an elbow ache when he returned from the stage, his team outfit torn, according to news reports.
"You had people everywhere. It was surreal. When I got back on my bike ... I saw crash, after crash, after crash," Armstrong said. "It was like war," he told ESPN.
It was estimated by some riders that 200 cyclists had fallen, with 23 injured. Among them Tyler Farrar of Garmin Transitions and Robbie McEwen of Australia who might have gone on to a sprint finish today, were taken to a hospital for their injuries.
After the crash, under the direction of Cancellara, the peleton slowed to a slower pace to allow the other riders to catch up--including SaxoBank teammate Andy Schleck who was second in last year's TDF, a move that allowed Chavanel to keep his time distance to the end--stealing the Yellow from Cancellara, and placing almost 3 minutes between them. It was not clear if Cancellara was aware of the time gap when he slowed the field, but as Yellow Jersey holder he is allowed to make decisions for the field. This was one considered good sportsmanship, according to other media reports.
On a crash descending the Col de Stockeu, Andy and Frank Schleck were taken down. The pile up also caused Contador and Armstrong to lose time. Rider Christian Vandevelde was a casualty, and never made it back into the field.
Breakway Near the Start
Ahead were three intermediate sprints – in Perwez (39.5km), Seny (112km) and Coo (177km) – and six climbs of various difficulty, three category 3's, three category 4's and two 5's.
The last two climbs promised to be the most difficult, with winding roads and tricky descents through forests. And difficult they were--but on the descent, not on the climbs.
Chavanel broke away at 10K from the start, and was soon caught by seven other riders, Matthew Lloyd and Jurgen Roelandts of Omega Pharma Lotto, Marcus Burghardt of BMC Racing Team, Jerome Pineau of QuickStep, Sebastien Turgot of BBox Bouygues Telecom, Taaramae of Team Cofidis and Francesco Gavazzi of Lampre.
Around 57km to the finish there was a crash in the peleton involving Julian Dean of Garmin Transitions, Vladimir Karpets of Katusha, Mickael Delage of Omega Pharma Lotto, and several others. The New Zealander and Russian continued but Delage was forced to abandon the stage after sustaining cuts to his face.
A motorcyclist carrying a cameraman following Gavazzi crashed into him, and chaos ensured: as the peloton arrived on the descent, several riders crashed while trying to avoid the bodies and bikes lying on the road. Those included Andy and Frank Schleck of SaxoBank, Alberto Contador of Astana, and Lance Armstrong of Team RadioShack. At one point it looked as if Andy Schleck had broken his collarbone, as he held his right arm and grimaced, but minutes later he borrowed a fellow Team Saxobanker's bike and took off.
The crash caused three splits in the peleton, one containing Fabian Cancellara and Cadel Evans in the front accompanied by 33 other riders, Amstrong and Contador among another group of similar size following, and the Schleck brothers in the third.
Still at the front of the race, Chavanel reached the last climb, the Col de Rosier alone, leading Monfort (THR) by 47”, Cancellara’s group by 1’40”, the Contador/Armstrong group by 2’35”; and the Schleck group by 3’40”.
According to media reports Cancellara slowed the peleton in consideration for the crashed riders. He moved to the front of the peloton and established a slower pace--an odd gesture considering later it would cost him the Yellow Jersey, but perhaps the only move that would save him face when he did. It lasted a couple of kilometers before Cervelo sent riders to the front of the yellow jersey’s group, and picked up the pace a little.
Between the Stockeu and Rosier climbs, the three pelotons eventually came together leaving Chavanel out in front who appeared to be the only rider interested in racing.
Chavanel won his second stage and took over the lead of the general classification. The rest of the peloton rolled across the line, 3’56” behind him.
Jerome Pineau, also of QuickStep who worked with Chavanel in the break was overjoyed for his teammate: “This could not be more beautiful. This morning we had planned, Sylvain and I – each, in turn, would attack. And we managed to find us both in the same breakaway, which is already great. Then, pretty soon, we’ve agreed to help me get some points for the climbing classification and I support him then on the final. But he did not even need me!"
In an interview with Versus, RadioShack teammate of Lance Armstrong said the scene was chaos, and blamed part of the mess up on the roads that were chosen. But he admitted that in the end it was "survival of the fittest," that made the win.
After today's nightmare stage, few riders were looking forward to tomorrow's stage which will include four sections of the one-day classic Paris-Roubaix, reknowned for its cobblestones, crashes, mud and mayhem. In all though there will be seven sections of pave road--sure to bring down even the steadiest of riders. These first two stages have been a wake up call for the normally quiescent Tour riders, and the third is poised to be an even ruder one.
General Classifcation Standing at End of Stage 2, Brussels to Spa
1. CHAVANEL Sylvain 131 QUICK STEP 10h 01' 25"
2. CANCELLARA Fabian 13 TEAM SAXO BANK 10h 04' 22" + 02' 57"
3. MARTIN Tony 115 TEAM HTC - COLUMBIA 10h 04' 32" + 03' 07"
4. MILLAR David 57 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 10h 04' 42" + 03' 17"
5. ARMSTRONG Lance 21 TEAM RADIOSHACK 10h 04' 44" + 03' 19"
6. THOMAS Geraint 39 SKY PRO CYCLING 10h 04' 45" + 03' 20"
7. CONTADOR Alberto 1 ASTANA 10h 04' 49" + 03' 24"
8. LEIPHEIMER Levi 25 TEAM RADIOSHACK 10h 04' 50" + 03' 25"
9. BOASSON HAGEN Edvald 36 SKY PRO CYCLING 10h 04' 54" + 03' 29"
10. GERDEMANN Linus 141 TEAM MILRAM 10h 04' 57" + 03' 32"
Stage Standings at End of Stage 2, Brussels to Spa
1. CHAVANEL Sylvain 131 QUICK STEP 4h 40' 48"
2. BOUET Maxime 82 AG2R LA MONDIALE 4h 44' 44" + 03' 56"
3. WEGMANN Fabian 149 TEAM MILRAM 4h 44' 44" + 03' 56"
4. MC EWEN Robbie 75 KATUSHA TEAM 4h 44' 44" + 03' 56"
5. KNEES Christian 145 TEAM MILRAM 4h 44' 44" + 03' 56"
6. ROELANDTS Jürgen 108 OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO 4h 44' 44" + 03' 56"
7. HUSHOVD Thor 95 CERVELO TEST TEAM 4h 44' 44" + 03' 56"
8. GERDEMANN Linus 141 TEAM MILRAM 4h 44' 44" + 03' 56"
9. LADAGNOUS Matthieu 65 FDJ 4h 44' 44" + 03' 56"
10. EISEL Bernhard 112 TEAM HTC - COLUMBIA 4h 44' 44" + 03' 56"