9 Big Photos from Stage 2sirotti

Full Results ( click on "Stage Standing") —
Results and Reportcyclingnews
Cavendish wins second stage; Cancellara keeps leadvelonews
  Last 5 Km (06:00 dutch) — nos
  Last 1 Km (02:31 dutch) — nos
Victory Salute and other photosafp/yahoo
  Cavendish schiet meteen raak in de
Why Columbia must expect to do bulk of the
  Stage 2 Highlights, Interviews, Analysis (multiple clips) — versus
  Stage 2 Highlights: Part 1 (01:48) and Part 2 (01:06) — eurosport
  Heinrich Haussler Post Race: "Napolitano was riding like an idiot" (01:35) — eurosport
  Lance Armstrong Post Race (02:34) — eurosport
  Oscar Pereiro talks about his comeback (02:15) — eurosport
  Stage 2 Recap/Highlights (03:12) —
Graham Watson Stage 2 Photosgrahamwatson
9 Big Photos from Stage 2sirotti
  ITV stage 2 podcast with Matt Rendell, Ned Boulting and Chris Boardman: stage 2 roundtable — ITV
Stage 2 Rider and Team Reactionsdailypeloton
  Well edited highlights set to music (02:03) — eurosport

Post Stage Analysis

He Sprints, He Wins
Mark Cavendish wins in Brignoles, Cancellara keeps the Yellow Jersey

Under blazing summer sun, Mark Cavendish won today’s Tour de France stage in Brignoles. Delivered to the line by his Columbia-HTC team, Cavendish left nothing to chance, and distanced his rivals by four bike lengths, an enormous distance for a sprint finish. Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Slipstream finished second, while Romain Feillu of Agritubel was third. Today marked the fifth Tour de France victory for Cavendish, who won four stages last year. Cavendish also took over the Green Jersey of points leader. The general classification, meanwhile, remained unchanged, and Fabian Cancellara of Saxo Bank retains the Yellow Jersey of race leader.

The Story

As is the pattern for these flat stages, an early break escaped and today included four riders: Jussi Veikkanen of Française des Jeux, Cyril Dessel of AG2R-La Mondiale, Stéphane Augé of Cofidis, and Stef Clement of Rabobank. Over the first three categorized climbs, Jussi Veikkanen led the break and took the maximum points in the mountains classification. Veikkanen will wear the Polka Dot Jersey tomorrow.

For much of the stage, race leader Fabian Cancellara's Saxo Bank did the work to control the break, with some help from Columbia-HTC and Cervélo TestTeam. With 40 kilometers to race, the break still held an advantage of four minutes, but that gap soon began to fall. At 25 kilometers to go, the break only retained 1:34 of their advantage. Bernard Eisel of Columbia-HTC sat on the front working steadily. With the finish approaching, Columbia began to put more legs into the chase in order to set up their star sprinter Mark Cavendish. Cervélo TestTeam also began to contribute to the chase in the hopes of seeing Thor Hushovd or Heinrich Haussler celebrate the stage victory.

Just outside 15 kilometers to go, the race director removed the team cars from the gap between the break and the main field, the universal sign of a doomed breakaway. Iñigo Cuesta worked for Cervélo on the front, taking turns with the Columbia and Saxo Bank riders. Still, Viekkenan, Dessel, Augé, and Clement continued to work together under heat of the Mediterranean summer.

With just over 10 kilometers to go, the field caught the break. Immediately came a counter-attack from Mikhail Ignatiev. The Katusha rider, who won the Italian semi-classic Trofeo Laigueglia in 2007, dangled just ahead of the main field. With 8 kilometers to go, he held an slim advantage of 13 seconds. On the main field, meanwhile, Milram began working on the front for their sprinter Gerald Ciolek. Garmin-Slipstream also joined the chase for Tyler Farrar.

With 5 kilometers to race, it was all over for Ignatiev. Milram still led the main field as the sprinters began massing near the front. Then, it was all Columbia-HTC on the front. A series of traffic islands and two roundabouts threatened to disorganize the train, but Columbia had the situation well in hand. Nearly at the red kite, a traffic island split the field, but still the Columbia train remained on track. Inside the final kilometer, lead-out Mark Renshaw took over, and delivered Mark Cavendish to the 500 meter mark.

Cavendish opened up his sprint with 500 meters to go. It was a long sprint, but the Columbia sprinter plainly had the legs. Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Slipstream had the wheel of Cavendish, but could not come around. From the front, it looked as if Farrar had a chance. The aerial view told the real story. Cavendish held a four to five bike length gap at the line. Tyler Farrar finished second, Romain Feillu of Agritubel, third. Thor Hushovd of Cervélo TestTeam and Yukiya Arashiro of Bbox Bouygues rounded out the top five.

Behind the lead sprinters, a crash interrupted the run-in. Koldo Fernández of Euskaltel-Euskadi and Danilo Napolitano of Lampre-Ngc both went down when they missed the sweeping right hand bend to the finish. Both riders proved able to finish, though Napolitano finished on foot, carrying his bike. All of the general classification favorites made it safely to the finish.

After the stage, Cavendish credited his team with the win. He noted that Columbia-HTC did most of the work of chasing, with the exception of Cervélo TestTeam. “We showed we meant business,” he said. The British sprinter claimed surprise at the win today. “Usually it takes me a few days to ride into the race,” he explained. But today he proved able to follow wheels and avoid the temptation of expending too much energy. The speed was very high in the final kilometer and lead-out Mark Renshaw pulled off with 500 meters to go. “It was a long sprint,” said Cavendish. “I didn’t want to make the mistake I did during the Giro, I didn’t want to be lazy,” he concluded.

General Classification Update

The overall standings remain unchanged after today’s sprint stage. Fabian Cancellara retains the Yellow Jersey of race leader, while Alberto Contador trails by 18 seconds and Bradley Wiggins sits 19 seconds down. The remaining general classification favorites finished safely in the bunch. Fränk Schleck of Saxo Bank suffered a minor crash early in the stage, but finished without obvious difficulty.

After the stage, Cancellara said he wanted to keep the jersey for a few days. Interviewed in English, he said, “I can keep the yellow jersey long.” The Saxo Bank team is hoping to win the team time trial, which would likely enable Cancellara to remain in Yellow until the first mountain finish on Arcalis. But Cancellara also had a warning for the other teams. He noted that with the exception of Saxo Bank and Columbia-HTC, few of the other teams contributed to the chase during today’s stage. “It’s the Tour de France,” he reminded them, and said that Saxo Bank could not “ride every day like this.” The team hopes to put a rider on the podium in Paris, and must fit its tactics to its long-term ambitions.

With his stage victory today, Mark Cavendish of Columbia-HTC takes over the Green Jersey of points leader. Before the Tour, Cavendish denied any ambition toward winning the points classification. Perhaps a few more stage wins will change his mind. In the mountains classification, Jussi Veikkanen of Français des Jeux takes over the lead after his day in the breakaway. Veikkenan summited first on three of the day’s four categorized climbs. Roman Kreuziger of Liquigas-Doimo remains the leader in the Young Riders classification, while Team Astana continues to lead the teams classification. For his ride in the break today, Stef Clement of Rabobank received the award for most combative rider.

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow’s stage offers another chance for the sprinters. The stage runs from Marseille to the resort town of La Grande-Motte, and includes two categorized climbs along the way. It’s a flat, straight finish and a sprinter should celebrate victory on the avenue Robert Fages. Mark Cavendish lived up to his billing today as the sprinter to beat, but it's doubtful that the others are ready to concede so quickly. Watch for Tyler Farrar, Romain Feillu, Oscar Freire, Thor Hushovd, and Tom Boonen to try their luck against the British fastman. The general classification riders will try to stay cool and out of trouble, while the sprinters have their fun. — Gavia

To read more about tomorrow’s stage, please turn the page.

This stage preview is available in the following languages:

(We are looking for translations in ALL other languages. Please submit your translation with the stage no. and language in the subject title.)

Course Preview

Also follow steephill on Twitter for the latest race info and video updates.

The Climbs
La Turbie 8.6 km, avg. 4.3 %, Catégorie 3
Côte de Roquefort-les-Pins 4.3 km, avg. 4 %, Catégorie 4
Côte de Tournon 4.2 km, 3.6 %, Catégorie 4
Col de l'Ange 1.5 km, 3.6 %, Catégorie 4

This year’s Tour de France remains close to the coast during its first week. This second stage begins in Monaco and runs west along the coast, passing through Nice, before heading slightly inland to finish in Brignoles. The profile includes four categorized climbs to tempt the attackers. The sprinters’ teams face a difficult day, and this stage offers the possibility, though slim, that a breakaway could survive to the finish in Brignoles.

This year marks the first visit of the Tour de France to the city of Brignoles, which lies inland from the coast and about equidistant from Toulon, Aix-en-Provence, and Marseille. During the Middle Ages, the Comtes de Provence made Brignoles their primary residence and it was renowned its plums. The official tourist site lists cycling among its recommended activities. Coincidenc? I think not.

Profile Details

The stage starts off uphill, and the stage climbs for its first 10 kilometers. The summit of the first categorized climb of the day, La Turbie, comes at kilometer 8.6. The climb has an average gradient of 4.3% and reaches a maximum elevation of 491 meters. There are mountain points on offer at the summit and the climb should prove sufficiently difficult to lure a breakaway into committing. There is a fast, steep descent to Nice, and the first intermediate sprint of the day. There are no time bonuses on the road or at the finish in this year’s Tour de France. The sprinters may want to race for the points on offer at Nice, but the race lead will not be in play here.

From Nice, the course goes flat for approximately 20 kilometers until the riders reach Cagnes-sur-Mer. This stretch of the route follows the Meditarranean coast. Then the course turns inland and climbs the second categorized climb of the day, the category 4 Côte de Roquefort-les-Pins. The côte climbs approximatey 200 meters in 4.3 kilometers and has an average gradient of 4%. If the field came back together on the descent to Nice, this climb should provide an ample launch-pad for a new break. Otherwise, expect the break to contest the mountains points, and everyone else to get on with the business of riding tempo and controlling the time gap.

As the course tracks inland, the terrain turns uneven, with a constant succession of small climbs. None of these small bumps are climbs of significance, and they should not cause any splits in the main field. At the same time, the climbing may complicate the efforts of the sprinters’ team to chase. A motivated breakaway could find this terrain to its advantage and run out the clock on the sprinters.

After passing through Grasse, the course reaches a third category 4 climb at kilometer 81.5. The Côte de Tournon lasts 4.2 kilometers and has an average gradient of 4.2%. From the summit, there remains 105 kilometers to race. No reason to get too excited here. Ten kilometers later after a climbing false-flat comes the second intermediate sprint of the day in Fayence.

From the intermediate sprint in Fayence, it’s a bumpy ride to the final categorized climb of the day, the Col de l’Ange. A category 4, the Col de l’Ange is short and sweet, just 1.5 kilometers to the summit. The average gradient is a kind 3.6%. From the summit at 200 meters above sea level, there remains 58 kilometers to race.

The final intermediate sprint is located in Lorgues with just under 50 kilometers to go. A short descent follows, then comes approximately 20 kilometers of false flat climbing as the course passes through Carcès and Cabasse. A short, steep, uncategorized climb lies around 10 kilometers to race, and might tempt an enterprising rider to go on the attack. The course descends to a flat finish on the avenue Foch. The road sweeps left in the final kilometer, but the finish is straight on a wide road. It should be a fast one.

Who to Watch

The sprinters’ teams will not have an easy time controlling this stage and every breakaway rider in the bunch will want to try for a stage win here. A successful breakaway carries the possibility of wearing the Yellow Jersey of race leader and all the podium time and publicity that goes with it. The succession of categorized climbs also offers an opportunity to grab an early lead in the mountains classification. We can expect a fast and nervous race in this first road stage of the 2009 Tour, as many riders would sell their grandmothers for the chance to wear the Yellow Jersey, even if only for one day.

Still, the final categorized climb of the day, Col de l'Ange, comes with 58 kilometers to race to the finish. The sprinters’ teams will have plenty of time to bring back an escape. Though a short climb appears on the profile with about 10 kilometers to go, the downhill finish should help the cause of the chase.

Mark Cavendish has all but owned the final kilometer this season, and no doubt his Columbia-High Road team will arrive in France ready to control the race in support of his ambitions. Cavendish has set the Green Jersey as his goal for this Tour de France. Last year, the British sprinter won three stages, before abandoning. His climbing appears improved this year, certainly it was sufficient to deliver him to a win at Milano-Sanremo. But Cavendish has only finished one of the grand tours he’s ridden so far in his career. Perhaps the Green Jersey and the prospect of oodles of stage wins will motivate him to reach Paris this year. /p>

Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Slipstream has beaten Cavendish once this season, though in the recent Giro d’Italia the big first grand tour stage win proved elusive. Garmin-Slipstream still had their final kilometer lead-out to fine-tune during the Giro, and a smoother-functioning team may help Farrar at the Tour. Though the American faces a tall order in beating Cavendish, Farrar is one of the best young sprinters making his way through the ranks. Perhaps he will score the elusive big win at this year’s Tour.

Oscar Freire, by contrast, has had his fair share of big wins in his career, including three rainbow jerseys and the sprinters’ monument, Milano-Sanremo. Freire’s most recent wins came at Tour de Romandie, where he won two stages. During the 2008 Tour de France, Freire celebrated a stage win at Digne-les-Bains and won the Green Jersey. Last year marked only the second time that Freire has finished the Tour de France, but he has won four stages in all. Injury has frequently interrupted Freire’s career, but when he is healthy, he has a formidable turn of speed. The former World Champion raced against Cavendish at Tour de Suisse, but has yet to beat the British sprinter. Perhaps Freire will find better luck in France.

Over at Cervélo TestTeam, meanwhile, two sprinters share quarters, Thor Hushovd, a former Green Jersey winner at the Tour, and Heinrich Haussler, who finished second to Cavendish at Milano-Sanremo. Both sprinters have downplayed talk of a rivalry within the team, but the hierarchy remains unclear all the same. Haussler has ridden the season of his life this year, after his previous seasons at Gerolsteiner where the results proved few and far between. For his part, Hushovd won Omloop het Nieuwsblad earlier his season and has won four Tour de France stages in the past, including the prestigious sprint on the Champs Élysées. Look for the road to decide who contests the sprints as leader at Cervélo TestTeam, who will also chase the Yellow Jersey with last year’s Tour winner Carlos Sastre.

Other sprinters looking for podium kisses include: Gerald Ciolek of Milram, Gert Steegmans of Katusha, who has previously won a Tour stage, Daniele Bennati of Liquigas-Doimo, who has lost much of this season to injury, and Romain Feillu of Agritubel, who won a stage and wore the Yellow Jersey during last year’s Tour. — Gavia

Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)<-->