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9 Big Photos from Stage 2sirotti
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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

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Pregled staze

La Turbie 8.6 km, prosjek 4.3 %, Kategorija 3
Côte de Roquefort-les-Pins 4.3 km, prosjek 4 %, Kategorija 4
Côte de Tournon 4.2 km, prosjek 3.6 %, Kategorija 4
Col de l'Ange 1.5 km, prosjek 3.6 %, Kategorija 4

Ovogodišnji Tour de France ostaje u blizini obale u toku prve nedjelje. Druga etapa počinje u Monaku i proteže se na zapad uz Azurnu Obalu, prolazeći kroz Nicu, prije nego što blago skrene u unutrašnjost do cilja u Brignoles. Profil sadrži četiri kategorisana uspona za iskušenje napadačima. Ekipe sprintera imaće težak dan pred sobom jer ova etapa pruža mogućnost, uistinu vrlo slabu, da grupa bjegunaca preživi do cilja u Brignoles.

Ove godine Tour de France po prvi put u istoriji posjećuje grad Brignoles, koji se nalazi u zaleđu Azurne Obale, podjednako udaljen od gradova Toulon, Aix-en-Provence i Marseille. U toku Srednjeg Vijeka, Comtes de Provence su odabrali upravo Brignoles, grad poznat po svojim šljivama, za svoje stalno mjesto boravka. Njihov zvanični sajt za turizam navodi biciklizam među preporučenim aktivnostima za tu oblast. Slučajnost? Čisto sumnjam.

Detalji o profilu

Etapa počinje uzbrdo i staza se penje se u toku prvih 10 kilometara. Vrh prvog kategorizovanog uspona, La Turbie, nalazi se na kilometru 8.6. Uspon ima prosječni nagib od 4.3% i dostiže maksimalno uzdignuće od 491 metra. Na vrhu se osvajaju brdski poeni, a uspon bi trebao biti dovoljno težak da izmami grupicu da krene u bijeg. Poslije vrha, brzi, strmi spust vodi do Nice i prvog prolaznog sprinta dana. U ovogodišnjem Tour de France ne dijele se vremenski bonusi za prolazne ili završne sprintove. Sprinteri će možda odlučiti da se bore za poene koji se nude u Nici, ali vođstvo u trci neće ovdje biti u igri.

Od Nice, staza nastavlja ravno otprilike kilometara dok biciklisti ne stignu do Cagnes-sur-Mer. Ovaj potez staze proteže se mediteranskom obalom. Onda staza skreće u unutrašnjost i penje se uz drugi kategorizovani uspon dana, Côte de Roquefort-les-Pins kategorije 4. Uzdiže se oko 200 metara za 4.3 kilometra, sa prosječnim nagibom 4%. Ako karavan uhvati bjegunce na spustu do Nice, ovaj uspon bi trebao biti odlična odskočna daska za novi bijeg. U protivnom, očekujmo da početni bjegunci pokupe brdske poene, dok se karavan brine o određivanju tempa i kontrolisanju vremenskog raspona.

Kako staza kreće prema unutrašnjosti, teren postaje neravan sa konstantnim nizom malih uspona. Nijedna od ovih malih prepreka nije značajan uspon i ne bi trebalo da prouzrokuju podjelu karavana. Međutim, svo to penjanje može zakomplikovati potjeru sprinterskim timovima. Motivisana grupa bjegunaca bi mogla naći korist od ovakvog terena i iscrpiti vrijeme sprinterima.

Poslije prolaska kroz Grasse, staza dolazi do trećeg uspona kategorije 4 na kilometru 81.5. Côte de Tournon traje 4.2 kilometra i ima prosječni nagib od 4.2%. Od njegovog vrha do cilja ima 105 kilometara. Nema razloga za velika uzbuđenja ovdje. Deset kilometara poslije vrha, poslije uspinjuće lažne ravnine, slijedi drugi prolazni sprint dana u Fayence.

Od prolaznog sprinta u Fayence, predstoji neravna vožnja do posljednjeg kategorizovanog uspona dana, Col de l’Ange. Kategorije 4, Col de l’Ange je kratak i lagan, samo 1.5 kilometar do vrha. Prosječni uspon je lakih 3.6%. Od vrha koji je na 200 metara iznad nivoa mora, ostaje da se vozi 58 kilometara.

Poslednji prolazni sprint se nalazi u Lorgues na nešto ispod 50 kilometara do cilja. Slijedi kratki spust, pa oko 20 kilometara lažne ravnine, koja se lagano penje dok staza prolazi kroz Carcès i Cabasse. A short, stKratki, strmi, nekategorizovani uspon nalazi se na oko 10 kilometara od cilja i može izazvati preduzimljivog biciklistu da krene u napad. Staza se spušta do ravnog finiša na aveniji Foch. Put skreće ulijevo u okviru posljednjeg kilometra, ali finiš je prav na širokom putu. Trebalo bi da bude brz.

Na koga obratiti pažnju

Ekipama sprintera neće biti lako da kontrolišu ovu etapu i svaki biciklista bjegunac iz karavana željeće da pokuša odnijeti pobjedu na ovoj etapi. Uspješan bijeg predstavlja mogućnost za osvajanje Žute Majice vođe trke, vrijeme na podijumu i sav publicitet koji ide uz to. Niz kategorizovanih uspona takođe nudi mogućnost za osvajanje ranog vođstva u brdskom plasmanu. Možemo očekivati brzu i nervoznu trku u ovoj prvoj grupnoj etapi Toura 2009, jer bi mnogi biciklisti prodali svoju babu za čast nošenja Žute Majice, makar na jedan dan.

Ipak, posljednji kategorizovani uspon etape je na 58 kilometara od cilja. Ekipe sprintera imaće dovoljno vremena da pristignu bjegunce. Uprkos kratkom usponu na 10 kilometara od cilja, završnica nizbrdo pomoći će goničima.

Mark Cavendish je "gospodar posljednjeg kilometra" ove sezone, i bez sumnje će njegova ekipa Columbia-High Road doći u Francusku spremna da kontroliše trku radi podržavanja njegovih ambicija. Cavendish je postavio Zalenu Majicu za svoj cilj na ovogodišnjem Tour de France. Prošle godine, britanski biciklista je pobijedio na tri etape, a zatim napustio trku. Njegovo penjanje izgleda bolje ove godine, dovoljno da mu donese pobjedu u trci Milano-Sanremo. Ali Cavendish je do ovog trenutka svoje karijere završio samo jedan "grand tour". Možda će ga Zelena Majica i mogućnost mase pobjeda na etapama motivisati da stigne do Pariza ove godine.

Tyler Farrar iz ekipe Garmin-Slipstream je pobijedio Cavendisha jednom ove sezone, iako mu je u skorašnjem Giro d’Italia prva pobjeda na etapi grand toura izmakla. Ekipa Garmin-Slipstream je na Giru još uvjek imala da poradi na njihovom izvođenju Farrara u posljednjem kilometru, pa bi mu svakako pomoglo ako bi na Touru to usavršili. Iako pobijediti Cavendisha predstavlja visok zadatak za amerikanca, Farrar je jedan od najboljih mladih sprintera koji se probija kroz redove. Možda će na ovogodišnjem Touru postići tu veliku pobjedu koja mu je dosad izmicala.

Oscar Freire je, za razliku od toga, imao dosta velikih pobjeda u karijeri, uključujući tri Dugine Majice i sprinterski monument - trku Milano - Sanremo. Njegove najskorije pobjede su bile na Tour de Romandie, gdje je pobijedio u dvije etape. U toku Tour de France 2008, Freire je slavio pobjedu na etapi do Digne-les-Bains i osvojio Zelenu Majicu. Dosad je završio Tour de France samo dva puta, ali je pobijedio u četiri etape. Povrede su često prekidale njegovu karijeru, ali kada je zdrav, ima zapanjujuće ubrzanje. Bivši svjetski prvak trkao se protiv Cavendisha na Tour de Suisse i nije ga pobijedio. Možda će biti bolje sreće u Francuskoj.

U ekipi Cervélo TestTeam, dva sprintera dijele svlačionicu, Thor Hushovd, bivši osvajač Zelene Majice na Tour de France i Heinrich Haussler, koji je bio drugi iza Cavendisha u Milano - Sanremo. Oba sprintera su negirala priče o rivalstvu u okviru ekipe, ali uprkos tome, nejasno je ko će biti sprinterski kapiten. Haussler je imao najbolju sezonu u životu ove godine, poslije prethodnih sezona u Gerolsteineru gdje su rezultati bili malobrojni i rijetki. S druge strane, Hushovd je osvojio Omloop het Nieuwsblad ranije ove sezone i ukupno četiri Tour de France etape dosad, uključujući i prestižni sprint na Champs Élysées. Očekujte da razvoj trke utvrdi koji od ove dvojice će biti vođa sprintera u ekipi Cervélo TestTeam, koja će takođe juriti Žutu Majicu sa prošlogodišnjim pobjednikom Carlos Sastreom.

U ostale sprintere koji se bore za poljupce na podijumu spadaju: Gerald Ciolek iz ekipe Milram, Daniele Bennati iz ekipe Liquigas-Doimo, koji je patio od povrede ove sezone i Romain Feillu iz ekipe Agritubel, koji je osvojio jednu etapu i nosio Žutu Majicu na prošlogodišnjem Tour de France.

translation by Djordje Cenic

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