Cavendish wins Tour’s 2nd stage; Armstrong in pack
July 5, 2009
BRIGNOLES, France – Britain’s Mark Cavendish won the second stage of the Tour de France on Sunday, with seven-time champion Lance Armstrong finishing safely in the trailing pack.
Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland kept the overall lead after capturing the opening time trial a day earlier. He leads Alberto Contador by 18 seconds. Armstrong is 10th, 40 seconds back.
Cavendish clenched his fists and smiled as he crossed the line a split second in front of runner-up Tyler Farrar of the United States and third-place finisher Romain Feillu of France.
With a solid escort from his Team Columbia, Cavendish almost made it look easy. He won three stages in the Giro d’Italia in May and is proving to be among the world’s leading sprint specialists. This was Cavendish’s fifth Tour stage win.
Armstrong didn’t speak to reporters as he left the team bus before Sunday’s stage. But the Texan wrote on his Twitter account that he expected “the bunch will be antsy and aggressive” and predicted the stage would be won by Cavendish.
There were three minor mid-race crashes. One involved Saxo Bank rider Frank Schleck of Luxembourg, a possible title contender. The last one occured at a fork in the route in the last mile.
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Cancellara also had a slight mishap. Teams often protect the yellow jersey like a queen bee, but he briefly dropped back on his own for a seat adjustment from a Saxo Bank mechanic before catching up.
On a muggy day with temperatures exceeding 86 degrees, the riders completed a tricky, 116-mile course that began in the principality of Monaco and ended in Brignoles.
The stage, which took them through the sun-baked Provence hills and past such medieval architectural sites as a Cistercian abbey, featured four minor climbs in a layout favoring sprinters and breakaway specialists.
Monday’s third stage will be similar – a 122-mile course from the Mediterranean port city of Marseille to La Grande Motte. The three-week Tour ends July 26 in Paris.