Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Stage 2 - Monday, July 3: Obernai - Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg), 228.5 km

Stage Two was almost spoiled for the sprinters. But, as so many (nine, I think) times before, Robbie McEwen came out of nowhere and beat everyone to the line. And, for the second time, Boonen was beaten to the line. Though the first time in the stage, it was Hushovd who beat Boonen to a sprint point -- and too the yellow jersey back.

The stage was a lot more eventful than Sunday's Stage One. Not only were there two young riders (David De la Funete and Aitor Hernandez) in a break for much of the stage, Boonen wanted to get the yellow jersey to wear into Belgium today. But it was not meant to be. Boonen and Hushovd went off the front of the peloton to battle it out for time. And everyone thought that one of Hushovd's teammates was racing up to keep Tom from taking the time -- but it was Hushovd himself. Battling the sore arm (it's expected to hurt for several days), he managed to ride hard enough to take back the two seconds he needed.

Not everything was that easy.

There were two crashes, one of which happened right as the sprint was going strong -- thus splitting up the peloton. Everyone did finish the stage (though Danilo Di Luca -- suffering illness -- did not start. Poor guy has had a crappy GT season), so that was good. But one of those Saunier Duval riders is the unlucky Angel Gomez. I hope everyone starts tomorrow.

The break cause a shake up of the King of the Mountains. Fabian Wegmann has the jersey yesterday, but the two breakaway riders decided to make a contest of it. It looked, of a bit, like the young Euskaltel-Euskadi Hernandez would end the day in the polka dot jersey, but that was not to be. He blew up on the second to final small climb of the day and ended up finishing about 13 minutes (14 minutes now from the Hushovd) back. But the Saunier Duval young rider (well, one of them), De la Fuente managed to hang on and win the King of the Mountains Jersey.

It was a good day for young riders. And, well, a good day for veterans. It was Hushovd's second yellow jersey of the tour and yet another win for the scrappy Robbie McEwen. Those of you who've read my blog (either of the cycling ones) on any sort of regular basis know that I don't like McEwen. I try hard to, I mean he's a great biker rider and has personality -- but I just can't like him. He does enough things that piss me off so that I can't like him. Kind of like Roger Federer, but without dominating everything.

I must admit that I did not think that McEwen was going to win -- and yet he did. He just appeared out of thin air. It looked as though Hushovd, as he crosed the line, was upset about something. I had to go to work, so I never saw the replay of the win, but I believe McEwen might have bumped Hushovd, but I'm not sure. I did read that they talked and sorted things out -- but who really knows?

Stage three is another sprinter's stage, or perhaps there'll be a breakaway that'll last. Either way, the end of the stage promises to be just as exiting as stage two.

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