Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) has had a long history of attempted but failed breakaway attempts at the Tour de France. But on Stage 2 of the 97th Tour de France, Chavanel’s perseverance finally paid off and in turn bore some unexpected fruit.
On the 201km Stage 2 route from Brussels to Spa, which featured several climbs made famous by the Ardennes Classics, Chavanel, teammate Jerome Pineau (QuickStep), Matthew Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Jürgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Marcus Burghardt (BMC), Sebasitien Turgot (Bbox), Rein Taaramae (Cofidis), and Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre) would get off the front at the 22 kilometer mark.
The eight man group proved to be the final selection of the day in spite of the lingering notion that the peloton would eventually and heartbreakingly catch up to them. And at the 167km, they almost did.
As Chavanel surged forward alone through intermittent rains, one by one, his breakaway compatriots were swallowed up by a motivated peloton. A game Maxime Monfort (HTC-Columbia) would attack out of the main group to join the final remnant of the break, Roelandts, in an effort to reign in Chavanel, but neither proved successful as the peloton seemed destined to pull the race back together.
With Roelandts back in the fold and only Monfort and Chavanel ahead, the descent of the Côte de Stockeu seemed like the perfect arena in which to close down any gap. However, the slippery descent proved to be fool's gold as a disastrous crash destroyed not only any chance the peloton had of turning the finale into a bunch sprint, but also the Tour hopes of some in the group.
Christian Vande Velde (Team Garmin-Transitions), teammate Tyler Farrar, Andy Scheck (Team Saxo Bank), and maillot vert wearer, Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) were among a host of riders to hit the pavement, with a bloody Vande Velde incurring the most severe injuries.
With the peloton's focus behind in an attempt to regroup, the 31-year-old Chavanel crossed the finish line solo to capture the first Tour de France stage of his career. Monfort, poised for second place on the day, slowed seeing the peloton, en masse, deliberately choosing to cross the finish line together in a show of protest and solidarity. He would cross with the group, but another Maxime, Bouet, of AG2R La Mondiale would be given second, and Fabian Wegmann (Team Milram), third.
Stage 2 Results
1. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step
2. Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
3. Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Team Milram
Neutralized of Neutered
After the carnage on the Stockeu and the ensuing drawn out accounting of contenders and their teams, the peloton slowed rather than sped into Spa. With Chavanel already prepping for the podium presentations, the Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) led peloton ambled their way across the line, surprising Monfort ahead, who ultimately sat up seeing the controlled unity of the bunch, while angering others who had hoped to contest for the sprint points.
The rider led neutralization of the race was ultimately done in protest of the dangerous parcours that ended the race for some and put the hopes of others in serious peril, but it also did a disservice to the race and to those who are selected to participate.
Crashes happen and are as much a part of racing as the bicycles that carrying each rider. Choosing not to race at the end of the stage may eventually be seen as the better part of valor, but would the same discretion and preferential treatment bestowed upon the prominent names in the peloton be given similarly to riders placed well down on the General Classification?
Something tells me there would have been a bunch sprint.
General Classification After Stage 2
1. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step
2. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank - 0:02:57
3. Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia - 0:03:07
4. David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Transitions - 0:03:17
5. Lance Armstrong (USA) Team Radioshack - 0:03:19
6. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team - 0:03:20
7. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana - 0:03:24
8. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team Radioshack - 0:03:25
9. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team - 0:03:29
10. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team Milram
With his successful solo effort, Sylvain Chavanel also stamped his name in the record books as a maillot jaune recipient, while teammate Pineau captured this year's first maillot pois-a-rouges.
Jersey Leaders After Stage 2
maillot jaune - Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step
maillot vert - Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step
maillot à pois rouges - Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step
maillot blanc - Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia
Next: Stage 3 - Wanze to Arenberg-Porte du Hainaut (213km)
With seven paved sectors toward the end of the route, this will be the first real sorting out of those looking to take the General Classification competition. Follow our LIVE Tour de France coverage of Stage 3 on LIVESTRONG.com.
Photo: Getty Images