95th Tour de France - GT
France, July 5-27, 2008
Results & report
Stage 2 - Sunday, July 6: Auray - Saint Brieuc, 164.5km
Complete live report
Live commentary by Hedwig Kröner
Once again, the rolling and hilly roads of Brittany will dominate this stage
as it crosses the region from south to north from the Atlantic coast to that
of the English Channel. Like yesterday's stage, the course features a number
of small climbs including the third category Mûr-de-Bretagne. The sprinters'
teams will be keen to deliver their fast-men to the finish line first; so a
breakaway win here will be difficult.
Auray hosts the Tour for the
first time, although it did host the start of last year's Hexagonal VTT (the
MTB equivalent of the Tour). The town is situated on the coast of the southern
Brittany department of Morbihan. It has a pretty harbour and is filled with
atmospheric and narrow cobbled streets.
Saint-Brieuc has been a stage
town ten times before, most recently in 2004 when Italian Filippo Pozzato (then
Fassa Bortolo, now Liquigas) out-sprinted his two Spanish breakaway companions
Iker Flores (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears-Banesto).
This part of Brittany has the births of both of cycling's Hinaults to its credit:
Bernard, the five-time Tour de France winner, was born seven-kilometre away,
and Crédit Agricole rider Sébastien was born in the town 20 years later – they
are not related.
Hello and welcome back to the premium
event of the cycling year, the Tour de France. After yesterday's opening stage,
we're back in Brittany to follow the second day of the race, which looks like
it might be as hectic and dangerous as the first day. The profile certainly
features some bumps along the road which could see some successful attacks get
Moreover, with the Atlantic coast not too far away, there
are some crosswinds that will make life difficult for the riders. It's currently
a mild 18° Celsius at the start in Auray, with a few clouds up in the sky that
look like they could release some water on the peloton sometime through the
stage. Let's hope the roads keep dry.
Yesterday evening, riders were
absolutely exhausted from the speed and nervousness of the first stage. Without
a prologue and time bonuses, the prospect of the Yellow Jersey seemed open to
the entire peloton or nearly. Several crashes were the consequence, and to avoid
crashing, riders tried to race as much to the front of the bunch as possible,
which made everything still more dangerous. The wind and the speed (almost 43
km/h) provided for a very demanding stage.
We can expect that same
scenario all over again today. There are, again, four categorized climbs and
a finish atop a hill in Sain-Brieuc, even though that climb does not look quite
as difficult as the Côte de Cadoual in Plumelec yesterday. Maybe the sprinter's
teams will have more luck today and be able to keep the field together until
the line - we shall see.
The field has gathered before the
start line in Auray and is now being sent off on the city course before heading
North towards Saint-Brieuc. Official start is at 13.15pm on the outskirts of
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
is proudly wearing his Yellow Jersey as the caravan moves through the crowds.
For him, this Tour is already a success. He would like to maintain (or re-conquer)
the jersey later in the race, but observers have noticed that his form may be
a little too good for the beginning of the Tour, and could decline as the race
The Green Jersey is worn by Philippe Gilbert (FDJ), who
missed victory by a hair yesterday. Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues) has the Polkadot
Jersey, conquered only by a better finish placing in front of Björn Schröder
(Milram). The Frenchman is being cheered on by his compatriots. Finally, there
is Riccardo Ricco in the White Jersey - a controversial character that sticks
out of the bunch for his loose tongue.
The General Classification is still
very tight. Valverde only has one second advantage over about a dozen riders,
including the likes of 2007 Tour runner-up Cadel Evans, the mentioned Ricco,
Frank Schleck (SCS), David Millar (Garmin), etc... and seven seconds on over
30 riders, equally prominent. But expect Valverde to defend his jersey, as the
stage finish today resembles that of yesterday. His team just needs to make
sure that he is not trapped if the crosswinds break up the bunch into pieces,
which could happen.
Riders are off! And immediately,
a handful of early kamikazes go for a break. They go off like rockets, again.
13:24 CEST 6km/158.5km to go
The Côte de Bieuzy-Lanvaux
(Cat. 4) will be the first difficulty of the day, waiting for the peloton in
about 18 kilometres. Jens Voigt (CSC) and Bernhard Eisel (Columbia) are in the
break, but they don't get a significant gap at the moment.
By the way, it was Danny Pate (Garmin)
who initiated the move right after race director Christian Prudhomme waved the
The break is now down to three riders:
German champ Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), CN diarist Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis)
and Murilo Fischer (Liquigas). Gomez (Saunier), Gutierrez (Caisse) and the others
have sat up. 13 kilometres raced.
13:37 CEST 17km/147.5km to go
is taking over the chase on the front of the bunch. They don't want the trio
to get away.
13:42 CEST 20km/144.5km to go
The three leaders
now approach the first climb of the day. It doesn't surprise us to see Chavanel
in front today. Still, we wonder if it's such a good idea to aim for a day-long
breakaway, instead of attacking later on. 160 kilometres in front use up a lot
of energy, and on a stage like this one, the bunch could quite possibly come
back on a breakaway.
13:46 CEST 23km/141.5km to go
On top of the Côte,
Chavanel takes three points, followed by Voeckler and... Björn Schröder (Milram)!
The fight over the Polkadot jersey continues.
The bunch reeled the
attackers back in on the climb. The field is all together again.
Chavanel and Voeckler didn't actually
give up yet. The two are away again and have a gap of about 30 seconds now.
They've passed the intermediate sprint
in Camors (km 28.5), but didn't actually sprint for the points.
important information is that on the climb, last year's winner of the Mountains
Jersey Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) was at the rear end of the bunch... He might
have taken the start again today after injuring his hand yesterday, but things
don't look good for him at the moment.
At the sprint, Chavanel passed in
first position, followed of course by Voeckler. 35 seconds later, the last two
points were taken by Robert Hunter (Barloworld).
Voeckler and Chavanel share the work
almost equally. Their stomping on the pedals has extended the lead to almost
two minutes now.
Caisse is leading the chase. They
apparently do not want to lose the yellow jersey. Does Valverde really want
to defend it all the way to Paris? Tony Rominger won the Giro d'Italia that
way in the 90's and said afterwards that it had shortened his career... It's
stressful to do a start-finish victory.
Valverde is pretty yellow today.
The helmet, the gloves, the shorts, the jersey, of course. Just to make sure,
he is also wearing a Lance Armstrong bracelet. The only thing that is not quite
yellow is the bike. He is using the same one as he did yesterday, so it is yellow
and red. It is meant to remind everyone he is the Spanish champion, but of course
a bit of yellow.
14:06 CEST 41.5km/123km to go
The Cofidis riders
are close to the front. Most of them are laughing. Is it because they are sharing
a joke or is it just the fact that team-mate Chavanel is up the road, now almost
three minutes ahead...
Chavanel and polka dot Voeckler are
getting close to the Côte de Kergroix (km 43). That means more points for the
Frenchman. One more kilometre to the top.
We see Koos Moerenhout (Rabobank)
and Johan Van Summeren (Silence-Lotto) near the back. Van Summeren's team-mate,
Robbie McEwen, is now dropping back to the team car. He has to change bikes!
Voeckler grabs a bite to eat, as
the leading duo approaches the top. Again, there are lots of people out. The
sun also has returned.
Voeckler passes the line ahead of Chavanel,
who doesn't put up a fight, unlike last time. Truce between the French, so Schröder
gets further behind in the mountains classification.
14:12 CEST 43km/121.5km to go
The gap is already
up to 3'45 now.
McEwen is returning to the bunch.
He is on his own this Tour. No team-mates for the flying Aussie, it's everything
for Evans. Will McEwen win a stage anyway? He is not as dependent on a train
than other sprinters, so you can never count him out.
14:17 CEST 48.5km/116km to go
The bunch passes
some beautiful medieval chateaus along the way.
Mark Cavendish (Columbia)
got a quick wheel change, a team-mate is bringing him back to the bunch.
It's all Caisse d'Epargne colours
at the front of the bunch, but they're just controlling the pace now. The gap
for the leading duo is up to 4'30.
We're already anticipating Sylvain
Chavanel's diary entry this evening! Usually, he sends it in after massage &
dinner, at about 9.30pm. He's eating a brioche-like piece of pastry now.
Two Frenchmen leading the race right
now - that makes the spectators along the route cheer...
like the first rider of the Caisse d'Epargne's, leading out the bunch, is whistling
a happy tune right now! After a quick and nervous start, the riders are able
to catch their breaths.
We talked to Mark Cavendish this
morning at the start. The Columbia rider felt confident that today could turn
out in a bunch sprint in the finish. "Today is a better stage for the sprinters.
Hopefully things go well for us," he said before taking the start. "I've definitely
gained confidence after my two Giro wins," Cavendish added.
14:38 CEST 63.5km/101km to go
gap has increased further, to 6'30 now.
Unfortunately, it has started to
rain again - not much, but a few drops are falling out of those grey clouds.
We also talked to Baden Cooke (Barloworld)
at the start in Auray three hours ago. The Australian hoped for some more wind.
"I'd really like it if the wind got stronger," he said. "More crosswind! That
way, my rivals might get tired or we have a chance of distancing them."
The wind is currently blowing at about 25 km/h from the west.
14:47 CEST 68.5km/96km to go
Voeckler has a problem
with his shoe... no, it looks fine now. He just strapped it tighter as the two
are speeding down a descent.
The gap is slowly coming down now. Six
Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas) chases back to the bunch
after getting a rear wheel change and some assistance from his team car.
The leading duo are now in Pontivy,
riding along a river. Lots of people are out to cheer them on. The French still
love their Tour, no matter what!
Their lead is down to 5'22, however.
Green jersey Philippe Gilbert (FDJ)
wants another podium appearance tonight. He just sprinted for the points as
the bunch came into Pontivy, and successfully so.
15:01 CEST 79.5km/85km to go
(CSC) is being assisted by his mechanic out of the team car. He had a problem
with his rear wheel brake - it's fixed now.
The sky is still grey,
but it's stopped dripping at least.
Cancellara did stop, eventually,
and got a new rear wheel.
Erratum: Gilbert still lacks three
points to take the Green Jersey he is only borrowing from race leader Alejandro
Valverde (Caisse). Gilbert has 32, and Valverde 35 points at the moment.
Gilbert would have to catch the break before the last intermediate sprint today,
but this is already coming up in about 20 kilometres. Still, he will be wearing
the jersey tomorrow again, but no podium appearance tonight...
15:09 CEST 85.5km/79km to go
The gap has dropped
under four minutes now. Up the road, there are more grey clouds to come, unfortunately.
Cyclingnews also passed by
the Garmin-Chipotle team bus this morning. Danny Pate told us that he was impressed
with the crowds on the first day, but that he was waiting for the effect it
would have on him in a few days' time. "There's more people than at the Giro,"
he said. "It was quite something yesterday, but if this is like it's going to
be every day, then that's another story!"
Pate is basically Christian
Vandevelde's domestique at the race. "If ever he needs anything, like a helmet,
glasses... my aim at the Tour is to stay close to him all the time, for as long
Vandevelde himself felt good after the first day of
racing. "The Giro was great for my morale," he said. "Even if I was there mostly
for training. At the Tour, my objective is to go as far as possible on GC. Apart
from that, of course we want a stage win - whether that's for me to take of
for one of my team-mates makes no difference."
The race is coming up to the Mur
de Bretagne (Cat. 3). The scenario is unchanged: Caisse d'Epargne controls the
pace as the bunch is slowly but steadily reeling in the two breakaways, Chavanel
They've arrived at the feed zone. An Agritubel rider
crashed! It's Nicolas Jalabert. He was riding just behind a CSC rider, who grabbed
his food bag, had to swerve and touched Jalabert's front wheel, which made the
Frenchman come down. Sh*t happens... The brother of Nicolas is back on his bike
though, he doesn't seem injured.
Chavanel and Voeckler hit the Mur
de Bretagne. The narrow road is packed with fans, flags and PMU hands. Chavanel
leads up. It's quite steep as the name suggests. No cobbles, though!
Voeckler looks to come around Chavanel
at the KOM points but doesn't. Rather odd - we thought he would try and get
as many mountain points as possible, and that Chavanel would let him.
Sorry to have to inform you that it's drizzling again. Riders are getting their
rain jackets out of their back pockets.
Two Agritubel riders jump out of
the bunch on the Mur. It's Christophe Moreau! The former French champ takes
the last point at the KOM. They sit up, of course, just after having passed
After the Côte de Saint-Mayeux (Cat.
4), the last categorized climb today, Voeckler has 19 mountain points, compared
to Chavanel, who has 11. Voeckler passed the KOM in front, this time, and will
be wearing the Polkadot Jersey again tomorrow.
15:38 CEST 102.5km/62km to go
a chase with David Lelay and Moreau trying to bridge up to the leaders. They
are now at 1'20 between the bunch and the duo, Lelay leading out Moreau as fast
as he can. The gap between the peloton and the leaders is 3'40.
Voeckler punctured! But he got a
quick change and is now back with Chavanel.
15:45 CEST 106.5km/58km to go
The leaders are
waiting for the Agritubel riders, who are now only 50 seconds away from the
front, with the bunch still over three minutes behind.
Lelay is doing
a good job for his leader, taking him all the way.
15:48 CEST 108.5km/56km to go
Lelay and Moreau
made it. They are four riders now in front. They may have a better chance of
making it to the finish now, but the bunch is still only three minutes behind.
Caisse d'Epargne is now getting a hand from FDJ in the chase.
David Lelay is a local boy from Brittany.
People love him here, so he will enjoy his time in the break. If only that drizzle
Voeckler is starting to bite his teeth. The front group
hits the gas now, as the bunch is closing in at 2'38. The course is constantly
up and down and winding. That will give the leaders an advantage.
Moreau is doing a good amount of
the lead work in the breakaway now. The Frenchman is eager for success again
as his team wasn't invited to the Dauphiné Libéré this year, although he won
the event last year.
The gap, at the moment, is stable around 2'30
minutes. With almost 50 kilometres to go, you might agree with us that this
not a huge advantage for the French quartet...
But the French have had some international
victories this year, compared to the last few years. Chavanel is on a roll,
notably, and so is AG2R's Cyril Dessel, back from illness. So the "Grande Nation"
has reason to be hopeful for at least one French win on the Tour.
Francaise des Jeux is still collaborating with Caisse d'Epargne in the front
of the bunch, probably hoping that Philippe Gilbert beats Alejandro Valverde
this time at the finish. There won't be any time bonuses, though!
Climber Rémy Di Gregorio (FDJ) is
doing a fair amount of the chasing. If he doesn't crash out like last year,
we will be seeing him again in the high mountains, where he wants to honour
his reputation as the next Richard Virenque - although he doesn't like to be
compared to the former Festina rider!
With 40 kilometres to go, the gap
is down to 2'05. The rain has stopped for the moment. The front group is racing
through Saint-Pever now, another one of these small Breton villages, constructed
with solid grey rocks that will resist any weather. They'd better!
Four years ago, the last time a Tour
stage finished in saint-Brieuc, it was Filippo Pozzato who took the victory.
He was racing his first Tour de France, 22 years old at the time. He attacked
on the final climb and prevented a bunch sprint - this could happen again today.
16:20 CEST 131.5km/33km to go
Only 1'30 minutes
between the leaders and the FDJ-driven bunch now. The four Frenchmen will definitely
be caught before the finish, but will we see any other attacks in the finale?
Stay tuned to find out...
Still, a bunch sprint in Saint-Brieuc
is possible. This morning, Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé talked with the
Spanish sprinter from the Rabobank team, Oscar Freire, who was expected to perform
well in the uphill sprint near Plumelec. "Yesterday I simply wasn't good enough
to battle for the victory. I'm not in my best shape, but hopefully my form will
be improving," Freire said.
When asked how the team supported him
for the sprint the Spanish sprinter from Torrelavega explained that he didn't
need many team-mates to do well. "I've got Flecha to bring me to the front."
The bunch is strung out now, as the
sun comes out again. Philippe Gilbert, all in green, gets some instructions
from his team director via the radio. It looks like the riders more to the back
have trouble hanging on now, as the speed has been high from the beginning of
the race, but is really getting going now.
Rubens Bertogliati (Saunier)
crashed in a roundabout. He is alongside his team car now.
Mauricio Soler has dropped to the
back of the bunch, too. He's suffering, trying to hold on but he's being passed
by team cars already.
Soler's hand is nicely strapped,
but that doesn't take away the pain. Now that Quick Step has engaged in the
chase, too, things are getting serious.
The break is still working
away desperately. Voeckler has some trouble when the road goes uphill, but he's
16:33 CEST 144.5km/20km to go
With 20 kilometres
to go, the bunch rides at one minute from the break. Soler has already lost
two minutes, and he is on his own.
The race is now on a long straight
road beside a motorway. That won't help the break. But the riders know their
Check out some
pictures of today stage.
Soler is now riding with Bertogliati,
who had crashed. At least they're two and can help each other a bit.
When the Tour last had a stage finish
in St-Brieuc, Team CSC-Saxo Bank director Scott Sunderland finished ninth. LeTour.fr
did some research into other former riders who are now calling the shots as
directeurs sportif and found out who else was in the race four years ago: The
next best DS in the seventh stage of 2004 was Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (now
working for Euskaltel) who was 56th. Rolf Aldag (now working for Columbia) was
132nd and Erik Dekker (now DS at Rabobank) was last - 176th.
16:44 CEST 152.5km/12km to go
Still 54 seconds
for the lead group, which is working really well together. The gap is not coming
down as fast as we expected, although the bunch is driving hard.
16:46 CEST 157.5km/7km to go
Voeckler, who wore
the Yellow Jersey for ten days in the Tour 2005, is in fourth position all the
time, now, grinning in pain. At least it's not raining anymore. 38 seconds!
This will be a tight finish.
16:49 CEST 159.5km/5km to go
has also engaged in the chase now, for Thor Hushovd. There's FDJ, Quick Step,
Liquigas riders all working very hard to bring down the gap. Will the climbers
like Moreau and Chavanel have enough juice left in their legs to resist the
bunch in the final ascent up into Sain-Brieuc?
Lelay gives it everything he has
in front, ducked deep on his handlebars. Still 30 seconds. The riders are inside
the barriers now.
16:51 CEST 161km/3.5km to go
along the harbour of Saint-Brieuc. The climb will be next.
22 seconds as they hit the climb.
Lelay is leading out, but all four are digging deep. Voeckler looks back, but
there's still nothing.
13 seconds. Voeckler gives it another
dig, while Chavanel attacks!!
Chavanel is in aero position as he
is almost over the top. Moreau tried to go with him, but failed. What an attack!
16:54 CEST 163km/1.5km to go
Lelay is caught.
Chavanel has six seconds over the bunch. Sanchez is bringing on Valverde...
Chavanel is going to be swallowed.
There was a crash further behind,
while TT World Champ Cancellara powers to the finish. Pozzato is right behind
Third is Schumacher. Cancellara has
Pippo on his wheel...
But Hushovd came up on the final
200 metres, and overtook Cancellara! The Norwegian takes the win, in front of
Philippe Gilbert is coming in in
a second group, probably the victim of that crash.
Gerald Ciolek got third. A good result
Gilbert should be keeping his second
place on GC, as the crash occurred within the final three kilometres. But this
is to be confirmed.
Soler and Bertogliati come into the finish now,
7 minutes later. But they've made it.
That's all from us here in Saint-Brieuc
today. Watch out for the full results, report and photos coming up soon on Cyclingnews,
and we hope you'll be back tomorrow for our Live coverage of stage three from
Saint-Malo to Nantes. Thanks for reading and Au revoir!
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