Recently on Cyclingnews.com

Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

95th Tour de France - GT

France, July 5-27, 2008

Main Page    Results & report      Stage Details      Previous Stage   Next Stage

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.

12:59 CEST   
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 going.

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.

13:04 CEST   
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 town.

13:13 CEST   
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 unfolds.

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.

13:19 CEST   
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.

13:21 CEST   
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.

13:26 CEST   
By the way, it was Danny Pate (Garmin) who initiated the move right after race director Christian Prudhomme waved the riders off.

13:32 CEST   
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
Bouygues Telecom 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.

13:50 CEST   
Chavanel and Voeckler didn't actually give up yet. The two are away again and have a gap of about 30 seconds now.

13:52 CEST   
They've passed the intermediate sprint in Camors (km 28.5), but didn't actually sprint for the points.

Another 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.

13:55 CEST   
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).

13:59 CEST   
Voeckler and Chavanel share the work almost equally. Their stomping on the pedals has extended the lead to almost two minutes now.

14:02 CEST   
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.

14:04 CEST   
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...

14:08 CEST   
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.

14:09 CEST   
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!

14:11 CEST   
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.

14:15 CEST   
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.

14:21 CEST   
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.

14:26 CEST   
Two Frenchmen leading the race right now - that makes the spectators along the route cheer...

It looks 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.

14:37 CEST   
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
Meanwhile, the gap has increased further, to 6'30 now.

14:40 CEST   
Unfortunately, it has started to rain again - not much, but a few drops are falling out of those grey clouds.

14:44 CEST   
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 minutes.

Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas) chases back to the bunch after getting a rear wheel change and some assistance from his team car.

14:52 CEST   
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.

14:58 CEST   
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
Fabian Cancellara (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.

15:03 CEST   
Cancellara did stop, eventually, and got a new rear wheel.

15:08 CEST   
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.

15:12 CEST   
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 as possible."

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."

15:18 CEST   
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 and Voeckler.

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.

15:22 CEST   
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!

15:26 CEST   
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.

15:29 CEST   
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 the line.

15:35 CEST   
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
Agritubel launched 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.

15:41 CEST   
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.

15:52 CEST   
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 could stop...

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.

16:01 CEST   
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...

16:05 CEST   
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!

16:07 CEST   
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!

16:11 CEST   
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!

16:17 CEST   
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...

16:23 CEST   
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."

16:28 CEST   
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.

16:29 CEST   
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.

16:32 CEST   
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 still there.

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.

16:35 CEST   
The race is now on a long straight road beside a motorway. That won't help the break. But the riders know their time's up.

Check out some pictures of today stage.

16:37 CEST   
Soler is now riding with Bertogliati, who had crashed. At least they're two and can help each other a bit.

16:40 CEST   
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
Crédit Agricole 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?

16:50 CEST   
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
They're driving along the harbour of Saint-Brieuc. The climb will be next.

16:52 CEST   
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.

16:53 CEST   
13 seconds. Voeckler gives it another dig, while Chavanel attacks!!

16:53 CEST   
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...

16:55 CEST   
Chavanel is going to be swallowed. Cancellara attacks!

16:56 CEST   
There was a crash further behind, while TT World Champ Cancellara powers to the finish. Pozzato is right behind him.

16:56 CEST   
Third is Schumacher. Cancellara has Pippo on his wheel...

16:57 CEST   
But Hushovd came up on the final 200 metres, and overtook Cancellara! The Norwegian takes the win, in front of Kim Kirchen!

16:58 CEST   
Philippe Gilbert is coming in in a second group, probably the victim of that crash.

16:59 CEST   
Gerald Ciolek got third. A good result for Columbia!

17:04 CEST   
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.

17:07 CEST   
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!

Back to top