Cerv?lo TestTeam’s Thor Hushovd steered clear of a late crash and sprinted to an encouraging fourth place in Sunday’s 187km second stage from Monaco to Brignoles in the 2009 Tour de France.
A crash in the closing kilometer disrupted Cerv?lo’s efforts to set up Hushovd, but the big Norwegian recovered to just miss the podium in a hot stage when temperatures climbed to nearly 40C. Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish won while overnight leader Fabian Cancellara retained the yellow jersey as there were no major shakeups in the overall standings.
"We had our strategy for the sprint to come from behind the Columbia train. They were very strong again today and we decided to wait until the final kilometers. There was a crash and we lost each other. Some of us went left, others had to brake. The crash lost us everything in the end," Hushovd said. "Tomorrow is another day and we will try. It’s very warm, but it was OK for me. I prefer when it’s 15C cooler, but I had to fight through it."
Four riders peeled away early in the hilly march across southern France, but the peloton reeled them in to set up the first mass sprint of the 96th edition of the Tour.
Riders were bumping shoulders in the intense, high-speed fight for position in the closing kilometers, which inevitably led to a crash that sent Cerv?lo’s Andreas Klier skittering to the ground. Hayden Roulston also went down in a pileup earlier in the stage, but neither rider was injured and both were able to finish the stage.
"It was pretty hectic in the finale, but that’s normal. It’s the first sprint in the Tour and everyone wants to be at the front. Everyone is fresh, they have a lot of power, but there were some people taking some unnecessary risks. You don’t have to risk your life. There was a crash in the end and we lost our position," said Cerv?lo’s top leadout man, Heinrich Haussler. "There were six riders clear and I had to pull Thor up there, but it was a bit unlucky today. Tomorrow is another chance. . It was brutal heat out there. I couldn’t get enough drinks down. I was getting goose bumps with so much heat. I was almost feeling cold."
Cerv?lo team captain Carlos Sastre finished safely in the pack and avoided trouble in the hot, tense stage.
"Today’s stage was hard, taxing, with a lot of heat, with temperatures of 42C. I was well-protected by my teammates and I didn’t suffer any sort of setback or lose time, which is the most important," Sastre said. "The most important thing in days like these is to rest, recover well and, until the next challenge, which is the team time trial, not lose any options."
The 96th Tour continues Monday with the 196.5km third stage from Marseille to La Grande-Motte. Other than two minor fourth-category climbs in the first half of the stage across the Rhone delta, the stage is nearly pancake flat, giving Cerv?lo another shot at winning a stage with Hushovd.
After leaving the bustling port city of Marseille, the route rolls northwest across the Bouche du Rhone before crossing the famous river at Arles. The peloton will then trek across the lush flats of the Carmague, where crosswinds can be a threat, before storming into the beach town of La Grande-Motte for what will likely be a mass sprint.