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Rediff.com  » Sports » Chavanel seizes Tour lead as rain causes havoc

Chavanel seizes Tour lead as rain causes havoc

July 06, 2010 02:35 IST

Sylvain ChavanelSylvain Chavanel's Tour de France chances were nearly ruined by a crash two months ago but more drama on the same Belgian roads gave him the race leader's jersey after the second stage on Monday.

The Frenchman's stage victory and overall lead after a long breakaway were well deserved but the 201-kilometre journey from Brussels really shook up the peloton.

Spa is known for its water but there was far too much on the roads for most riders and a series of crashes involving the leading Tour contenders led the peloton to stage a protest by refusing to sprint to the finish line.

Swiss Fabian Cancellara, the prologue winner and overall leader, went to the car of race technical director Jean-Francois Pescheux to warn him that the bunch would take it easy in the final stages to avoid more crashes.

As a result, Chavanel won by nearly four minutes and now leads Cancellara by two minutes and 57 seconds, an advantage the Frenchman looks capable of holding for some time.

"It goes to show that the wheel can turn quickly in cycling," said Chavanel who was seriously injured two months ago on the same roads in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic.

Cancellara's decision to ask the peloton to relax was largely due to the fact that his team leader Andy Schleck came close to wiping out in a massive pile-up on the descent of the Stockeu climb, 30 kms from the finish line.

LIKE WARFARE

Schleck, runner-up behind Alberto Contador in last year's Tour, clutched his bleeding right arm on the side of the road but was able to start again on a bike belonging to a team mate.

None of the other contenders was spared on roads made slippery by rain and probably oil spills on the tarmac.

Seven-times winner Lance Armstrong and Contador also hit the ground.

"I did crash. I think most of us crashed today. It's bad luck. The road surface was so slippery there was no way to stand on the bike," Armstrong told reporters.

"I have a big bruise on my hip but that's OK. When I made it back on the bike, it was crash after crash after crash. It was like warfare," he added.

Contador's manager Yvon Sanquer said the Spaniard only suffered "scratches."

Shortly after the crash, riders were scattered all over the course but most of the favourites managed to regroup and decided to call for a lull.

"There was something on the road and the end of the course was simply too much. I believe no one wanted to win the Tour because another contender crashed," said Frank Schleck.

"Usually, cycling is competition but today it was solidarity between the main team leaders. I thank them all," he added.

Only one big name dropped out of contention, American Christian Vande Velde finishing 9:49 adrift and heading to hospital for checks.

Amidst all the fuss, Chavanel was left alone to savour his victory and he made it clear he did believe it had been overshadowed by the crashes.

"I think my win owes nothing to the crash. If the peloton decided to relax, it's good for me," he said.

"I believe great Tour riders should be good on all terrains and I'm going to fight to keep this yellow jersey for as long as I can."

Tuesday's 213-km third stage, which includes seven cobbled sections, promises more controversy.

Source:
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