LES ESSARTS, France (VN) — Garmin-Cervélo finally won its first stage in a Tour de France on Sunday, claiming victory in the stage-2 team time trial and putting world champion Thor Hushovd into the race leader’s yellow jersey.
Hushovd began the day wearing the polka-dot kit of the mountains leader — which actually belonged to then-race leader Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), who after his victory in stage 1 also owned the green and yellow jerseys.
“I’m proud to have it on, even if it’s not my jersey. It’s a good experience,” said Hushovd.
But he was even happier to have the yellow, and to help his team finally collect that long-sought-after maiden stage win.
“This is a great victory for the team. It’s one thing to win to be on the podium alone, but it’s great for morale to have the entire team to enjoy this victory,” said Hushovd. “I am very happy to have this yellow jersey. To trade the rainbow jersey for the yellow jersey is something special.”
And it was a close thing, too. Cadel Evans — also wearing a jersey borrowed from Gilbert, the green — led his BMC squad across the line for second on the day, just four seconds slower than Garmin … and just one second short of the yellow.
The last shall start first
The 23km team time trial here saw defending champion Alberto Contador’s last-placed Saxo Bank-Sungard squad start first, raging off the line, shedding riders almost immediately and finishing with the minimum five men, posting a time of 25 minutes, 16 seconds.
The course was mostly flat but windswept, especially toward the finish, and peppered with plenty of corners to keep riders on their toes. Spectators lined the roadside, and as far as is known they all kept well out of the riders’ way — unlike the oblivious fan who caused the decisive pileup in stage 1 that put Contador, Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Samuel Sanchez and others into a deep, 80-second hole.
Saxo Bank’s time held until Rabobank blitzed the course in 25:00, roaring through the 9km intermediate time check at 58.9kph (36.6 mph), three seconds better than Contador’s team. The Rabos were still three seconds quicker at the 16.5km time check and only got faster in the final kilometers, hitting the line 16 seconds faster than Saxo Bank.
Julian Dean led Garmin-Cervélo onto the course, with Dave Zabriskie in his Captain America national-champion’s kit and Hushovd in polka dots.
The Argyle Armada hit the first time check seven seconds quicker than Rabobank, but paid a price for the pace — Dean had already lost contact.
Garmin grabs the lead
Garmin was 14 seconds better than Rabobank at the second time check, but the squad was also down to six men with 2km to go. No matter — the survivors hit the line in 24:48 to claim the hot seat with 13 teams yet to finish.
Geraint Thomas (Sky), who finished sixth in Saturday’s messy opener, started the TTT in the white jersey of best young rider, hoping to pull on the yellow at the end of the stage.
And Sky got off to a swift start, bettering Garmin’s time at the first checkpoint by a single second, but shedding Xabier Zandio and Christian Knees in the process. But the British outfit was four seconds slower at the second check, and they would finish in 24:52 — not good enough to let Thomas change his kit.
HTC-Highroad had an unfortunate beginning — Bernhard Eisel slid out in a left-hand corner shortly after the start, leaving the squad a man down almost instantly.
RadioShack was off to a poor start, too, crossing just fifth best at the first time check and a full 15 seconds down at the second. But they recovered on the backside of the course to slot into third for the moment. HTC displaced them shortly thereafter, with Leopard-Trek, BMC and Omega Pharma-Lotto yet to finish.
“It’s always a goal for us to win the TT. Garmin is strong, too, and today they were better than us,” said Levi Leipheimer. “It was a hard course, with wind, heat, I felt good and I think we made a pretty good race. It keeps us in strong position on the GC, so that’s the most important.”
World time-trial champion Fabian Cancellara led Leopard-Trek onto the course and to third at the first time check, seven seconds slower than Sky at that point despite Fränk Schleck skipping his turns.
But the world champion’s team could manage only third at the finish — and they wouldn’t hold onto it.
BMC nearly steals the show
BMC was having a good ride early on, too, hoping to push second-placed Evans into yellow at day’s end. But they had shed two men en route to the second time check — and at the finish, BMC hit the line just four seconds slower than Garmin, good enough for second on the day, but meaning that Hushovd was in yellow by a single second over Evans, who started the day three seconds behind. Garmin’s David Millar displaced the Aussie in second as Evans slipped to third overall.
“It’s something we dream of, so it’s something special to achieve it,” said Millar of his team’s triumph. “The emotion is much stronger to share this as a team. We’ve worked so hard for this. Everything went perfect for us.”
Gilbert was in yellow skinsuit and helmet as Omega Pharma rolled down the ramp. But he’d be wearing a lesser garment on Monday — his team was just 16th at the first time check, and while they rallied to finish 10th, Gilbert’s time in yellow had come to an end.
Meanwhile, defending champ Contador had slipped back a bit as well. After his squad wound up eighth on the day the Saxo Bank captain now sits 75th at 1:42 behind the new race leader, whose boss was content to have finally collected that long-coveted stage win — even if it meant getting hoisted aloft on the podium as his riders celebrated the victory.
“We will take this Tour day by day, that’s what we said from the start,” said Jonathan Vaughters. “Today we have the yellow jersey, we’ll see if we can defend it; we’ll see if we can win the stage. Yesterday went badly, but today went great. That’s the Tour.”
And Contador had yet to throw in the towel despite a tough start to his title defense.
“My opponents are still ahead of me in the GC and I might not even be the biggest favorite to win overall anymore, but there’s a long way to Paris and we will do everything to gain time to get back,” he said.
Andrew Hood, Patrick O’Grady and Agence France Presse contributed to this report. Stay tuned for an expanded report, video, complete results and photos from stage 2 of the 2011 Tour de France.
- 1. Garmin-Cervelo, 24:48
- 2. BMC Racing Team, at 0:04
- 3. Sky, at 0:04
- 4. Leopard-Trek, at 0:05
- 5. HTC-Highroad, at 0:05
- 6. Radioshack, at 0:10
- 7. Rabobank, at 0:12
- 8. Saxo Bank-Sungard, at 0:28
- 9. Astana, at 0:32
- 10. Omega Pharma-Lotto, at 0:39
- 1. Thor Hushovd, Team Garmin-Cervelo, 5:06:25
- 2. David Millar, Team Garmin-Cervelo, same time
- 3. Cadel Evans, BMC Racing Team, at 0:01
- 4. Geraint Thomas, Sky Procycling, at 0:04
- 5. Linus Gerdemann, Team Leopard-Trek, at 0:04
- 6. Frank Schleck, Team Leopard-Trek, at 0:04
- 7. Fabian Cancellara, Team Leopard-Trek, at 0:04
- 8. Boasson Hagen Edvald, Sky Procycling, at 0:04
- 9. Manuel Quinziato, BMC Racing Team, at 0:04
- 10. Andy Schleck, Team Leopard-Trek, at 0:04