2012 Tour de France; Stage 2- Greipel groans, Cavendish crushes…
Well, it’s official; Cavendish is still the fastest sprinter in the Tour and is clearly ready for the Olympics.
Today’s stage was another tense affair, but it looked as if Lotto were going to deliver Greipel to a fantastic sprint win. The Lotto lads set Greipel up seemingly perfectly, although they allowed Cavendish to cling to Andre’s rear tire like a tick on a bloodhound. Greipel launched his sprint off of his final leadout man, Greg Henderson, after the team had decimated the rest of the sprint trains. It was almost immediately clear that the sprint would be won by the World Champion as he matched Greipel pedal stroke, for pedal stroke before accelerating with ease out of the big German’s wake in the final meters. Greipel banged his bars in frustration and Matthew Goss claimed third behind the two, swerving from behind the battling pair- clearly he’s got the speed as well.
Lotto did the lion’s share of the work in the closing kilometers as they prepared to serve Greipel the win, but instead it was Cavendish who relished the victory meal. Lotto deserves applause for their effort, even if it did not end the way they wished. Greipel was quite simply beaten by a better sprinter… who happens to be the World Champion and best sprinter in the peloton at the moment. The only thing that might have saved Greipel’s chances would have been to have somebody riding sweep on his rear wheel to prevent Cavendish from benefiting from their hard work. That said, the speed at the finish was so intense that positioning another rider on Greipel’s wheel would’ve been nearly impossible anyway.
Peter Sagan, who obviously fancied his chances and was willing to give it a try in the sprint with the dedicated speedsters, managed to finish the day in the green points jersey… but was given a proper lesson in “real sprinting” and finished 6th… still ahead of pure sprinters like Farrar and Haedo, among others. The young man obviously has the legs to contend, but he’ll need more experience in mass sprints and a bit more speed.
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful with a long break hogging the TV time again. GC contenders mostly kept their noses clean and remained out of trouble. Cancellara remains in yellow and Wiggins, Evans, Hesjedal et al hold their places as well. Tony Martin and Luis-Leon Sanchez both rode and finished, though they were dropped from the field in the closing hectic kilometers. Both riders were seen with wrists in casts/ braces and surely were in crazy amounts of pain- especially since the UCI and the doping controls only allow minimal medications to be used, even for injuries.
Tomorrow will be a similar stage to yesterday’s, with rolling climbs near the finish that will put the hurt to many legs. The climbs are short and steep, as is the norm in the region, and they come fast and furious at the end of the stage. It’s still possible that the stage could end in a bunch sprint… but it’s more suited to the likes of Sagan, Boasson Hagen, Gilbert… and even Cancellara. It’ll be a nervous ending to another stage with so much action coming at the end… expect more fireworks (also known as crashes) in the closing kilometers as more fighting takes place for positioning. Now might be a good time to buy stock in Band-Aid®…