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Rabobank and Quick.Step proved that short stages aren't easy stages, as they combined to ride a 40...
Rabobank and Quick.Step proved that short stages aren't easy stages, as they combined to ride a 40 km team time trial to the base of the only climb in stage 2. The stage, which was shortened from 191 km to 46.5 km due to the bad weather, was ridden at a cracking average speed of 52.13 km/h, and saw numerous small splits in the peloton by the finish. For the second time in two days, Belgian Tom Boonen showed that he is the sprinter in form by making it over the climb in 15th place, keeping his cool on the descent, and launching himself off Kevin Hulsmans' wheel with 200m to go to win the stage. CSC's Kurt-Asle Arvesen was second, ahead of a better looking Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery), who lost over four minutes yesterday due to a crash.
The race lead fell into Boonen's hands after he captured a 10 second time bonus at the finish. That put Erik Dekker (Rabobank) into second overall, although the wily Dutchman grabbed another 3 seconds bonus at the day's only intermediate sprint to distance himself slightly from Jens Voigt. The latter tried to attack on the last climb, but was caught at the summit and found himself too far back on the descent to factor in the final kick. Indeed, he lost 3 seconds to Dekker after being caught behind a small split.
"It was very hard stage," said Boonen after the finish. "Very nervous, very fast, and with the climb in the final it wasn't so easy to stay in front all day. We had a very strong Quick.Step team today and we could control the race with Marc Lotz, Kevin Hulsmans and Michael Rogers to do the descent in the last few kilometres. All I had to do was my sprint."
Boonen added that the leader's jersey was "more like a bonus. It wasn't an objective. Tomorrow is another chance [for a stage win]. But when we hit the mountains it'll be over."
Tomorrow's third stage from Thiers to Le Chambon-sur-Lignon (174km) could also be shortened or even cancelled because of the weather. Cyclingnews' Tim Maloney reported that snow was falling on Tuesday evening as he was driving along the parcours. The organisers will make their decision tomorrow morning about whether to race.