Andre Greipel of Team Columbia won the rain-soaked mass sprint in the second stage of the Eneco Tour for his tenth win of the year. The German beat out Juan Jose Haedo (CSC) and Robert Förster (Gerolsteiner) in a close dash to the line. Jose Ivan Gutierrez of Caisse d'Epargne held on to his overall lead, but only just, as Columbia's Edvald Boassan Hagen pulled even with him on time through the intermediate sprints.
"I've lost count of how many sprints Andre has won this year," said Columbia Directeur Sportif Tristan Hoffman. "He dominated the Tour Down Under in Australia and has won another ProTour stage here. He and all the team were good today. John Devine and Servais Knaven worked with other teams to chase the break and then the boys dominated the sprint. There were two lead out trains: Columbia and Liquigas for Bennati but we were the fastest yet again."
Gutierrez now leads Boassan Hagen by a mere 16 hundredths of a second, the advantage he had in the opening prologue. "That's close and so perhaps we can get the lead in the next few days. However, we don't want to wear out the team and then lose the race by several minutes. We're going to ride smart," said Hoffman.
An escape group formed early with David Deroo (Skil Shimano), Artur Gajek (Milram), Matthé Pronk (Cycle Collstrop), Ermanno Capelli (Scott) and Javier Aramendia Lorente (Euskaltel). They built up a lead of up to four and a half minutes. As the peloton finally caught up with them, Gajek refused to give up and stayed away as a solo for a few more kilometers before finally being overtaken.
How it unfolded
The peloton set out under a cloudy sky again, this time without Gianni Meersman of Francaise des Jeux. Underway, both Andre Steensen of CSC and Nicolas Crosbie of Bouygues Telecom climbed off their bikes.
The riders must have anticipated the heavy rains which were to set in, as they got off to a fast start. Only after 53 kilometres was a group of five able to get away.
David Deroo (Skil-Shimano), Artur Gajek (Team Milram), Matthé Pronk (Cycle Collstrop), Ermanno Capelli (Scott) and Javier Aramandia Lorente (Euskaltel-Euskadi) built up a lead of up to four and minutes. The 23 year-old Gajek was the best placed in the group, only 17 seconds down in the overall ranking, so he wore the "virtual" leader's jersey much of the day.
As the rains set in, the group's lead came down. Silence-Lotto led the charge to catch them. Underway, Gerben Löwik of Rabobank tried to get away, but was quickly caught up again. Kevin Hulsman moved to the front of the pack with 40 km to go to help set up a mass sprint for his Quick Step team-mate Tom Boonen, who won the previous day.
With only ten kilometres to go, the peloton finally caught the escapees, but Gajek wasn't ready to admit defeat, and took off by himself. Two kilometres later, though, he too was caught by the fast-flying (and wet) peloton.
Daniele Bennati, who finished second in the first stage, was brought up to the front by his Liquigas team-mates, but on this day the Italian was not able to get to the front, as Greipel took the win ahead of Haedo and Förster.