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A custom stars-and-stripes machine for the triple national champion
Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of Tour de France stage two.
The riders have just started the stage. They departed from Monaco today, the place where Fabian Cancellara won stage one and took the race leader's yellow jersey. He is wearing the jersey today.
Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) is in the green jersey of points leader, Alberto Contador (Astana) in the mountains jersey and Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) in the young rider's white jersey.
The riders have alrady left Monaco and entered France. Just a moment ago they crossed over the top of the La Turbie climb.
Tony Martin (Columbia-HTC) led Markus Fothen (Milram), Laurent Lefèvre (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) and Leonardo Duque (Cofidis) over the top.
Martin now has six points in the mountains classification.
Spaniard Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) tried an attack, but it was pulled back. We now see a move of four going free, which contains Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux).
Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux) is joined by Stef Clement (Rabobank), Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis). German Champion Fabian Wegmann (Milram) is chasing them.
The race travels to the medieval city of Brignoles today. There are four climbs today: La Turbie, Côte de Roquefort-les-Pins, Côte de Tournon and Col de l'Ange.
There are two sprint points along the route. One is approaching now, in Nice, and the second is at kilometre 138, Lorgues.
Fabian Wegmann (Milram) is back with maillot jaune group.
Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux), Stef Clement (Rabobank), Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) lead the race by 34 seconds.
The best rider in the escape is Dutchman Stef Clement (Rabobank). He started the day 1:26 down on maillot jaune Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank).
The four lead by 2:28.
Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) took the sprint in Nice over Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) and Stef Clement (Rabobank). He took six points and will eat into Cancellara's points lead.
Points at the start of the day...
1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank 15
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 12
3 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream 10
Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux), Stef Clement (Rabobank), Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) lead the race by 2:58.
Saxo Bank leads the group, 3:07 behind the front four.
Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux) started the escape at kilometre 13.5.
The riders are now facing the second of the day's four climbs, the Côte de Roquefort-les-Pins.
Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux) was ninth overall in the Tour Down Under stage race in January. Last month, he placed 36th in the Tour de Suisse. His last win was the 2008 Finland Championships.
Lance Armstrong (Astana) is back at the Tour de France after four years.
"I think we can try to ride smart and conservative. Not worry too much, because the next big appointment is the team time trial. These are tricky, hot and hilly roads," he said this morning.
Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step) fell early in today's stage, but he is still with the other 179 riders that started the 96th Tour de France.
Astana leads the team competition. Its riders have yellow back numbers.
Stef Clement (Rabobank) raises the tempo up the climb. Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) passes him though.
Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux) gets the sprint to the top of the Côte de Roquefort-les-Pins climb. Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) second and, we think, Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) in third.
The gap is 3:18.
Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step), 2008 Belgian Champion, crashed on his left collarbone. Wilfried Peeters gave him a new bike and he continued racing.
The gap back to Cancellara's group is just over four minutes. Stef Clement (Rabobank) is in the virtual yellow jersey, but Saxo Bank should limit the advantage by race end.
"We will see how it goes today," said Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC). "I race all year, but the Tour de France is just bigger. I have a job to do, and it is the same here. Yesterday I saved some energy, it is hard to take it too easy, though."
Cavendish won four stages in last year's Tour de France. He is a favourite for the stage win today.
Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step) is with the race doctor now. The doctor follows the race in a white convertible Audi.
Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale), 34, is the only stage winner of the four riders. He won the stage to Jausiers last year.
Who will win the stage? Log on to our forums and post your selection. ;)
Stef Clement (Rabobank) puts up his hand for a water bottle. It is going to be very important to drink a lot of water today because it is hot.
This is Clement's third Tour de France. He did not finish 2007's race, but placed 87th last year.
The riders are passing through the city of Grasse. The four's advantage is 4:11.
There is a crash. Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) are stopped and adjusting their bikes.
Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) gets going right away, Schleck takes a little more time. He is riding slowly now, back to the main group.
The four men – Stef Clement (Rabobank), Stéphane Augé (Cofidis), Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) and Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux) – are working well together. Their gap is at 4:22 over the main group.
Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) is pacing himself back into the main group, he is right behind the Saxo Bank team car.
The escapees are facing the third of four climbs, the Côte de Tournon. These are small climbs, nothing like the riders will face in the Pyrénées in a week.
Chris Anker Sørensen (Saxo Bank) is working on the front of the main group for race leader and teammate Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank). Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Saxo Bank) comes up now to help.
Alberto Contador (Astana) was fastest at the midway point in yesterday's stage, at the top of Côte de Beausoleil climb. He won the mountain classification's polka dot jersey as a result.
"It's nice to have, but I would like to change colours in a couple of weeks."
Contador wants to win his second yellow jersey in Paris, July 26.
He won the race's overall classification in 2007. The organisers did not invite his team to the 2008 edition, but he raced and won the two other Grand Tours: the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España.
"The best way to sum it up is that I had fun," Lance Armstrong (Astana) said after yesterday's stage. "I was feeling pretty good, but I didn't expect to win or take yellow."
"I'm happy. I'm having fun. Even if I can't win, I'm having a good time, and I'm happy to be here."
Armstrong raced the Giro d'Italia in May. He spoke with the press everyday, for the first seven stages. The fun seemed to stop afterwards, he communicated with the public only via his Twitter and LiveStrong website.
He has been talking to the press so far at the Tour de France. How long will he continue to do this? His purpose is to spread the message of his LiveStrong cancer foundation, so he should speak a lot at the Tour, the most famous bike race.
We will keep you updated.
No surprise in the first stage of the Österreich Rundfahrt (Tour of Austria) today: It was a group sprint, and went to Columbia's André Greipel. It was the German's 11th win of the season.
Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) joined the group, but now stops for a bike change. His bike may have not been working correctly following his crash with Spaniard Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi).
At the top of the third climb, Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux) wins the sprint. Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) is second.
We see Armstrong talking with former teammate George Hincapie. Hincapie now races for Columbia. He will try to help Cavendish win today's stage.
Before the stage's start, Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream) talked about how he plans a sprint. "I wait until the end, if you worry about it too much then you ended up stress," he said.
Race leader Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) is back with the mechanic at the team car. The mechanic adjusts the height of the saddle.
Swiss Cancellara rides on an all yellow Specialized bike. It is a neon yellow, the shade that was popular in the 1980s.
The race enters Fayence.
In the main group, Armstrong and Boonen talk. The two are the race's biggest personalities.
The group passes the sprint 5:23 behind the escape of four.
Jonathan Vaughters spoke with Cyclingnews about this stage before the Tour de France started.
"Typically this will be a sprinters' stage, but the area around Draguinan and coming out of Monaco will be lumpy and hard. It will not be an easy roll, that's for sure.
"The roads can be slow and sticky, and the weather hot, which will add to the difficulty of the up and down terrain. I'd look for a breakaway with guys looking to get the Polka dot jersey, and who knows, maybe the peloton will hesitate too much and they'll get the stage too?
"Most likely not, though, and the winner will be Mark Cavendish."
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) is in his fifth Tour de France. He won two stages in each in the 2004, 2005 and 2007 Tour de France.
Organisers prohibited from racing in 2008 because he tested positive for cocaine. The same thing almost happened this year, when he tested positive again. A French court forced organisers to let him race two days before the race stared.
Team manager Patrick Lefevere said he is not at its top form for this reason.
"I think it is because of the stress," Boonen said. "It got into my muscles and I feel a bit stiff. I think I will feel better by the middle of the race."
Julian Dean (Garmin-Slipstream) has a bike change. He is chasing back to the group now. He may of had mechanical problems with his Felt bicycle.
David Moncoutié (Cofidis) also had a problem. Unlike Dean, he has a teammate helping him re-join the group.
Dean will need to get back on, he is an important lead out rider for sprinter Tyler Farrar. Farrar comes from Washington, USA.
Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux) is with the race doctor. He holds onto the Audi convertible as the doctor treats him.
The race nears the feed zone in Garron.
The feed zone is always a dangerous spot. Riders have to be careful of the feed bags being handed out by the other teams. There were no crashes, fortunately.
The four leaders have 4:49 over the Saxo Bank-led group.
Saxo Bank is protecting the lead of Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank).
"I want to keep the yellow jersey for as long as possible, but there's 3,500km to the finish," he said after yesterday's stage.
He wants to keep it at least to the team time trial on Tuesday.
"I don't want to give it back. Like London, it would be nice to keep it for seven days."
The four leaders approach the final of four climbs on the day, the Col de l'Ange.
Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux), in the escape, is tied with German Tony Martin (Columbia-HTC). Veikkanen will want to take points on this next climb so that he can wear the mountain leader's polka dot jersey.
The top picks if this races comes down to a sprint are Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam), Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo TestTeam), Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream) and Tom Boonen (Quick Step).
Australia's Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) finished fifth yesterday in the time trial, five seconds behind rival Contador.
"It's not the ultimate start, but it's a good start. It's only 15 kilometres, and a much longer way to Paris... It's a pretty good start. I felt okay on the course, nothing special with regard to performance."
Evans finished second overall in the 2008 Tour de France, 58 seconds behind Carlos Sastre.
The four lead by 4:23.
Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux) takes the maximum points on the Col de l'Ange. He will wear the mountain classification maillot blanc à pois rouges in tomorrow's stage.
More on Sastre and Evans.
Sastre has finished 13 times in the top ten of a Grand Tour (Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España). Evans five times.
Thanks for all your e-mails and posts in our forums.
A big crash at 54 kilometres to go. Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam) and Angelo Furlan (Lampre-NGC) are the two riders most affected by it.
Both riders are back on their bikes and going. Furlan took a little longer than Roulston.
Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam) joins forces with some Cofidis riders to chase back to the group. Furlan is a little further back.
Our front four riders approach the sprint in Lorgues. They have an advantage of 4:30.
Benjamin Noval was unhappy to be left off the Astana Tour de France team this year, and for that matter, he is not particularly happy with the Astana team. He told the Frech newspaper L'Equipe his opinion of team manager Johan Bruyneel.
"Bruyneel has no confidence in Alberto Contador and doesn't respect him as a leader," Spain's Noval said. "I have told him that to his face."
"Since Armstrong came to the team, the atmosphere is bad. There are factions within the team. And that is the resonsibility of Bruyneel."
Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam) get back on the back of the group. The pace is increasing with only 48km left to race. The sprinters' teams will want to pull back the escape by 10km remaining.
There are a lot of fans out in this little French town. They are throwing water on the riders, who will appreciate it on this hot day.
Off in the distance is a castle. Stef Clement (Rabobank) and his three escapee companions pay no mind to it.
Columbia helps Saxo Bank. It is the first time we have seen the American team at the front today.
We see Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Slipstream) near the front. He will help to position the team's sprinter, Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream).
The time between the four men and the main group is 4:40 at the sprint banner.
Procycling Magazine's features editor Daniel Friebe is covering the 2009 Tour de France. He is keeping a blog for BikeRadar.com.
What we learned from the first stage of the 2009 Tour de France…
1. That the pundits were right about Alberto Contador being stronger than Lance Armstrong.
Armstrong said yesterday that, on a similar course in 2005, he’d have destroyed the opposition. Today his tenth place prolonged a sequence of mediocre time trial results since his comeback at the start of the year. Those who argue that prologues or slightly longer opening-day time trials can’t be trusted as a gauge of form are kidding themselves.
Armstrong’s form will have to improve significantly if he’s to outclimb Andreas Klöden and Levi Leipheimer when we reach the Alps and Pyrenees, let alone Contador.
Bernhard Eisel (Columbia-HTC) is in second spot, behind Stuart O'Grady (Saxo Bank), in the group. His team will work for Mark Cavendish. Cavendish won four stages last year, his second Tour de France participation.
The four leaders have 4:10 over the group.
Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) will want to stay at the front and not lose time in the finale. Garmin's team manager Jonathan Vaughters beleives we could see the Brit in yellow by Tuesday.
"He's very precise, he knew what he could do, though I think he exceeded his own expectations with that ride," said Vaughters. "But it didn't surprise me. A lot of people discounted him on such a hilly course, but I knew he was capable of that.
"And he has a lot more to show on this Tour," continued Vaughters. "He's a lot lighter, he's climbing better, and I'd be surprised if we didn't see him in yellow at some point."
After Tuesday's team time trial? "Well, Astana, if you see how they performed in the time trial [with four in the top ten] are a pretty incredible team," responded Vaughters. "But the team time trial is our best chance."
Bert Grabsch (Columbia-HTC) and Bernhard Eisel (Columbia-HTC) are swtiching turns at the front. They have the time gap at 3:40
Team Astana moves to the front.
Team Katusha will work for Italy's Danilo Napolitano (Katusha). Expect to see Italian Champion Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) helping out in the finale.
The gap is down to 2:32.
Cervélo and Columbia are at the front of the group. The race's oldest rider, Iñigo Cuesta (Cervélo TestTeam), is at the front. He is 40 years old.
Austrian Bernhard Eisel (Columbia-HTC) controls the pace. He has the gap down to 2:30, perfect. It is almost too soon to pull back the four men. The sprinters' teams will want to get the four around 10 kilometres remaining, it prevents them from chasing any possible counter-attacks.
Will one of these four leaders attack solo in the final kilometres? They all have to be nearly drained due to the long, hot day of riding. Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) might have the confidence to do it thanks to his win in 2008's Tour de France.
The four travel along a lake. They are on a narrow road, not the place to crash, or your team mechanic would need to arrive by boat.
The gap is down to 1:10 with 20km remaining.
Carlos Barredo stops, he has a rear tyre flat.
Boonen will want Barredo to get back to the front very soon to help with the lead-out.
The four have 53" on the main group.
Andreas Klier (Cervélo TestTeam) has a rear wheel problem. It is a tight spot on the road and he might have to wait longer for help from the team mechanic.
Bert Grabsch (Columbia-HTC) and Bernhard Eisel (Columbia-HTC) lead the front of the group, not too far behind the four leaders.
Yauheni Hutarovich (Française des Jeux) is riding solo. It looks like he crashed because his Belarusian national champions jersey is brown with dirt.
All of the Columbia men are on the front, with one Cervélo rider mixed in. They are working for Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC), winner of four stages in last year's Tour de France. The Brit, winner of this year's Milano-Sanremo, is a big favourite for today's stage win.
He will need to keep watch on his rivals, like Oscar Freire (Rabobank). Rabobank is moving to the front now to help Freire's chances.
The gap is 35".
Brett Lancaster (Cervélo TestTeam) and Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam) will start to move to the front soon to help out the chances of teammate Hushovd in the sprint. The only Cervélo man there now is Spaniard Iñigo Cuesta (Cervélo TestTeam).
We have not mentioned Italian Daniele Bennati (Liquigas). He has won two stages in the Tour de France, both in the 2007 edition. The second of the two was in Paris.
Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) looks to be really struggling in this escape of four men. They have 20" on the main group.
Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) attacks off the front of the group. He often tries solo moves like this, but they seldom pay off. He did win the Trofeo Laigueglia a few years ago with a solo move, though.
Russia's Ignatiev passes the front four, who are about caught by the main group.
Boonen's Quick Step team moves to the front to help Cavendish's Columbia-HTC.
Ignatiev remains along, off the front of the main group.
Milram is near the front. The German team will work for Gerald Ciolek (Milram) in the sprint.
Ignatiev has 10", not a lot of time over the team like Columbia.
He tried a solo move like this in the Tirreno-Adriatico's final stage.
There is a lot more movement in the group now. Every sprinter will want to be near the front to have a chance to win the first road stage of the 96th Tour de France.
Ignatiev is nearly caught.
He is caught.
Columbia still leads. Milram and Garmin are behind Columbia.
Milram leads the race.
Ballan moves to the front to work for Angelo Furlan.
Ballan is in the colours of World Champion.
Bennati is on the right side, Freire is just ahead.
Skil moves to the front for Van Hummel.
Mark Renshaw (Columbia-HTC) looks for his leader, Cavendish.
Boonen is noticiable in his Belgian Champ jersey.
He is going to go for the sprint.
Rogers and Hincapie are on the front for Cavendish.
A big, nasty round-about.
Rogers pulls off.
Garmins comes to the front. There is some touching...
A big crash!
Hincapie leads. Farrar follows Cavendish.
Cavendish is on the front. Farrar challenges, but can't come around.
That was a long sprint by Brit Mark Cavendish, winner of stage two.
Feillu really did a big surge in the finale, he almost caught Farrar. USA's Farrar was no match for Cavendish. He sat in Cavendish's wheel, but just lost ground and couldn't hold the pace.
"It was brilliant, I was in good form. The team did so well, we showed we meant business," said Cavendish.
It was his fifth Tour de France stage win, adding to the four he took last year.
Long sprint? "When George went at the finish, he really strung it out. The speed was so high, I could hold it," said Cavendish.
Crash in the finale? "I nearly went down. There were a lot of guys up there who were at their limit."
Napolitano was one of the riders in the crash, he walks his bike to the finish line now.
Yukiya Arashiro (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) finished in fifth. We think it is the best finish ever by a Japanese rider in the Tour de France.
It was an Euskaltel rider who ran into the road divider in the last metres. It was a bad road design that lent to the crash.
"It was very hot today," said Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank), race leader. "It is July, summer, not an easy day."
Thanks for joining our live coverage today. Please come back for tomorrow, au revoir!