From the outset, the day was shrouded in mist and an Indian Ocean drizzle. Yannick Lincoln started the second stage resplendent in yellow. His closest competitors looked on enviously as they secretly wished to bushwhack Lincoln in the mostly downhill run to Ferney. Hugo Caetane and Christophe Gerard were the most prominent of the coveters. Giles Guillamin, however, kept himself to himself. He is the silent type - the most dangerous of adversaries.
Mauritius offers up a mixed bag of terrain - a blend of sugar cane strewn jeep tracks, muddy pools of fresh cloudbursts, magma rock embedded in clay paths and ramshackle road remnants. Add in volcanic craters and tiered cane fields, and you have the makings of a testing race course.
Lincoln tormented his contenders over the typical Mauritian farm roads. Entering a field surrounded by a derelict sugar cane factory, he had daylight to a serious looking Guillamin. It was only a short leash of 15 seconds. Not enough to rest up. The leader looked back and recognized the new danger man.
Caetane was close by and desperate for water at the half way mark. He was visibly wilting in the humidity. "In the first 100 meters, my water bottle fell out. I think I overheated," said Caetane, who never did get any water. "I decided to take it easy for the afternoon stage."
The mountain bike gods also played in his favour. It became apparent something was horribly wrong when the yellow jersey was seen bouncing in a freshly ploughed plantation, off course a la Lance Armstrong. Deep in the farmlands somewhere, the leaders got lost. Sugar-cane cutters had turned Lincolns' victory sour by chopping down the orange markers. The gap was now at over 30 seconds. Except that Lincoln was now the chaser.
"There were no signs on the road," lamented Lincoln after the stage. "I had to wait two times." When the front riders all regrouped after searching for markers they made a pact. "We did not fight for the stage. Everyone took the wrong route." The race jury declared the stage nullified.
This was not what Lincoln had planned. "I was expecting to take more time this morning. It will be a bit more tense on the downhill and on the night stage. I don't feel so comfortable now." Lincoln is used to establishing a lead at will; now he must adapt to the unknown.
On Saturday, racers will face the queen stage of 85km from Ferney to Tamarin. Lincoln has has earmarked this day for large time gains. "Tomorrow will be a great stage for me." Guillamin, tucked in fourth place, may have other plans.
Stage 2 was neutralized. There is no change to the results from Stage 1.