Lampre's Angelo Furlan denied Tom Boonen his chance at redemption for last month's cocaine positive fiasco in the final metres of the sprint to the finish of the Dauphiné's stage two in Dijon. The Italian dashed to victory ahead of BMC's Swiss champion Markus Zberg, leaving the Quick Step rider behind in third. Cadel Evans comfortably maintained his lead in the overall classification.
The sprint was almost for second place as Garmin-Slipstream's David Millar made his comeback as a finisseur. The time triallist from Garmin-Slipstream launched a solo attack with six kilometres to go, and was only caught inside the final 100m.
While the spectators were convinced they were about to see the former young prodigy win in Dijon, Furlan was sure that they would catch Millar before the line. "This kind of feeling, only us, the sprinters, can have it," the Italian said. "I wasn't sure I would win, but I was sure we would catch Millar, although before the final straightaway I knew it would be hard when we heard it was him."
"We hoped for a rain free day during the whole stage but the road became wet and dangerous with 25km to go," Furlan continued. "As all the other sprinters, I had chosen the wheel of Boonen but I lost it in the last round about. I went to the left side of the road, but he did it as well. I re-started behind him. It's a dream to beat him. This is a first time for me.
"It gives me an incredible emotion. I don't often win but when I take the right wheel I'm able to beat any other sprinter. This win gives me confidence for the Tour de France."
Second-placed Zberg was also thrilled to get ahead of the Paris-Roubaix winner Boonen and his former teammate.
"It's good for me to have beaten riders like Boonen and Steegmans," Zberg said. "I had hoped to come over Furlan too, but he was really strong today. The timing was good though, and I have high hopes for tomorrow."
Boonen looked certain to have the victory as he blasted off the front as the peloton finished off Millar for good, but he ran out of power just before the finish. "I started sprinting 50 metres too early," Boonen acknowledged. "I was afraid I would go too late to catch Millar."
Silence Lotto's Cadel Evans cruised in to keep his overall lead ahead of Astana's Alberto Contador. "There's a little bit less stress to have the yellow jersey in the Dauphiné than at the Tour de France, so I enjoyed it," the Australian said. "My team was very good today. There are guys who will be riding the Tour de France together for the first time this year. It was a good practice keeping the bunch together.
"After tomorrow's stage, which I hope it'll be the same as today's, I'll have a serious look at the profile of Wednesday's time trial. It looks to be fairly interesting in the book."
How it unfolded
At km 0 as the peloton was leaving the capital of the Lorraine region, Nancy, when five riders broke clear: Stéphane Augé (Cofidis), Alexandre Pichot (Bbox-Bouygues Telecom), Paul Voss (Milram), Iñaki Isasi (Euskaltel) and Hector Gonzalez Baeza (Fuji-Servetto) established a six minute lead at km 59 while Silence-Lotto was regulating the speed of the bunch. Their gap suddenly increased to almost 10 minutes because the peloton was stopped by two crossing trains at the exit of Hymont: 9:45 was the maximum lead at km 62.
The lead dropped steadily over the rest of the stage, falling to 250 with 52km to go as the rain appeared for the first time on the road of the Dauphiné. Gonzalez Baeza gave up 22km before the finish in Dijon as Quick Step and Lampre led the chase with a little bit of help from Française des Jeux just 35 seconds behind the breakaway group.
Voss was next to give up with 19km to go. The three remaining leaders only had 10 seconds advantage but on the narrow roads leading to the capital of Burgundy, they insisted and created a new gap of one minute with 16km to go. Isasi was dropped by the two Frenchmen 8km before the line, but Pichot and Augé eventually ended their adventure at the 6km mark.
David Millar countered the move, and looked to be able to win the race as he passed under the flamme rouge of the last kilometre. The Scot was caught only 35 metres before the finishing line where Angelo Furlan (Lampre) proved himself to be faster than Boonen, who started his sprint too early in the long, straight road to the line.
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