Good afternoon and welcome to our live coverage from stage two of the 2012 Giro d'Italia from Denmark. Stay with us for the remainder of the race as we see if BMC's Taylor Phinney can hang on to the pink jersey he won at yesterday's opening time trial
The riders are taking on a 206km loop today and start and finish in the town of Herning. The flat course appears to favour the sprinters so we should be in for an exciting finish.
Temperatures are hovering around the 10 degrees Celsius mark. There are several grey clouds in the sky and there is a chance of rain and some gusty winds as the race progresses.
135km remaining from 206km
Three riders opened up a gap after 15km and they have extended their lead steadily. They are currenty just over 12 minutes clear of the pack after 70km.
Alfredo Balloni (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), Olivier Kaisen (Lotto Belisol) and Miguel Rubiano (Androni Giocattoli) are the three who have forged clear.
Rubiano has won the 2012 Giro d'Italia's first intermediate sprint, ahead of his fellow breakaway riders. Team Sky's Mark Cavendish, who is a big fancy for today's race, is taking his turn at the head of the chasing peloton.
Phinney claimed on the eve of the race that a win in the opening time trial could change his life - so I wonder how much sleep he got last night after delivering in such spectacular fashion?!?
Cavendish will have to draw on all his talent and experience to win here if it comes down to a sprint finish. Some of the best sprinters in the world will be looking to deny him and take the glory for themselves. The likes of Tyler Farrar, Matt Goss, Mark Renshaw and Thor Hushovd are all chasing the same goal.
Renshaw's Rabobank team have made it clear that their main target over the next three weeks are the sprints. As well as the Aussie flyer, they also have Theo Bos in their line-up. The two men shared three stage wins at last month's Tour of Turkey and come here in great form.
All the course details for stage two are right here - so take a look for yourself and see what the riders are taking on today in Denmark.
120km remaining from 206km
As they ride along the coast, the leaders are around 11 minutes clear of the peloton. Sun is shining but it's not shorts and bikini weather. Not by a long way.
This time last year, stage two of the 2011 Giro d'Italia was heading towards the finish in Parma, Italy. Home favourite Alessandro Petacchi secured the win there, edging out Cavendish in a sprint finish. The Lampre-ISD rider isn't here this year, with his main 2012 focus being on wrestling the Tour De France green jersey away from the British star.
With so many sprinters in the field, each of the leading teams are doing their turn at the front of the chasing peloton.
105km remaining from 206km
Gap between leading trio and the pack is under ten minutes. Pace is very steady at this stage.
Phinney's BMC teammate Marco Pinotti has tipped the 21-year-old American as Fabian Cancellara's heir apparent. High praise indeed for the stage one winner...
100km remaining from 206km
Rabobank's Dennis Van Winden crashes as the peloton, led by seven Team Sky riders, increase the tempo considerably and start to stretch the chasing peloton.
90km remaining from 206km
Gap down to the 5:30 mark. Wind is picking up as they snake along the coast line in bright sunshine.
Leaders reach the category 4 climb at Osterberg. Not too much of a challenge here compared to the climbs that await back in Italy.
And the first Mountains jersey at the 2012 Giro will go to an Italian as Balloni clinches it.
Wind has died right down. Conditions pretty much perfect now for road racing.
Garmin-Barracuda's Christian Vande Velde has spoken of his pride at seeing Phinney become the first US rider to wear pink since he had the honour in 2008. It seems like everyone is tipping the youngster for the very top of the tree.
Team Sky still pulling the peloton along as they look to give Cavendish the best possible shot at winning the stage.
80km remaining from 206km
Gap down to 4:26 with 80km to go.
Farense Vini-Selle Italia have a new kit for the Giro. Fluorescent yellow shorts to go with their tops. You almost need sunglasses to look at them.
Phinney looking comfortable in the chasing pack at this stage. If he can stay out of trouble at the business end of the race then he has a great chance of holding on to the maglia rosa this evening.
BMC have pushed themselves to the front, taking the strain from Sky and Saxo Bank.
CRASH: Gianni Meersman (Lotto Belisol) comes down with 70km to go. He's back on his feet gingerly but gets straight back on the bike.
68km remaining from 206km
The leaders are two thirds of the way through the stage and have a lead of 3:24. Gap is currently reducing at a rate of roughly one minute per 10km.
Olivier Kaisen takes the second intermediate sprint for Lotto Belisol.
Could today be the day that Orica GreenEdge's Matthew Goss takes the sprint win? He is in form without quite getting across the line, as his three second place finishes at the Tour of Turkey last month proved. The Australian won stage 9 at the 2009 Giro.
Peloton are closing the gap at a much quicker rate over this 10km section. Already shaved a minute off the gap at the 63km point. Are they closing too quickly?
Crowds are lining the roads. Excellent turn out that definitely vindicates the organisers' decision to bring the race to Denmark.
59km remaining from 206km
Gap is now under two minutes as the sky darkens. Will the rain hold off over the next 90 minutes?
And Chavez, Balloni and Kaisen push on again and increase their lead. Have they been taking a breather?
50km remaining from 206km
All the big names are at the front of the peloton with 50km to go. Stage is set for a fascinating finale with the leaders under two minutes ahead.
Six Sky riders at the front of the peloton pulling Cavendish along. Gap now down to 46 seconds with 45km to go. Lampre-ISD and Liquigas are also multi-handed right there at the front.
The question of responsibility for controlling the remainder of the race will be answered in the next few kilometres. Will one team seize the intiative and dictate from a long way out?
CRASH: Huge crash involving multiple riders at the 44km mark. At least six riders down, probably more.
40km remaining from 206km
40km and less than an hour to race now. Peloton can almost smell the three leaders now and it won't be long until they are swallowed up.
And there we go. The leaders are caught.
And Lars Bak (Lotto Belisol) is the first to make a move from the peloton, in front of his home crowd.
Bak has gone clear. 34 seconds ahead with 33km to go.
30km remaining from 206km
Bak is now 46 seconds clear at the 30km mark. The Danish Rider of the Year will know these roads better than most but it will be very difficult for him to hang on from here.
Lotto Belisol don't have a recognised big name sprinter in their ranks for this year's Giro, so this type of break is probably the only way they can win flat stages here.
All the top teams are bunching together in preparation for the final dash to the line. The wind and rain could yet be a factor as the sky continues to darken significantly.
Bak takes a look over his shoulder - a sign that he is weakening?
20km remaining from 206km
Gap is 24 seconds at the 20km mark. Cross winds increasing as the riders draw closer to the finish.
After today's 206km stage, there's another long one tomorrow. Stage three Involves a 190km loop from the town of Horsens and back. All the info you need on it is right here.
16km remaining from 206km
And Bak is caught with 16km to go.
The Thor Hushovd of two years ago would have fancied this. But the BMC man's poor form over recent months probably means he'll be relegated to riding to protect Phinney in the finale.
10km remaining from 206km
10km to go. Cards still to be played.
Sky look like they are in control here. Cavendish must be the favourite...
DISASTER: Race leader Taylor Phinney drops his chain with just 8km to go. Is there enough time for him to catch up and hang on to the pink jersey?
Looks like Phinney also hit the deck.
Danilo Wyss drops back to help Phinney. He's 25 seconds behind the peloton.
And three more teammates come back to help him further. Excellent teamwork by BMC, with Phinney closing in on the back of the main pack.
Filippo Pozzato hits the front with 3km left.
Last kilometre, here we go...
Cavendish wins, Goss second, Demare in third. Huge crash in behind with a couple of hundred metres to go.
1 Cavendish (Team Sky)
2 Goss (Orica GreenEdge)
3 Demare (FDJ-Big Mat)
1 Cavendish (Team Sky)
2 Goss (Orica GreenEdge)
3 Soupe (FDJ-Big Mat)
Cavendish embraces Geraint Thomas at the finish. His teammate was a key component of that victory. Goss the bridesmaid again for the fourth time in the last couple of weeks.
Just hearing that the Mayor of Horsens, where tomorrow's third stage will take place, has died of a heart attack today.
Still waiting on the general classification. Has Phinney held on to pink?
Phinney hangs on to pink after stage two.
STAGE 2 RESULTS
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) SkyProcycling 4:53:12
2 Matthew Goss (Aus) Orica GreenEdge
3 Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat
4 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Barracuda
5 Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
6 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Rabobank
7 Thor Hushovd (Nor) BMC
8 Daniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan
9 William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat
10 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling
GC AFTER STAGE TWO
1 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC 5:03:38
2 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:09
3 Alex Rasmussen (Den) Garmin-Barracuda 0:00:13
4 Manuele Boaro (Ita) Saxo Bank 0:00:15
5 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Vacansoleil-DCM 0:00:22
6 Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin-Barracuda 0:00:22
7 Brett Lancaster (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 0:00:23
8 Marco Pinotti (Ita) BMC 0:00:24
9 Jesse Sergent (NZl) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:26
10 Nelson Oliveira (Por) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:27
So, in conclusion, an eventful stage with several incidents and a trademark sprint finish from Cavendish proving decisive once again. The world champion has a rare instinct for knowing exactly where and when to go and he showed it again here. At one stage it looked like Thor Hushovd would take the win but Cavendish took advantage of the gap opened up by teammate Geraint Thomas and swooped with 100 metres to go to take the win. Meanwhile, Phinney and BMC did extremely well to overcome his dropped chain and preserve his lead in the GC. We move on tomorrow to stage three in Horsens, where another exciting sprint finish is likely. Join us tomorrow afternoon for more live coverage.
For a full report on stage two, results and photos, click here.
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