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Cavendish wins sprint in Brignoles

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Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC) wins stage two of the 2009 Tour de France.

Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC) wins stage two of the 2009 Tour de France. (Image credit: AFP)
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Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) rides in the Tour de France leader's yellow jersey.

Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) rides in the Tour de France leader's yellow jersey. (Image credit: AFP)
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Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) lease the race out of Monaco in day two of the Tour de France.

Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) lease the race out of Monaco in day two of the Tour de France. (Image credit: AFP)
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German Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) leads teammate and Tour de France race leader, Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank).

German Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) leads teammate and Tour de France race leader, Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank). (Image credit: AFP)
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Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) at the start of Tour de France day two with director Christian Prudhomme.

Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) at the start of Tour de France day two with director Christian Prudhomme. (Image credit: AFP)
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Stage two of the Tour de France leaves Monaco

Stage two of the Tour de France leaves Monaco (Image credit: AFP)
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Brit Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC) leads to the line in Brignoles ahead of USA's Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream).

Brit Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC) leads to the line in Brignoles ahead of USA's Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream). (Image credit: AFP)
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Mark Cavendish wins stage two of the Tour de France

Mark Cavendish wins stage two of the Tour de France (Image credit: AFP)
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Fabian Cancellara in the leader's yellow jersey at the end of day two.

Fabian Cancellara in the leader's yellow jersey at the end of day two. (Image credit: AFP)
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Alberto Contador in the polka dot jersey at the start of stage two

Alberto Contador in the polka dot jersey at the start of stage two (Image credit: Santa Cruz)
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Spaniard Alberto Contador (Astana) in the polka dot jersey at the start of Tour de France stage two in Monaco.

Spaniard Alberto Contador (Astana) in the polka dot jersey at the start of Tour de France stage two in Monaco. (Image credit: sirott)
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Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) adjusts his bike before Tour de France stage two.

Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) adjusts his bike before Tour de France stage two. (Image credit: sirott)
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Italy's Danilo Napolitano (Katusha)

Italy's Danilo Napolitano (Katusha) (Image credit: sirott)
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USA's Lance Armstrong (Astana) arrives in Monaco for stage two of the Tour de France.

USA's Lance Armstrong (Astana) arrives in Monaco for stage two of the Tour de France. (Image credit: sirott)
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Linus Gerdemann (Milram)

Linus Gerdemann (Milram) (Image credit: sirott)
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Italian champion Filippo Pozzato (Katusha)

Italian champion Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) (Image credit: sirott)
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Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC) at the start of Tour de France stage two in Monaco.

Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC) at the start of Tour de France stage two in Monaco. (Image credit: sirott)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-NGC) and Tom Boonen (Quick Step) at the start.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-NGC) and Tom Boonen (Quick Step) at the start. (Image credit: sirott)
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Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) poses in his yellow jersey.

Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) poses in his yellow jersey. (Image credit: sirott)
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Swiss Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) shows off his yellow bike.

Swiss Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) shows off his yellow bike. (Image credit: sirott)
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Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) and Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-NGC)

Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) and Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-NGC) (Image credit: sirott)
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The Schleck brothers, Frank and Andy, await the start of stage two in Monaco.

The Schleck brothers, Frank and Andy, await the start of stage two in Monaco. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alberto Contador (Astana) on the start line in the polka dot jersey.

Alberto Contador (Astana) on the start line in the polka dot jersey. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The peloton on the start line of stage two in Monaco.

The peloton on the start line of stage two in Monaco. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mark Cavendish accelerates to the line in Brignoles.

Mark Cavendish accelerates to the line in Brignoles. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-HTC) wins the Tour's first road stage ahead of Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream).

Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-HTC) wins the Tour's first road stage ahead of Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cavendish celebrates his victory in Brignoles.

Cavendish celebrates his victory in Brignoles. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-HTC) is all smiles at the line.

Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-HTC) is all smiles at the line. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Race leader Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) finishes in the field.

Race leader Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) finishes in the field. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mark Cavendish on the podium for his stage two victory.

Mark Cavendish on the podium for his stage two victory. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-HTC) celebrates his stage win.

Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-HTC) celebrates his stage win. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Fabian Cancellara remains in yellow after stage two.

Fabian Cancellara remains in yellow after stage two. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Race leader Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank).

Race leader Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank). (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mark Cavendish dons the green jersey for leading the points competition.

Mark Cavendish dons the green jersey for leading the points competition. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mark Cavendish picked up the green jersey in addition to a stage win on Sunday.

Mark Cavendish picked up the green jersey in addition to a stage win on Sunday. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-HTC) leads the points competition.

Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-HTC) leads the points competition. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Finland's Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux) leads the mountains competition.

Finland's Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux) leads the mountains competition. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) remains in the maillot blanc for best young rider.

Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) remains in the maillot blanc for best young rider. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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As Cavendish sprints to victory, a Team Columbia-HTC teammate celebrates.

As Cavendish sprints to victory, a Team Columbia-HTC teammate celebrates. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Marc Cavendish takes the fifth Tour de France victory of his career.

Marc Cavendish takes the fifth Tour de France victory of his career. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Danilo Napolitano (Team Katusha) walks across the finish line after being involved in a crash at the last turn.

Danilo Napolitano (Team Katusha) walks across the finish line after being involved in a crash at the last turn. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The break of the day contained Stef Clement (Rabobank), Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux), Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) and Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale).

The break of the day contained Stef Clement (Rabobank), Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux), Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) and Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale). (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara buckles up prior to the start in Monaco.

Fabian Cancellara buckles up prior to the start in Monaco. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Astana teammates Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer enjoy a laugh.

Astana teammates Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer enjoy a laugh. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) signs some autographs before stage two.

Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) signs some autographs before stage two. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Denis Menchov (Rabobank) prepares to start stage two.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) prepares to start stage two. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) at the start in Monaco.

Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) at the start in Monaco. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Mark Cavendish sprinted his way into the green jersey.

Mark Cavendish sprinted his way into the green jersey. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara grabs a bite to eat in stage two.

Fabian Cancellara grabs a bite to eat in stage two. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Danilo Napolitano (Team Katusha) shows off his custom helmet.

Danilo Napolitano (Team Katusha) shows off his custom helmet. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Race leader Fabian Cancellara always had his Saxo Bank teammates nearby.

Race leader Fabian Cancellara always had his Saxo Bank teammates nearby. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Lance Armstrong (Astana)

Lance Armstrong (Astana) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Tour dignitaries and the four jersey holders at the start of stage two.

Tour dignitaries and the four jersey holders at the start of stage two. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Roman Kreuziger successfully defended his young rider classification lead.

Roman Kreuziger successfully defended his young rider classification lead. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Tour dignitaries and the peloton at the start line in Monaco.

Tour dignitaries and the peloton at the start line in Monaco. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Mikhail Ignatiev (Team Katusha) made a solo bid for victory with approximately 10 kilometres remaining.

Mikhail Ignatiev (Team Katusha) made a solo bid for victory with approximately 10 kilometres remaining. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton prepares to start stage two on the Monaco waterfront.

The peloton prepares to start stage two on the Monaco waterfront. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Lance Armstrong (Astana) and Prince Alberto of Monaco at the start of stage two.

Lance Armstrong (Astana) and Prince Alberto of Monaco at the start of stage two. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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It's Tour stage victory number five in the palmares of Mark Cavendish.

It's Tour stage victory number five in the palmares of Mark Cavendish. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) congratulates Mark Cavendish after stage two.

Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) congratulates Mark Cavendish after stage two. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alberto Contador is introduced during Astana's sign-in before stage two.

Alberto Contador is introduced during Astana's sign-in before stage two. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Race leader Fabian Cancellara and his Saxo Bank teammates.

Race leader Fabian Cancellara and his Saxo Bank teammates. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton climbs out of Monaco.

The peloton climbs out of Monaco. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux) scored maximum points on three of the day's four categorised climbs to claim the polka dot jersey.

Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux) scored maximum points on three of the day's four categorised climbs to claim the polka dot jersey. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Marcin Sapa (Lampre-NGC) loads up with water bottles for delivery to his teammates.

Marcin Sapa (Lampre-NGC) loads up with water bottles for delivery to his teammates. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cavenish celebrates with his Columbia-HTC teammates after his victory on stage two.

Cavenish celebrates with his Columbia-HTC teammates after his victory on stage two. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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No one could match Cavendish's speed in the closing metres of stage two.

No one could match Cavendish's speed in the closing metres of stage two. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton rides along the French Riviera.

The peloton rides along the French Riviera. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Mark Cavendish sprinted to victory in the Tour's first road stage.

Mark Cavendish sprinted to victory in the Tour's first road stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Ever since he took the race every sprinter longs to win at the precocious age of 24, the fastest, strongest and smartest sprinter in the world has virtually done no wrong.

Before March 21, many doubted his ability to claim the longest major Classic so young, this year 298 kilometres long, but on that day, Mark Cavendish put his cycling cynics in their place with a magnificent victory in the centenary edition of Milano-Sanremo, and picked up 20,000 Euros for his effort.

His fantastic form returned at the Giro d'Italia (though he wasn't quite at his peak), where he found himself up against a rejuvenated Alessandro Petacchi, and when the Italian beat him twice in the opening week, it was exactly what he needed to repay his wrongs with the three convincing stage victories that followed.

For the many rivals who envy him, it would have been a season complete, but the day of his last Giro stage win in Florence, he returned to his Italian home in Quarrata to prepare for the season's grand objective: the 96th Tour de France.

With expectations almost without peer, even though he did say before the race that going for green would be optimistic - "I want to win stages and get to Paris: those are my two goals", he demanded of himself - if he didn't win a stage at Le Tour, he claimed he would've failed.

Sunday in Brignoles, he discovered success, and the maillot vert to boot.

"When the team goes so perfect, there can be only one result," said Cavendish. "We took control of the race, and finished off in spectacular fashion. It's beautiful to wear the green jersey; it's a big goal for any sprinter. It's emotional for me, it's emotional to be able to wear it."

Frenzied finale

In what was a messy final thousand metres that rather comically left three Columbia-HTC riders - George Hincapie, Mark Renshaw and Cavendish - pitted against Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Slipstream, the squad owned by entrepreneur Bob Stapleton showed how they thrive at the height of chaos, Hincapie dropping off 800 metres from the line, Renshaw at 250, then 'Cav' methodically finishing it off.

"The last k' was anything but difficult," Cavendish said. "Before that, it was a bit physical but it's always going to be - it's the Tour de France. Everyone wants to win, but we had eight guys keeping me out of trouble at the front.

"My goal now, my pride, my personal goal, is to reach Paris. But if there's a bunch sprint, I'm going to contest it with 100 percent commitment. And maybe that puts me in contention for the green jersey."

Farrar and AG2R's Roman Feillu were left to pick up the scraps, second and third, respectively, with Cervelo TestTeam's Thor Hushovd fourth and BBox Bouygues Telecom's Japanese sprinter, Yukiya Arashiro, a surprise fifth.

Despite the chaotic finale, the sweat-stained maillot jaune of Fabian Cancellara finished safely in the first bunch, albeit a kilo or two lighter due to the baking heat, and will most likely retain the Golden Fleece till at least Tuesday's fourth stage team time trial. "[It was] a fast start, as soon as the first climb, but the team did a great job today. They were focused on [retaining] the yellow jersey," said Cancellara, who, from either heat or wont, answered just three questions in Sunday's press conference.

"The heat hurt me a lot, as it did all the riders in the peloton. I focused on drinking as much water as possible, and then with 30, 40 k's to go, I began to throw water on my head. With my extra kilos compared to the others, it makes things a lot tougher [for me]. I'm hanging for a massage and some rest," he said.

Asked if there was ever a chance of crashing in the frenzied finale, Cancellara said he was never at risk.

Maillot vert for Cav - oui ou non?

So - is Cavendish going for green or not?

"I don't think it's wise to go for the green jersey at this stage, but at the moment I've got it so I want to keep it," he said.

"Okay, I haven't won it yet but I'm wearing it. Hopefully, I can win the [final] stage on the Champs-Élysées and wear the green jersey but that's a dream - a dream that doesn't come true for many people. I'm not going to set it as a target, but for sure, it would be a dream."

Nous allons en (We go into) France!

It took all of 500 metres before the Tour de Monaco became the Tour de France, which will remain so till Thursday's seventh stage, when another cross-country excursion was planned from Gerona to Barcelona in Spain.

Fourteen kilometres in on what turned out to a wood-fire pizza-hot Sunday, Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux) instigated the echapée du jour, who was soon joined by Stef Clement (Rabobank), Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale), a stage winner to Jausiers at last year's Tour, and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis). Of the quartet, Clement was the best-placed man GC, 1:28 off Cancellara's scintillating time trial performance of yesterday, where the Dutchman finished in the top 50 riders.

A further 50 clicks into the 187-kilometre leg to the medieval village of Brignoles, the break's advantage grew to the three-minute mark, the peloton behind them duly controlled by white and black colours of Saxo Bank, the team of race leader and time trialer extraordinaire, Cancellara. Double that distance later, the peloton was prepared to allow the quartet a little more freedom, and as the tar on the roads began to melt - a sure sign that France was entering the height of summer - our front-some foursome established their maximum lead of 5:23.

Not long after, however, and with 70-km left to race, their toil insidiously began to turn to trouble.

And so, as the race progressed and their advantage regressed, the team of Columbia-HTC gradually assumed pace-making duties from Saxo Bank at the head of affairs, who had done 80 percent of the load, according to those clever GPS measuring devices. Fifteen kilometres from Brignoles, what was once a healthy five-and-a-half minute buffer could now be measured in seconds. And when the capture was made just outside the 10-km banner, Katusha's ever-aggressive Mikhail Ignatiev chose to counter in an unlikely bid for victory.

To his credit, the Russian rode solo to the three-kilometre marker, but from there, it was all Milram and Columbia-HTC to the kilometre kite. But in those final thousand metres, confusion reigned supreme as a group at the peloton's head, flying at 50-plus kilometres an hour with their heads down, did not watch where they were going, leaving just four riders at the front.

One was Cavendish.

For images of stage two click here

Cavendish vs. Kenny Van Hummel

At the press conference with Cavendish, the sprinter from the Isle of Man claimed Skil-Shimano's Kenny Van Hummel behaved without care in the finale, and vowed to have words with him. However, that public record may need to be erased or at least amended, because according to Skil-Shimano, Cavendish got it wrong.

"He [Van Hummel] actually hit me with a couple of k's to go - it was visible on TV. I think that's a little bit...I'm really angry about that, I'll have to speak to him about that," Cavendish said.

"He's sprinting at the Tour de France here, he's privileged to be here, and you know, to be taking your hands off the handlebars and hitting a contender for the sprint in the final, I think is really, really disrespectful. So I'd like to publically state that."

But the way Skil-Shimano's press officer tells it, it was AG2R's Lloyd Mondory who first pushed Piet Rooijakkers, and with Van Hummel by his side, the latter Dutchman lost control and nearly ended up in Cavendish's lap, almost causing a derailing of the Columbia-HTC train.

Hopefully 'Cav' sees this before having words with Van Hummel tomorrow!

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