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Live coverage

Tour de France 2012: Stage 2


Welcome to our live coverage of stage two from the 2012 Tour de France. Stay with us over the next five hours as the riders embark on the 207km stage from Vise to Tournai, which is set to suit the sprinters…

With a high point of just 190m, this stage is one of the flattest of the entire race and the first genuine opportunity for the sprint specialists. Eyes will be on Team Sky’s Mark Cavendish – the 2011 green jersey winner – as he looks to win his 21st career stage at the Tour de France. He’ll face stiff competition from German duo Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) but don’t rule out yesterday’s stage 2 winner Peter Sagan. Even though he’s not considered to be a pure sprinter, his performances this season suggest that almost anything seems possible at the moment…

Video: watch Chris Boardman's analysis of what's in store today right here.

Start time is at 11:40 BST - just two minutes away...

There is only one categorised climb today. It’s a category four at the 82.5km mark.

Some news from the start line today. A broken scaphoid won't stop Tony Martin from continuing. A plastic cast on his left hand and the Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider is on his way again.

And the riders are off and away on stage two. I wonder when the first breakaway will be?

Let's have a little look at the route and its surrounding area. The start at Vise isn't too far - about 15km - from the city of Liege, where the prologue took place on Saturday. Meanwhile, the city of Roubaix is just 20km from the finish - meaning we truly are in the heart of Belgian cycling country today.

And the finishing city of Tournai is a real treat for tourists. It's considered to be one of the most culturally important places in Belgium and is noted for its architecture, historical and religious significance and as the birthplace of numerous influential painters and writers.

202km remaining from 207km

Philippe Gilbert has answered a few of his critics over the opening weekend of the Tour. Find out what the under-pressure BMC man had to say after yesterday's stage right here.

195km remaining from 207km

Check out @cyclingthealps (Twitter address) preview of stage 2 from Visé to Tournai. Explore the route on a Google Map, with a Google Earth Tour or cycle it virtually! Watch profiles, Street View tours, detailed Google Earth tours and a lot more of each climb. Visit the site here.

Hearing reports that the Team Sky car has been called to engage Mark Cavendish at the back of the peloton, which is still in tact. More news on this when we get it.

Video and Tech Gallery: Race leader Fabian Cancellara's Trek Domane 6-Series Maillot Jaune. Check it out right here.

Elsewhere, away from the Tour de France, RCS Sport's Michele Acquarone has stated his worries over the financial viability of some of Italian cycling's premier events, most notably Tirreno-Adriatico. More on this right here.

We finally have a break. FDJ's Anthony Roux, who crashed yesterday, has attacked. He's opened up a yawning gap, though two riders are attempting to counter...

183km remaining from 207km

179km remaining from 207km

Morkov, of course, took the points on three of the five climbs yesterday and is wearing the polka dot jersey. His burst to the front will give him the ideal chance to extend that lead in the mountains classification on today's solitary categorised climb.

Kern is the most experienced rider of the three at the age of 31. It's his fourth Tour de France, while Roux is competing in his second and it's Morkov's debut in the race. Kern is also the highest-placed of the three in the overall GC, 1:57 behind Cancellara. With the gap now approaching the three-minute mark, Kern is the virtual leader of the Tour. But there's an awful long way to go today.

166km remaining from 207km

Let's pause for a quick look at the leaders of the other standings after the prologue and the first stage:

Kern became a father for the first time on the eve of the Tour. He must be riding on adrenaline here...

Our dedicated team of journalists in the field have sent in some new snippets for you all to digest. Here's the latest edition of our 'Tour Shorts'.

The leaders have just completed their first 50km and have now opened up a hefty gap of eight minutes. No sign of panic in behind them yet, and with over 150km to go there's no need...

176km remaining from 207km

176km remaining from 207km

163km remaining from 207km

Mark Renshaw played down his chances of sprint success this morning ahead of the stage. He cited Orica-GreenEdge, Lotto-Belisol and Argos-Shimano as the main contenders due to their dedicated lead out trains. Rabobank will not devote as many resources to Renshaw and Sky will not dedicate as many to Cavendish either.

Don't rule out Tyler Farrar either. He stated pre-race that he didn't see any of the main sprinters getting dropped and was confident of doing well in his local province - Farrar lives around 50km from the finish in Tournai.

150km remaining from 207km

RadioShack are at the front of the chasing peloton as they look to bring the gap down, or at least prevent it from increasing.

The course might be pretty flat today, but there's a couple of pave sections. Bad news for Tony Martin as he tries to nurse that broken hand.

143km remaining from 207km

We're roughly 15km from the one and only categorised climb. Morkov almost certain to extend his lead in the KOM standings.

Glorious sunshine now for the riders. Not too warm though and the wind might yet be a factor.

The run into the finish at Tournai is relatively straightforward today. There is one major roundabout roughly 800m from the finish but apart from that it looks like plain sailing. Shouldn't be the drama that we saw early in the Giro d'Italia.

Watching the riders here, the stage isn't quite as flat at it looks on some of the maps. Plenty of subtle undulations.

King Henry VIII was a famous visitor to Tournai in the sixteenth century. He conquered it in 1513 and for a brief period the city was represented in the British Parliament. Can Cavendish and Sky conquer it once more, almost 500 years later?

130km remaining from 207km

Leaders speeding alongside the river. Plenty of fans lining the streets.

And Cavendish stops to change his bike. Didn't lose much time there.

And the leaders are onto the first and only climb. It's 2.1km long.

Roads quite narrow and winding on this climb. It takes in the area's picturesque citadel and the fans are really making themselves heard on the roadside.

125km remaining from 207km

Namur really is a beautiful city. It looks stunning in the midsummer sunshine.

Away from the action in Belgium, UCI chief Pat McQuaid has spoken out in support of USADA's action against Johan Bruyneel. Read exactly what he had to say here.

And the leaders are now over the top of the climb. Little change in the gap...

115km remaining from 207km

Confirmation that Merkov won the solitary available point on the climb and extends his lead in the mountains classification.

Gap has come down by a large chunk in the last couple of kilometres. Are the leading trio giving themselves a breather? There are three or four teams taking turns to lead in the chasing pack. Lotto-Belisol, RadioShack and Argos-Shimano have been most prominent over the last few minutes.

Leading trio are into the feed zone.

Leaving you all in the capable hands of Susan now for the next few minutes...

Susan here, as the peloton goes through a town and tidily rides around a series of long traffic islands.

Tony Martin has a cast on his left wrist, a large bandage on his left elbow and another on his left upper arm.  This can't feel good.

107km remaining from 207km

Luis Leon Sanchez of Rabobank also has a brace on his left hand. But he too is still in the race, and in fact, eating a sandwich at the moment.

Argos-Shimano, Orica-GreenEdge and Lotto Beilsol are all at the head of the peloton. Yup, we are expecting a mass sprint finish today.

Nice to see the sunshine and blue skies today. They have been a rare commodity this year.

98km remaining from 207km

Kern leads the break trio right now.  He is followed by Roux, who is using both hands now that there are no cobblestones. Morkov is sitting in third, with all his polka dots.

Peter Sagan is wearing the green jersey today. It actually looks rather nice with his Liquigas electric-light-green kit.

91km remaining from 207km

Simon Gerrans of Orica-GreenEdge, is working his way up to the front of the field. He will become a dad in September, we have just heard.

What does the Tour's defending champion have to say? “Yesterday was intense. My legs are still coming around I think but today I’ll try and conserve energy, stay safe, maybe even try and recover a little bit,” Cadel Evans told Cyclingnews. “Tomorrow there’ll be a short little climb and I think we could see a repeat of the Peter Sagan show.”

And here is Mark back, to take you along to the mass sprint finish!

85km remaining from 207km

Next significant phase of the race will be the intermediate sprint in about 30km. With every point crucial it will be interesting to see if anyone tries to bridge the gap. It's a possibility but doubtful.

Three hours in now and the average speed of the race has increased. Up to 43km/h.

Gap is down to 4:15 but not falling sharply.

Stepping away from the stage again for a moment, there are strong rumours about a new German team on next year's WorldTour. What's that all about? Find out here

Sky have been very quiet today. Haven't spent too much time at the front. Are they going to come alive in the next few kilometres as the intermediate sprint approaches?

70km remaining from 207km

Don't forget there's 20 points available to the winner for the intermediate sprints at the Tour de France now following last year's rule changes. So despite these three being a long way clear, there is much to fight for in behind, with points available right down to 15th place. The rider who finishes fourth behind the leading trio will score 13.

65km remaining from 207km

Lotto-Belisol and Argos-Shimano are pushing once again on the front of the peloton. 10km until the intermediate sprint now.

And the gap sweeps down below four minutes again.

This intermediate sprint will offer some clues as to who will really be going for the stage win today. And just as I write this, Sky begin to edge to the front of the peloton for the first time.

60km remaining from 207km

55km remaining from 207km

And the intermediate sprint is underway


Waiting on confirmation of the rest of the points scorers, but at the head of the peloton it looked like Goss, Renshaw and Cavendish

50km remaining from 207km

45km remaining from 207km

Kern's riding position quite different to the other two leaders. Much lower in the saddle.

Cancellara is seen at the back of the peloton in discussion with his race director.

And now he rides up to Frank Schleck and starts chatting. I wonder what information he is relaying? The menu for tonight's team dinner?

35km remaining from 207km

Just caught a glimpse of the two favourites. Wiggins is ahead of Evans at this point. Evans quite near the back of the peloton.

Sorry folks - technical issues there.

28km remaining from 207km

25km remaining from 207km

Great sight - 197 riders chasing a solo leader through the sunshine. Pelton moving in synch as if choreographed.

RadioShack at the front of the pack. Controversial yellow helmets of Sky can be seen just behind. Roux still out in front.

Cyclingnews' Pete Cossins has managed to grab a word with Orica-GreenEdge's Shayne Bannan ahead of this fast and furious finale:

Roux looks cooked here - only 17 seconds ahead. 18km to go.

And Roux is caught. Less than 15km left. This will be fascinating...

Vacansoleil DCM, Omega Pharma-QuickStep at the front, pushing hard.

Kittel is out the back of the main group. Losing touch gradually. Not going to be his day. Lotto-Belisol and Lampre moving to the front.

10km remaining from 207km

Sagan is stalking Cavendish. The Slovak has been written off by Cavendish as a pure sprinter. Will he be proved right today?

5km remaining from 207km

Riders looking nervous. Lots of looking around and plenty of shouting. It's very, very fast here.

Four Lotto-Belisol riders now at the front. All looks set up for Greipel.

Hondo leading for Petacchi here. Cavendish gets shunted wide there.

GreenEdge, Lotto and Garmin battling for position

Greipel in great position, Sagan on his wheel

Photo finish there - has Cavendish beaten Greipel on the line?

And Cavendish has indeed taken the win. Incredible surge. Achieved without any help...

Greipel got first run but couldn't hang on. Goss finishes in third



That's all from our live coverage of stage 2 from the 2012 Tour de France. And it was a tour de force in sprinting from Cavendish, who defeated Greipel despite the German having every advantage in his favour.

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