Robbie McEwen beat Tom Boonen and Thor Hushovd to win the 228.5km second stage of the Tour de France in Esch-sur-Alzette on Monday.
In a crazy sprint, several riders crashed before the final corner and late attacker Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile) was caught 100 metres from the line. The sprinters were all over the road but McEwen forced his way past Hushovd in the final metres to win with his arms in the air.
Hushovd’s foot came out of the pedals near the line and the big Norwegian pointed at McEwen in anger but had the consolation of retaking the yellow jersey from George Hincapie. Boonen is now second at five seconds and McEwen is third at eight seconds. Hincapie slipped to fourth at ten seconds because of the time bonuses won by the leading three.
David Millar was again in the thick of the action in the sprint. He finished 23rd on the stage and is now 18th overall, 26 seconds behind Hushovd. Wiggins finished 164th at 6-55 and so slipped to 162nd at 7-20.
It was McEwen’s ninth Tour de France stage win of his 11-year career.
“It’s important to get that first stage win. This is my ninth stage but they?re all special and I can remember them all,? McEwen said in the winner?s press conference.
“I?ve jut turned 34 and people say sprinters get slower as they get older but I haven?t slowed down yet. What makes the Tour special is that you start with a big zero on the board and you have to come here and score again. There?s a lot of pressure but now I?ve got one and I?ll be trying for more.?
McEwen said he was confident of being the sprint on Tuesday despite the 216.5km stage finishing at the top of the Cauberg climb that is also used for the Amstel Gold Race.
?It?s going to be tough but I think it could end a sprint,? he said.
?I think pretty much all the sprinters will be up there. Hushovd gets up the climbs and so do Zabel and O?Grady. Hopefully I?ll make it as well and can go for another stage win.?
Thor Hushovd was disappointed to miss out on the stage victory after touching McEwen?s foot with his front wheel and losing his own pedal but was happy to be back in yellow.
“I got scared in the sprint because I almost crashed and was disappointed because I think I could have beaten Robbie,? he said.
“Fortunately I got the yellow jersey back. I knew it was possible and that?s why I did the intermediate sprints. I only felt at 80% after suffering from shock yesterday but I think I?ll get better and better this week. My arm hurts on the climbs and my stomach was upset because of the medicines I took after having the stitches but I?ll be okay.?
Hushovd was pleased with the Tour de France?s decision to ban the PMU cardboard hands in the final two kilometres of stages but called for double barriers so that spectators do not hang over into the road.
Tuesday’s 216.5km third stage starts in Esch-sur-Alzette in Luxembourg and ends in at the top of the Cauberg in Valkenberg. The stage is relatively flat for 120kms but then includes six small climbs.
1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 228.5km in 5.36.14
2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic
3 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
4 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
5 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
6 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas
7 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Team CSC
8 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Francaise Des Jeux
9 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
10 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner
Overall standings after stage 2
1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole 9.54.19
2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic 0.05
3 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 0.08
4 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 0.10
5 David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC 0.16
6 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner
7 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears
8 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Team CSC
9 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 0.18
10 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 0.20