Thor Hushovd pulled on the second yellow jersey of this year’s Tour de France after his Garmin Cervelo team won the team time trial in Les Essarts.
There was just seconds in it, as the top five teams finished within five seconds of each other. But seconds were all Hushovd needed to take the second yellow jersey of his career. Just three behind leader Philippe Gilbert after the opening stage. Overtaking the Belgian was never the challenge, it was making sure they beat BMC, Sky and HTC-Highroad.
Garmin did so, but only just. Time gaps were never going to be huge, but Jonathan Vaughters’ team eventually won by four seconds from BMC and Sky. HTC-Highroad were another second behind and were left wondering what might have been.
Bernhard Eisel, Mark Cavendish’s right-hand man and so often their captain on the road, crashed on the first corner and the team didn’t wait for him. Eisel was straight back on his bike, and had the team waited he may have helped them to a better time.
HTC were nine seconds down at the first time check and fourteen at the second. Somehow they made up nine seconds in the last seven kilometres, and that charge for the line might have netted them a win had Eisel been with them.
HTC were never going to win the stage after that start, but like the others, they were protecting the overall aspirations of their leader, Tony Martin, and did a good job.
The teams of the other contenders also did a good job of protecting their leaders. BMC and Sky lost just four seconds, Leopard-Trek lost five seconds and RadioShack ten. Once again it was Alberto Contador that was the biggest loser.
Saxo Bank finished in eighth place, at 28 seconds. In the first two days he has now lost approximately 1-40 to all his rivals, and will have to go on the attack to get that back, while the rest can defend. The only rider who has fared worse is fellow Spaniard Samuel Sanchez, whose Euskaltel-Euskadi team finished last, 1-22 behind Garmin.
Brits at the top
Although the time gaps are still small, there are now three Brisith riders in the top 12. David Millar (Garmin-Cervelo) is in second place, on the same time as Hushovd, while Geraint Thomas (Sky) has moved up to fourth, four seconds down. Wiggins is in twelfth on the same time.
Thomas had been tipped for the yellow jersey today. With Omega Pharma-Lotto never likely to defend Gilbert’s lead all Sky had to do was beat Garmin by a second and BMC by four to put the Welshman – who finished a brilliant sixth yesterday – in the yellow jersey.
In the end they didn’t quite do it. They were the fastest at the first time check, albeit by just one second, but immediately after going through that point they lost two riders as Christian Knees couldn’t hold the wheel in front and took Xabier Zandio out of the back with him.
Had those two, or even just one of them, held on for a little longer they could have made the difference. But these are the challenges of a team time trial. It’s not just about going fast, it’s about keeping the group together for as long as possible, something that was very tough on this course that was tight in many places and twisty in others.
Several of the teams shed riders on the road and many finished with just six riders, Garmin included.
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Tour de France 2011, stage two: Les Essarts to Les Essarts, 23km TTT
1. Garmin-Cervelo 24-28
2. BMC at 4 secs
3. Team Sky at 4 secs
4. Leopard-Trek at 5 secs
5. HTC-Highroad at 5 secs
6. RadioShack at 10 secs
7. Rabobank at 12 secs
8. Saxo Bank at 28 secs
9. Astana at 32 secs
10. FDJ at 39 secs
Overall classification after stage two
1. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Garmin-Cervelo 5-06-25
2. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Cervelo at same time
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at 1 sec
4. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky at 4 sec
5. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Leopard-Trek
6. Frank Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek
7. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Leopard-Trek
8. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky
9. Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC
10. Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek all at same time
12. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 4 secs
18. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Highroad at 5 secs
24. Ben Swift (GB) Team Sky at 11 secs
Mark Cavendish and HTC-Highroad
Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky
Garmin-Cervelo on their winning the team time trial
Jonathan Vaughters is held aloft by the Garmin-Cervelo team
Thor Hushovd takes the race lead
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