Fabian Cancellara was happy to hand over his yellow jersey in order to neutralise Stage 2 after almost a quarter of the peleton crashed on the descent of the Côte de Stockeu, some 30km from the finish. After a number of GC contenders hit the deck for the second straight day, Cancellara went to the head of the peleton and slowed the race down. He negotiated for the points on offer for the final sprint to be withdrawn, virtually ending the days race as a contest.
The sole beneficiary (and sole man who raced to the finish) was the last remnant of the days break, Sylvain Chavanel, who avoided the carnage up front and outstayed his breakaway rivals to power home almost 4 minutes in front of the main field. The reward is not only his second ever stage win at the Tour, but the Yellow Jersey, with the time gaps between riders not neutralised by the race officials. Chavanel now leads the overall classification by 2:57 from Cancellara, with Tony Martin dropping to third.
The farcical end to the stage was the result of a series of major crashes on the Côte de Stockeu, the roads made icy by a combination of rain and fuel which turned the roads into a virtual ice rink. After Armstrong, Andy Schleck, Contador, and Wiggins (amongst others) all crashed on the descent of the climb Cancellara had had enough, and it was his presence at the front of the peleton that slowed the race down and resulted in the stage being neutralised. While a lot of the GC contenders will be sore this morning, at this stage there seems to be no serious injuries amongst them, apart from the terribly unlucky Chrstian Van de Velde. Van de Velde is out of the race after breaking two ribs in some of the many crashes during the stage.
Personally I find the decision of the riders to neutralise the stage like this be a complete farce. It is either too dangerous to ride, and the whole stage should be scrapped, or it should be game on. Just because a couple of big GC guys go down does not mean the race comes to a complete standstill. Had the same thing happened to a couple of domestiques they would have been left behind soaking in their blood stained knicks. Last years Tour was boring as hell as everyone followed Contador around France like lap dogs. Face it, while the riders might not like them, the crowd loves a crash! And if a GC rider loses 5 minutes then boy we can expect to see some action from him in the mountains! Ever heard of animating the race guys?!
As well as the getting the win and the yellow jersey, with the final sprint neutralised, Sylvain Chavanel farcically takes the lead in the Green Jersey competition as well. He leads Alessandro Pettachi by 9 points, with Jurgen Roelandts a further point back after collecting all three intermediate sprints on the days stage.
Once competition that was fully contested on the day was the King of the Mountains jersey. Frenchman Jerome Pineau jumped out to an early 5 point lead in the race for the polka-dot jersey after topping 4 of the 6 mountains on offer in Stage 2. Chavanel and young Estonian Rein Taaramae are equal second, while Matthew Lloyd will be disappointed he did not pick up more points in this classification after featuring in the days break.
With the stage neutralised there was no change in the White Jersey competition.
Yellow Jersey - Sylvain Chavanel
Green Jesrey - Sylvain Chavanel
Polka Dot Jersey - Jerome Pineau
White Jersey - Tony Martin
If you can believe it, tonight's stage could lead to even more carnage than that we saw overnight. Stage 3 covers the 213km between Wanze and the Arenberg forest and contains 7 sections of cobblestones totaling just over 13km in length. That spells absolute mayhem, with punctures and crashes likely to be a regular feature. Given last nights farce, tipping a winner will be close to impossible, but given Fabian Cancellara's two wins over the cobbles early this spring (Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix) he may just be the man to beat - that's if he wants to race of course.