Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Quick Step Finishes 1-2, Crash Mars Finale

Stage 2 of the Tour de France yesterday ended in dramatic fashion.  Gert Steegmans, a member of the Quick Step team, won the bunch sprint just ahead of teammate Tom Boonen.  With 200 meters to go, Steegmans, normally Boonen's leadout man, commenced his sprint on the uphill finish.  With Boonen on his wheel, he surged ahead of everyone else and created a gap.  Boonen at one point moved up alongside Steegmans in the final meters, but didn't (or couldn't) pass him and instead gave the victory to the shy Belgian.  With all the other sprinters washed away in the sprint, Steegmans and Boonen were able to cross the finish line together in celebration.  It was a rare moment in the sun for Steegmans, who made a name for himself in last year's Tour de France by leading out Robbie McEwen to several stage victories. 

The victory though was somewhat overshadowed by a major crash that occurred at the end of the stage.  A rainstorm had blown through during the finale of the stage, creating slick roads for the riders.  With 2km to go, a couple of riders at the front of the peloton touched wheels, leading to a pileup of about 30 riders that completely blocked the road.  Only about the first 20 riders were able to make it through the crash unscathed, including most of the main sprinters with the exceptions Danielle Bennati and Thor Hushovd.  Because the riders were within 3km of the finish, everyone received the same time.  Yet, as is always the concern with crashes, the big focus was on any potential injuries.  Among those included in the crash was maillot jaune wearer Fabian Cancellara.  As he got up and rode the final kilometers, he held his left arm weakly and was grimacing in pain.  Fortunately, post-race it was learned that he was alright and was more shocked at the crash than anything.  He also is still in yellow, with an unchanged lead of 13 seconds over Andreas Kloden.

Also included in the crash were the Discovery Channel duo of George Hincapie and Thomas Vaitkus.  Hincapie sustained a bruised knee and appeared to be in shock, but would be alright.  Vaitkus, however, sustained a fractured thumb and is now out of the Tour de France after having surgery last night.  Earlier in the stage, Frank Schleck of Team CSC also crashed, but sustained only cuts and bruises.  Just a typical day at the Tour de France.


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