Britain's Mark Cavendish claimed his 21st victory on the Tour de France and his first as world champion Monday after beating German sprint rival Andre Greipel to win the race's second stage. Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara, of RadioShack, retained the race leader's yellow jersey with his 7sec lead on Britain's Bradley Wiggins (Sky) intact after the 207 km ride from Vise to Tournai in Belgium.
Cavendish, the race's defending green jersey champion for the points competition, has come into the race with, as usual, plenty of motivation to add to his record tally. But because Sky's big aim is to secure the yellow jersey for Wiggins' in Paris, he has no train of sprinters to help lead him into the flat finishes where support can often be decisive. On what was the first flat finish of the race, that decision proved no problem for the Isle of Man rider. He simply followed the trains of several other specialist sprint teams, Lotto, Orica-GreenEdge, Argos and did some slick maneuvering before following Greipel when the German launched his final drive for the line. Thanks to his energy-saving efforts earlier, Cavendish emerged from Greipel's slipstream to take the victory by half a wheel.
I left it a bit late, with about 200 (metres) to go, I should have gone past Greipel a bit earlier. It was quite tight at the end," said Cavendish, who said he was even more buoyed by winning in the rainbow stripes. "I wanted to show this jersey off, you know. I have massive respect for this jersey and everyone who's worn it. Not just on the Tour de France, but on other races as well. I'm really really happy. It's very special to cross the line (as world champion). I look down and see the rainbow bands and it just fills me with pride."
Team Sky chief Dave Brailsford told AFP: "Psychologically that was a big stage for all the sprint teams.
"He (Cavendish) has proved there why he is the number one in the world and why he has been the number one for a long time. He benefits from a sprint lead-out, there's no doubt. But he showed today he doesn't need one."
Australia's Matt Goss, of Orica-GreenEdge, took third place ahead of Tom Veelers, the Dutchman stepping up for more fancied Argos-Shimano teammate Marcel Kittel after he suffered stomach problems in the stage. Cancellara, meanwhile, will wear the yellow jersey into Tuesday's third stage over 197 km from Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer when the race heads into France.
After two "intense" days of racing, the Olympic time trial champion admitted he was happy the peloton had not decided to really turn on the full gas, in a bid to catch an ealier three-man breakaway, until the final kilometres.
"I'm happy to get to France with the yellow jersey on. I just hope my legs will be better than they were today," said Cancellara. "I was pretty tired today, but I suppose that's normal when we've had two intense stages and all the commitments that go with having the yellow jersey. Thankfully we only stepped up the pace in the final 25 km. I know tomorrow will be a difficult stage, but we've looked at it in detail and hopefully it will be alright for me."
Tour de France Stage 2
1. Mark Cavendish (GBR/SKY) 4:56:59
2. André Greipel (GER/LTB) @ s.t.
3. Matthew Goss (AUS/GEC)
4. Tom Veelers (NED/ARG)
5. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA/LAM)
6. Peter Sagan (SVK/LIQ)
7. Yauheni Hutarovich (BLR/FDJ)
8. Juan José Haedo (ARG/SAX)
9. Mark Renshaw (AUS/RAB)
10. Tyler Farrar (USA/GRM)
General Classification After Stage 2
1. Fabian Cancellara (SUI/RSH) 10:02:31
2. Bradley Wiggins (GBR/SKY) @ .07
3. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA/OPQ) @ s.t.
4. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) @ .10
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR/SKY) @ .11
6. Denis Menchov (RUS/KAT) @ .13
7. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/BMC) @ s.t.
8. Cadel Evans (AUS/BMC) @ .17
9. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/LIQ) @ .18
10. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN/GRM) @ s.t.