Stage 2 was the much anticipated team timetrial where each team’s nine riders set off together and ride the 23km course in formation. Whilst every stage is a test of teamwork, none other exposes a team’s dynamic ability to ride together at warp speed like the TTT. For the weak there’s simply no where to hide.
The action on the day was never likely to be the most exciting of this year’s tour, but the narrow roads, heavily laden with spectators, added a certain je ne sais quoi to the proceedings that kept me watching. The reward was seeing a closely fought battle for the stage win. The top six teams all finished within 10″ of each other. Jonathan ‘great specs, shame about the sideburns’ Vaughter’s Team Garmin-Cervelo triumphed with an average speed just shy of 60kph and did enough to put Thor Hushovd in yellow, a jersey which he should be able to hold on to for a couple days, before reverting back to the equally coveted rainbow stripes. Second were Cadel Evans’ BMC who scraped out an incredible performance that left them just 4″ Garmin-Cervelo’s pace. Team Sky rounded off the top three with a time equal to BMC’s.
Mark Twain’s adage that “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme” can be applied to the situation that left Evans just 1″ behind Thor Hushovd in the yellow jersey competition. The last time the TTT featured in le Tour was in 2009, Lance Armstrong’s comeback year. Then, it was Stage 4 and Cancellara was in yellow having scorched the field in the prologue. Team Astana, led by Armstrong and Contador, won that stage edging out the Garmin team. The rhyme here is that in 2009 Armstrong missed out on yellow by 0.22″ whilst this year it was Evans who was kept out of yellow by a narrow margin. The other striking similarity between these two Tours is the fact that in the early stages of the race Contador lost time by being too far from the front at the run in to the finish.
Looking ahead to Stage 3, we’re likely to see a full-on sprint finish. I’m sticking my neck out and calling Cavendish to win with a mass crash to boot. Watch out for Tyler Farrar and Andre Greipel too, they may well round off the top three.