Eurosport - Mon, 05 Jul 16:15:00 2010
Sylvain Chavanel won stage two of the Tour de France in Spa to claim the yellow jersey as the race saw a series of crashes and a protest by the peloton.
The Frenchman from the Quick Step team crossed the line three minutes and 56 seconds ahead of the peloton at the end of the 201km stage from Brussels to wrestle the overall race lead away from Fabian Cancellara.
The peloton decided not to contest the sprint for second position in protest at race conditions in Belgium after a second successive day of crashes following hot on the heels of a crash-littered opening to the Giro d'Italia in neighbouring Netherlands in May.
Cancellara's Saxo Bank team leader and general classification hope Andy Schleck was one of a number of riders to crash in wet conditions on the descent of the Cote d'Aisomont inside the final 50km although the impasse allowed him to regain contact with his main rivals for the maillot jaune in Paris.
The chaos in the peloton in the wake of those crashes allowed Chavanel, part of an early eight-man breakaway, to turn a slender advantage into a decisive one and Chavanel now leads Cancellara by 2:57 on GC.
Chavanel along with Rein Taaramae, Jerome Pineau, Sebastien Turgot, Sylvain Chavanel, Jurgen Roelandts, Francesco Gavazzi, Matthew Lloyd and Markus Burghardt attacked early and they built up a maximum lead of 6:55 as they tackled three fourth-category climbs in the first half of the stage.
Chavanel's team-mate Pineau took the polka dot jersey in the process but they began to split on the Cote d'Aisomont and the escape looked doomed with Chavanel just ahead of Roelandts and the peloton lurking within a minute.
But then Luxembourg's Schleck, runner-up to Alberto Contador last year, suffered a serious crash and was standing on the side of the road holding his bleeding right arm.
He then mounted a team mate's bike before cycling off, along with brother Frank, after losing around four minutes on the leading riders.
Most of the GC guys contenders hit the ground in separate incidents to leave a 33-man lead group featuring Cancellara ahead of a group involving Lance Armstrong and Contador by around a minute with the Schleck brothers a long way off the pace.
But Cancellara seemed to instigate an impromptu neutralisation of the stage allowing Chavanel who dropped Roelandts as the leaders crossed Stockeu and Rosier, the final two climbs that also feature on the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic, to storm home alone and become the first Frenchman to wear the yellow jersey since Romain Feillu in 2008.
A main bunch of 123 riders crossed the line spread across the road although that group did not contain VandeVelde nor Lampre's former Giro winner Damiano Cunego as both came home nearly six minutes further adrift.