Chavanel in yellow as Schlecks, Armstrong crash in Tour
Belgium: Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel claimed the leader’s yellow jersey at the Tour de France Monday after a gutsy ride in a second stage that witnessed a number of high-profile crashes.
Chavanel was part of an eight-man breakaway which formed in the early stages of the 201km ride from Brussels to the hilly Belgian Ardennes, and was left to go alone for the final 19.5km after Belgian Jurgen Roelandts ran out of steam.
It was in Chavanel’s wake, however, that the real race drama unfolded.
For the second day running a number of crashes caused panic in the peloton, one of which took down several yellow jersey favourites including Lance Armstrong and Andy Schleck.
Saxo Bank leader Schleck fell alongside his brother Frank on the descent of the Stockeu climb, one of two which appear on the Belgian classic Liege-Bastogne-Liege and which was made slippery by rain.
The brothers had to rely on the help of teammate Jens Voigt to close the gap to a group which contained teammate and overnight leader Fabian Cancellara, although both were wincing in pain.
Upon realising that the Schlecks were battling to close the gap, Cancellara negotiated a non-aggression pact in the peloton -- and that was quickly accepted by the group.
Chavanel’s lead never seemed under threat in any case, and the Frenchman went on to cross the line alone over four minutes ahead of the first group of riders led home by Cancellara.
He said: “I didn’t know what was going on behind me, although I did hear there’d been a crash. All I know is that I gave it everything I had.
“But whether the stage ended up being neutralised or not, it doesn’t take anything away from my win.”
Chavanel now leads Cancellara by 2min 57sec in the overall standings, with German Tony Martin of HTC-Columbia a further 10secs behind.
Seven-time champion Armstrong moved one place down to fifth, at 3:19 behind Chavanel, with reigning yellow jersey champion Alberto Contador in seventh at 3:24.
Chavanel is not a contender for overall victory in the race, but his win has given a huge boost to his Belgian Quick Step team on what is the only stage of this year’s race to be held entirely in the country.