Armstrong playing it cool
Cavendish wins stage, beats heat
BRIGNOLES, France - Lance Armstrong just wanted to stay out of trouble on a scorching day one rider felt was better suited for baking bread.
British sprinter Mark Cavendish won the second stage of the Tour de France yesterday, with Armstrong finishing safely in the pack. Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, winner of the opening time trial a day earlier, kept the leader’s yellow jersey.
Cancellara has an 18-second lead over 2007 Tour winner Alberto Contador of Spain. Bradley Wiggins of Britain is third, 19 seconds behind. Armstrong, the seven-time champion, is 10th, 40 seconds back.
Tyler Farrar of Wenatchee, Wash., finished second and Romain Feillu of France was third in the 116-mile route from Monaco to Brignoles.
Armstrong said his strategy was “just avoid trouble and get in the rhythm of the race.’’
The Tour rolls across the rim of the Mediterranean for mostly flat stages the next few days, with a challenging team time trial tomorrow. Three days in the Pyrenees start in Stage 7.
“Yesterday was not really a normal stage,’’ said Armstrong, 37, as he headed toward his Astana team bus. “These start to be the more normal stages.’’
The heat, however, was anything but normal.
“The heat was like you were baking bread. . . . It was terrible,’’ Cancellara said on French TV.
He recounted how with about an hour left of riding his team manager said the temperature hit 104 degrees. “I haven’t seen heat like that in years,’’ he said.
The field will face similar conditions during today’s stage, a 122-mile leg from the port city of Marseille to La Grande Motte.
Cavendish, 24, had little trouble with the conditions. Cavendish, who is from the rarely hot Isle of Man, won three stages in the Giro d’Italia in May and is proving to be among the world’s top sprinters.
He burst from the main pack behind a textbook escort by his Columbia teammates, then took over alone to finish a split second in front. For Cavendish, it was his fifth stage win in three Tours - although he has yet to finish.
“I’m glad I could win to just pay them back,’’ Cavendish said, who finished in 4 hours 30 minutes, 2 seconds - the same time as all but two of the riders. “It’s emotional for me.’’
Armstrong, teammate Contador, and other title contenders approached the stage cautiously to avoid crashes. Armstrong was 80th and Contador 58th.
There were three minor crashes midway through the race, one involving Saxo Bank team rider Frank Schleck, a possible title contender.
In the first, Jurgen Van De Walle, a Belgian with the Quick Step team, scraped and bruised his left shoulder and knee. It was not clear if he would start today.
“With the heat like that, sometimes there’s a lack of concentration among the riders,’’ Cancellara said.