Tour 2010: Stage 2

Today’s stage through the Ardennes included roads that many of the riders would know from the one-day Classic, Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Known as La Doyenne (‘The Oldest’), it’s one of the hardest races in professional cycling: over 250km long, it includes numerous climbs (some at more than 10% gradient) and is held in April, when the weather in northern Europe can be truly diabolical.
The riders could have been forgiven for thinking they actually were riding L-B-L today as, true to form, the rain teemed down. Sylvain Chavanel – a Frenchman riding for a Belgian team – claimed a doubly popular and well-deserved solo win from an epic breakaway of 180 km. However, after a series of crashes involving many of the big names, the peloton decided it was too dangerous to race for second place and rolled over the line as a group in protest. While I largely sympathise – the roads were certainly treacherous and the Tour still has a long way to go – I also feel slightly cheated. I don’t want to see anyone get hurt, but these guys are pros and were well aware of the route, conditions and potential risks. It’ll be interesting to see what happens on tomorrow’s, even more daunting, stage.

Incidentally, I’m indebted to Paul Fournel for the first line of this poem. Merci, monsieur.

CHAIN REACTION

Who’s gonna fall today?
Maybe the question
Grew too large
In the minds of men
Who, back in April,
Roared over these same hills
Like Flanders lions.
For when the rain came
Turning roads to glass
They forgot where
And what they were.

No sprint for second:
The leader spoke
And they rode to rule,
Killing the race
To save themselves.

Small consolation to the crowds
Who stood in rain six hours
To see them.
While the one who dared
And proved his courage
Is all in yellow.

Brussels-Spa, 201 km
Won by Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step)
Maillot jaune: Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step)

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