Tom Boonen winning the sprint.
Tom Boonen winning the sprint.

Belgian Boonen Comes Out Smiling After Sprint Finish

Tom Boonen winning the sprint.
By Sara Blask

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Despite suffering from a severe toothache that nearly caused him to withdraw from the 2005 Tour de France before it even started, Belgian sprinter Tom Boonen (Quick-Step) won Stage 2 today with clinical precision, earning himself the green jersey and his third Tour stage win in two years.

Tom Boonen winning the sprint.

Tom Boonen winning the sprint. Tom Boonen winning the sprint.

Boonen, 24, clocked a time of three hours, 51 minutes, and 31 seconds on the largely flat, narrow 113-mile course, which ended in Les Essarts. With an explosive burst of speed in the final 165 feet, he managed to overtake Australian Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto), who finished third, and second-placed Norwegian Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole).

Today’s bunched sprint finish was a prelude to this year’s battle for the Tour’s green jersey, awarded after each stage to the race’s overall points leader. Points are based on a rider’s placing in each stage and in the intermediate sprints along the route. Boonen, McEwen, and Hushovd are all considered favorites for this title.

After edging out six-time champion Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel) in yesterday’s blistering record-setting time trial, American David Zabriskie (CSC) managed to retain the overall leader’s yellow jersey today. While everyone battled for space near the front of the peloton, Zabriskie’s teammate Ivan Basso, one of the Tour favorites, reached over to give him an encouraging pat on the back.

Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom), who wore the yellow jersey for ten heroic days during last year’s race, earned the race’s red polka-dot jersey. This jersey is worn by the rider with the most climbing points, after Voeckler won on the Côte du lac de la Vouraie, a moderate half-mile ascent that was the only climb of the day.

Lance Armstrong finished 63rd, surrounded by his teammates throughout the stage to protect him from crashes or injuries.

A crash within the peloton in the final moments meant a race rule was invoked in case of accidents in the final three kilometers (1.86 miles) of any stage; without a significant difference in terms of time between the sprint finishers and trailing peloton, all riders received the same time as the stage winner.

Early in the stage, a group of 14 riders broke away from the peloton, including Voeckler, Laszlo Bodrogi (Credit Agricole), David Canada (Saunier Duval), and Sylvain Calzati (Ag2r Prevoyance), to establish what appeared to be a promising lead. The quartet took turns at setting the pace in the lead echelon and at one point was more than four minutes ahead of the peloton.

With 46.6 miles left, an effort initiated by Zabriskie’s Team CSC spurred the initial push to quash their lead, soon followed by the Francaise des Jeux team with Australian Baden Cooke, and the Davitamon-Lotto team led by fellow Aussie Robbie McEwen. The breakaway group’s lead disappeared with 6.2 miles remaining as the contending teams fine-tuned their plans for the last push of the day.

The 132-mile course for stage three tomorrow begins in La Châtaigneraie and heads inland toward the historic town of Tours, a long, twisting route that passes some of the Loire Valley’s famous châteaux.