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July 10th, 2001

A Belgian win in Belgium

Flat is flat, but this one was really flat. The only stage with literally no climbs in it, Stage 2 crosses the border and heads into the area of the renowned Tour of Flanders before NE to Antwerp. Nicer weather today - around 75F, and a pretty serious prize for the stage winner (in addition to the glory): a $20,000 diamond!

Everyone stayed together through the first sprint, won by Jaan Kirsipuu and putting him second in the GC on the road. Several attacks and counter attacks then went off the front, but by the half way mark the peloton was back together again. Another 9 riders tried again, but the pack would have none of it and reeled them in before too long. Local rider Paul Van Hytte, one of 17 Belgians in the race, was allowed to "escape" as the stage went through his home town and he got to go and say hello to his family and friends (this is a fairly common occurrence, but you better not attack for real!).

Once Van Hytte's one man parade was over with, 3 men had a go with about 50 kms to the line (Voigt, Knaven, Fruiti) so Van Hytte joined in and they built up a small lead on the chasing peloton, lead by AG2R
They were riding hard to get Kirsipuu into a good position for the sprint time bonus - a top 3 placing meant he would be the "virtual" Yellow Jersey. But the time to the lead quartet came down only a little, & they managed to hold a 40" lead and Fruiti got the final sprint.

With 30 kms to the line it was now a question of who would take the stage - and the significant time bonuses there as well. The 4 riders were 86" ahead - Rabobank now driving the chase, in fact Dekker and Wauters away, then joined by 10 more, including Bobby Julich & Stu O'Grady - only 11 sec back in the GC. A big crash occurred in the main pack - but most riders soon on their bikes again, Laurent Roux the worst for wear but eventually up, too.

As the stage started to wind down the 12 riders definitely had the 4 leaders in their sites, but the main pack was plenty agitated as well. The 12 merged to 16 with just over 10k to go - and 4 CA's among them. 8k left and a 35" advantage... Telekom was driving the pace for Zabel... 5k to go and the pack did not look well organized, the leaders still at 37"... O'Grady could take yellow just by the time gap alone... under 2k and the 4 CA's came to the front... all kind of attacks coming off the front!.. Belgian / Rabo Marc Wauters takes a solo flyer on the right at 1km, he's gapped the pack - and it's Wauters and Pretot in a photo finish - but Wauters takes the stage and is the new GC leader!


oh man, i forgot to mention the crash that came with 24km to go in the stage. it involved 20 or so riders...a few were banged up pretty bad. forgot the names, though, sorry. one of the USPS guys was involved, though. but he wasn't too injured, just lost a lot of time...tyler hamilton, i believe.

wow, i just realized this...team Mercury - Viatel isn't in the tour, and they're the winning team this year. i got to see them race in austin, actually. along with them, team Mercantone (which included Marco Pantoni) and team Seacco (which includes Mario Cippolini (sp?)) are absent. Pantoni is a past champ and is a badass mountain man, and Mario has more stage wins than any other rider. french bastards...putting in their crappy division 2 teams and leaving out the badasses...

overall:
Mark Wauters - Robobank is the new leader
Lance is 22" behind as is Jan Ullrich

Yellow Jersey - Mark Wauters - Robobank
Green Jersey - Jaan Kirsipuu - AG2R
Polkadot Jersey - Jacky Durand - Francaise des Jeux
White Jersey - Robert Hunter - Lampre

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