Hushovd hammers to stage win, Valverde keeps yellow
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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Hushovd hammers to stage win, Valverde keeps yellow

by Agence France-Presse at 11:29 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Norwegian Thor Hushovd of Credit Agricole claimed his sixth victory from the Tour de France after powering his way to the second stage over 164.5km from Auray to here Sunday.

Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) retained the overall lead ahead of Monday's third stage, a 208km race from Saint Malo to Nantes.

In the general classification there was virtually no changes to the times following Saturday's race opener. Valverde now has a 01sec lead over Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen, who finished second on the stage to pull on the green jersey, with main rival Cadel Evans of Australia also at 01 in sixth place.

Hushovd had been among the big name sprinters to fail at the finish on Saturday when Valverde punched his way to victory on the uphill finish of the tricky Cadoudal climb in Brest.

A day later, a combination of familiar weather - and the profile of the slightly uphill finish - gave him the early stage win he was after.

"I like Brittany, it's a bit like Norway - cold, windy and rainy - and since I'm not a pure sprinter like (Robbie) McEwen and (Mark) Cavendish I prefer the sprints with a little bit of a climb at the end," said Hushovd, who in 2004 claimed his second stage from the race in nearby Quimper.

On the second of three days in Brittany the French riders in the peloton were at the front for most of the day, although in the end their biggest achievement was to show the sponsors' jersey.

A two-man breakaway involving Sylvain Chavanel of Cofidis and Thomas Voeckler of Bouygues Telecom turned into a four-man break when they were joined by compatriots Christophe Moreau and David Lelay at the 107km mark.

At that point the peloton trailed by 2:48, but thanks to the pursuit work of Francaise des Jeux, Valverde's Caisse d'Epargne team and eventually Quick Step, the deficit virtually evaporated to a minute with 25km to go.

The four leaders were holding off the bunch, but with a 35sec lead and seven kilometres to ride - the last four over undulating terrain - their bid to reach the finish looked doomed.

It was a conclusion that quickly came to Chavanel, who split from his companions with 2.5km from the line. His decision to attack earlier in the race soon took its toll, however, and he lasted only briefly before he was sucked in.

In what turned into a thrilling finish, Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland went on a daring solo attack with 1.5km to go, but CSC's big time trial specialist was followed by Italian Filippo Pozzatto, who claimed his first Tour stage here in 2004.

But both riders were stunned by the green shirts of Credit Agricole.

Australian Mark Renshaw, who had tried in vain to pull Hushovd to the finish line on his wheel on Saturday, this time made no mistake.

He took the big Norwegian up the final 600 metres, past the yellow shirt of Valverde, before peeling off and allowing Hushovd to finish the job on his own.

Kirchen - who had placed fourth on the opening stage - finished in second ahead of a handful of big name sprinters.

Renshaw admitted that his good work would give perhaps get him a favourable nod from Hushovd when Credit Agricole begin negotiations with a new sponsor after what is their last season in the peloton.

"I'm still a bit shocked," Renshaw told AFP. "Near the end I got caught with a bit of a wave and for a bit I thought Thor had crashed. Then I heard him behind me and he went with about 400 metres to go, pulling out of the outside of Valverde.

"On an uphill finish like that nobody's going to beat a sprinter like Thor." He added: "Once we get a new sponsor maybe he can put in a good word for me!"

Voeckler's efforts at the front with Chavanel allowed him to keep the 'King of the Mountains' polka dot jersey, at least for the time being.
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