Thursday, 7 July 2011

Boasson Hagen leads Viking conquest of Normandy with stage win as Hushovd defends Maillot Jaune

Today marked a coming of age for the British registered and lead Team Sky as they took their first Tour stage win. Following much hype that failed to translate into sucess during their first season as a ProTour team and left empty handed at the end of last years Tour, this season has been a marked contrast with sucesses at the Tour Down Under, the Tour's of Qatar, Oman and California and during the Classics season with leader Bradley Wiggins finishing 3rd overall in the Paris-Nice.

Leading out the sprint in a finish that mirrored yesterdays charge into Cap Fréhel, Boasson Hagen timed his move perfectly. With HTC's Matt Goss coming up behind him within a bike length and fellow Norweigan and current race leader Thor Hushovd alongside there was some question as to where yesterday's winner Mark Cavendish had got to. Earlier some had speculated that Cavendish may try for a victory in Liseux despite its profile not being a traditional sprinters stage.

However the Manx Missile admitted after yesterday's win that anger had pushed him into the red taking the stage victory. With tomorrow's stage being the flatest stage of this years Tour the HTC rider seemed happy to take the intermediate sprint points and roll home at a relaxed pace to cross the line in 101st place, strategically conserving his energy for what is to be undoubtably an explosive homecoming for the rider who won his first Tour stage here in 2008.

With Hushovd placing 3rd in today's standings he has retained the yellow jersey in what proved to be a Viking conquest of Liseux. The only jersey to change hands today was the Maillot Vert which now rests on the shoulders of Phillipe Gilbert whose Omega-Pharma Lotto team worked hard to bring a quintet breakaway back into the fold on a day hampered by winds and rain that thankfully only saw Levi Leipheimer tumble and skid across the roadmarkings on the drenched roads. Quickly back on his bike and with only 4km to go to the finish he did well to regain ground lost, the only injuries being a few superficial bruises and a bumped ego.

Tomorrow the peloton begin their journey into the Massif Central en route to the Pyrenees. For now the grimpeurs bide their time; the GC rivals content to let Hushovd continue to basque in the glory of the Maillot Jaune, staying safe and playing their waiting game while the sprinters take all the risks in their spectacular showdowns. More known for its 24 hour motor race, Le Mans will host the departe and from here the remaining 193 riders will head 218km towards Châteauroux where undoubtably Mark Cavendish will be aiming to take his 2nd stage win.

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