Mark Cavendish of Team Sky this afternoon beat former HTC-Highroad team mate Matt Goss, now with Orica-GreenEdge, to win Stage 2 of the Giro d'Italia in the Danish town of Herning. The result was a repeat of last September's world championship road race in the country's capital, Copenhagen. BMC Racing's Taylor Phinney survived a late scare when he crashed 8km out, rejoining the peloton and keeping the maglia rosa. Earlier today, tragedy struck the Giro for the second year running when the mayor of Horsens, the town that hosts the start and finish of tomorrow's Stage 3, died of a heart attack while taking part in a bike ride to celebrate the race's arrival.
The sprint finish today took part on the same closing straight where yesterday's individual time trial had finished, and as Geraint Thomas, second in the opening stage and wearing the red points jersey today, led Cavendish out, there was drama behind as Rabobank's Theo Bos crashed, a number of other riders coming down with most of the peloton held up behind.
It was a small group that contested the last few hundred metres, only Goss managing to stay near Cavendish as the Manxman took the eighth Giro stage win of his career, FDJ-BigMat's Geoffrey Soupe coming home third ahead of Garmin-Barracuda's Tyler Farrar.
Mark Cavendish wins Stage 2 of the 2012 Giro (pic: Gian Mattia D'Alberto/LaPresse/RCS Sport)
A few minutes earlier, Phinney - riding a pink and black bike to match the maglia rosa he had earned after winning yesterday's time trial – crashed and then hit a mechanical problem, with 8km still to go.
The BMC Racing rider quickly found himself distanced by more than half a minute from the peloton as Garmin-Barracuda and Team Sky forced the pace, but the 21-year-old American was quickly joined by team mates Danilo Wyss and Alessandro Ballan who managed to pace him back to the back of the bunch with 4km left to go.
Afterwards, Phinney said: "I just found myself on the ground, having touched wheels and lost balance. Then I couldn't get my chain back on. So I kind of made a second prologue effort. I was quite scared there for a second that I was going to lose the jersey.
Panic for Taylor Phinney (pic: Daniele Badolato/LaPresse/RCS Sport)
"I had a lot of adrenaline going," he added. "You can't really give a sigh of relief once you get to the back of the pack because there could be splits in it. Then there was that crash with 500 meters to go."
Three riders had attacked from the moment the flag dropped to signify the start of the first road stage of this year’s race, the giant figure of Lotto-Belisol’s Oliver Kaisen followed down the road by Androni-Venezuela’s Miguel Rubiano and Alfredo Balloni of Farnese Vini.
The trio were allowed to carve out a lead of more than 12 minutes as the race headed across the flat countryside of west Jutland, turning right to hug the coastline of the North Sea, and while there was a stiff breeze, teams were vigilant not to allow echelons to form.
Ship Ahoy! (pic: Daniele Badolato/LaPresse/RCS Sport)
Team Sky led the chase, with Ian Stannard in particular putting in some huge turns at the front. The break was swept with 40km left to ride, earlier than might be expected in this type of stage, where normally the sprinters’ teams would control the peloton’s speed to allow any escapees to maintain an advantage until closer to the finish.
That early catch encouraged Cavendish’s former HTC Highroad team mate, Lars Bak, to go on a solo charge, enabling him to briefly lead the Giro on home roads – the Dane, who now rides for Lotto Belisol, was born in Silkeborg, 25km due east from the finish of today’s stage.
With teams such as Lampre-ISD, Katusha, Astana and Orica-GreenEdge all joining Team Sky at the head of the peloton, however, Bak’s advantage was kept in check at around 40 seconds or so as the stage headed into the closing 25km, and he was swept up with 16km remaining as the stage headed towards what was by now an inevitable sprint finish.
Peloton rides by a wind farm (pic: Daniele Badolato/LaPresse/RCS Sport)
“There was lots of wind on the coast," reflected Cavendish afterwards. "We were monitoring things and in control. We had Ian Stannard on the front. He did 150 kilometres alone reeling in the break - he did incredible.
“The guys were so great and they stayed together. We had a mixture of the old guard and new people. Jez Hunt, Bernie Eisel – experienced guys with G too. And guys like Pete [Kennaugh] who are pretty new and who I’ve not worked with before.
“Everybody handled it well and we stayed together as a team. I was really looked after at the finish and kept sheltered. Geraint took me perfect and went exactly when he was supposed to. I was able to come off him and win the stage so I’m very, very happy,” he added.
Jutland countryside (pic: Daniele Badolato/LaPresse/RCS Sport)
Tomorrow’s stage honours Wouter Weylandt, the Leopard Trek rider who died from injuries sustained during a crash on a descent on Stage 3 of last year’s race, and who had won Stage 3 of the 2010 race while racing for Quick Step.
The sombre note that the commemoration was already likely to cast over the stage was added to today with the news that Jan Trøjborg, the mayor of Horsens, the town where the stage starts and finishes, died this morning while taking part in a bike ride to celebrate the Giro’s arrival in east Jutland.
The municipality’s communications director, Lars Bjørn Petersen, said in a statement that Trøjborg had collapsed into a ditch while riding his bike. He was taken by air ambulance to Skejby Hospital, but it proved impossible to resuscitate him.
Giro d'Italia Stage 2 result 1 CAVENDISH Mark SKY 04:53:12 2 GOSS Matthew OGE All at same time 3 SOUPE Geoffrey FDJ 4 FARRAR Tyler GRM 5 FERRARI Roberto AND 6 RENSHAW Mark RAB 7 HUSHOVD Thor BMC 8 BENNATI Daniele RNT 9 BONNET William FDJ 10 THOMAS Geraint SKY 11 SEUBERT Timon APP 12 DELAGE Mickael FDJ 13 HUNTER Robert GRM 14 BRANDLE Matthias APP 15 IMPEY Daryl OGE 16 HAEDO Juan Jose' SAX 17 ROHREGGER Thomas RNT 18 SELVAGGI Mirko VCD 19 BEPPU FumiyukiJ OGE 20 MAES Nikolas OPQ
Taylor Phinney signs on (pic: Gian Mattia d'Alberto/LaPresse/RCS Sport)
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.