Wet weather contributed to another tumultuous day as the Tour de France visited spring classics country in Belgium today.
The 201 kilometres stage from Brussels to Spa saw the 97th Tour’s first climbs and further crashes, following an incident-packed first road stage from Holland yesterday.
France’s Sylvain Chavanel (QuickStep) avoided trouble to surge to a solo victory and seize the race leader’s yellow jersey from Fabian Cancellara, who was unable to force the pace following a crash involving his Team Saxo Bank colleague Andy Schleck.
It was Chavanel’s second career Tour stage win and ensures he will be in the ’maillot jaune’ when the race reaches his native country tomorrow.
The remainder of the peloton finished together, almost four minutes down, to avoid further incident.
Last year’s runner-up Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) tumbled to the tarmac on the penultimate descent, suffering injuries which are sure to require a medical assessment to deem whether the Luxembourg rider can continue.
Schleck was anticipated to be the closest challenger to Tour favourite and two-time champion Alberto Contador, who today was forced into a bike change with 20km remaining.
And he will be indebted to his Team Saxo Bank squad for helping him finish alongside his general classification rivals in Spa.
Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong, who was in fourth place overall entering the second road stage and third day, was also unseated, as was Team Sky’s Michael Barry, Bradley Wiggins’ super domestique.
Team Garmin-Transitions leader Christian Vande Velde also hit the road. All three appeared to be unharmed.
It was a day which shook up the peloton, something which is anticipated to happen once more when the 2010 race enters France for the first time tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s third road stage is the 213km from Wanze to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, featuring four cobbled sections – totalling 13.2km – used in the Paris-Roubaix spring classic.