Lance Armstrong used to say that there were no gifts in the Tour de France, but tonight we can't be so sure. It certainly looked to a few people as though Tom Boonen was feeling charitable in the final hundred metres of today's stage two from Dunkirk to Ghent. Gert Steegmans certainly thought so.
"We're not going to argue about who won," Steegmans said after taking his first Tour stage victory, and the tenth win of his pro career. "The most important thing is that we finished first and second. I actually planned to start sprinting from 300 metres out, but Tom said that I shouldn't go too quickly because it was uphill. I put it in my 53x11 gear and went as hard as could for as long as possible. It felt really good to see Zabel dropping back behind me. We pulled so far clear that we even had the time to talk. In the end I finished half a wheel ahead of Tom".
"Just after the finish, I felt an explosion of emotion," Steegmans continued. "At Paris-Nice this year, Tom told me that, because I'd helped him win Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kurne, he'd try to help me win a stage, but it didn't work out. Maybe it was a gift today; I haven't had time to talk to Tom yet. If it is a gift, it's the biggest one I can receive. I think that he came next to me to make sure no-one else was coming. It looked as though he took his foot off the gas in the last 50 metres to let me win."
With Steegmans uncertain, it seemed the only way to find out what really occurred was to ask Tornado Tom himself.
Boonen's answer? "Yeah, it was a gift... I just had to come next to Steegmans to make the perfect picture."
Now that's showbusiness.
For Ellis Bacon and Dan Friebe's analysis of stage 2, download our podcast here.