Vuelta 2: Hutarovich pips Cavendish

But Cav retains leader's jersey

Britain's Mark Cavendish retained the leader's red jersey after the second stage of the Tour of Spain here Sunday in which he was pipped to the line in a sprint finish by Yauheni Hutarovich of Belarus.

Hutarovich, of the Française des Jeux team, pulled off a surprise victory over the British sprint king at the end of the 173.7-kilometre course from Alcala de Guadaira to Marbella in southern Spain.

Third was American Tyler Farrar, ahead of Italy's Alessandro Petacchi.

It was the first stage win in any of the three Grands Tours for the 26-year-old.

"It might seem like a surprise but it wasn't, it's my fifth victory this season," said the Belarusian, who turned professional in 2007. "I came with the intention of winning a stage, I've therefore achieved that."

But he admitted that "when I saw that I had won, I couldn't believe it. But I saw Cavendish, the leader, had some problems and I knew I had a chance."

Spain's three-time World Road Race champion Oscar Freire admitted he was "surprised" by Hutarovich's win.

"I don't know him, I have never heard his name," he said. "But we'll have to watch him, as he has just beaten one of the best current sprinters, Cavendish."

The Briton, making his Tour of Spain debut, holds a 12-second lead in the overall standings over a group of four riders - Kanstantsin Sivstov of Belarus, Peter Velits of Slovakia, American Tejay Van Garderen and Australians Matthew Goss and Hayden Roulston.

The 25-year-old Isle of Man rider on Saturday powered his HTC Columbia team to victory in the opening stage, a 13-kilometre team time trial held at night under floodlights in the southern city of Seville. He already has a remarkable string of stage wins in major Tours that includes 15 victories in the Tour of France over the past three years.

Sunday's stage was marked by an early breakaway by four riders - Spain's Javier Ramirez, Australia's Johnnie Walker and Frenchmen Mickael Buffaz and Mickael Delage. Buffaz was forced to withdraw after breaking his collarbone in a crash after about 73 kilometres.

The leading trio was joined by Spain's Marcos Garcia Fernandez, but they were caught by the peloton with about 12 kilometres to go in the final downhill run to the finish.

Monday's stage take the riders 156 kilometres from Marbella to Malaga, and includes a first category climb.

The event has been left wide open by the absence of three-time Tour de France winner Spaniard Alberto Contador, who skipped his home Tour, which he won in 2008, after a hard-fought victory in France in July, and last year's winner Alejandro Valverde, who is serving a suspension for doping.

Top contenders now include 35-year-old Russian Denis Menchov, a two-time Tour of Spain winner, the Schleck brothers of Luxembourg, Andy and Frank, and the 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre of Spain.

The 21-stage 65th edition of the Tour of Spain, in which 198 riders from 22 teams are competing, ends in Madrid on September 19.

© AFP 2010

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