Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel claimed the leader's yellow jersey after winning yet another crash-marred stage of the Tour de France Monday as the peloton called a truce in the wet Belgian Ardennes.
Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong and contender Andy Schleck were among a number of high profile victims as steep and slippery descents took a toll on the peloton during the 201km second stage from Brussels.
Saxo Bank leader Schleck fell alongside his brother Frank on the descent of the Stockeu climb, one of two which appear on the Belgian classic Liege-Bastogne-Liege, but they got back up to battle their way back to the peloton.
Armstrong, who is competing in his final Tour campaign, also took a tumble on a tricky descent but he emerged relatively unscathed to finish with the main peloton after they decided to stop racing with around 15km to go.
To believe Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford, whose main yellow jersey contender is British Olympic pursuit champion Bradley Wiggins, it was total madness.
"It was ridiculously slippy," said Brailsford. "They were coming down the last couple of descents and there were guys in the trees. "It was carnage in the true sense of the word. Sixty guys must have crashed in different places."
Swiss Olympic time trial champion Fabian Cancellara started the day with the yellow jersey but after the Schlecks, his teammates at Saxo Bank, crashed he decided enough was enough.
Numerous spills had marred the first stage on Sunday, so a day ahead of a third stage which feature seven treacherous cobblestone sectors - and likely more crash drama - the peloton laid down their arms.
Chavanel went on to take a well-deserved stage win, and with it the race lead with a 2min 57sec lead on Cancellara - although the big Swiss said his decision not to try and keep the jersey was worth it.
"It was the right thing to do to wait, so everybody comes together to the finish line together," Cancellara later explained.
"When you have everybody on the ground and people five minutes behind because they can't find their bike then it's only normal."
The peloton was booed by some sections of the crowd as they trickled over the finish line, but, clearly, the riders felt it was simply too dangerous to risk racing.
"Everybody went down," said American Chris Horner, one of Armstrong's helpers in RadioShack. "I had bikes going down behind me that slid in front of me. The stage was too dangerous to be in the Tour de France."
Despite the pact, Chavanel's lead never seemed under threat although he later admitted he did not expect to finish with the lead of 3:56 which gave him the yellow jersey.
"I didn't know what was going on behind me, although I did hear there'd been a crash. All I know is that I gave it everything I had," said Chavanel. "But whether the stage ended up being neutralised or not, it doesn't take anything away from my win."
In third place overall is German Tony Martin of HTC-Columbia, who is 10secs behind Cancellara.
Seven-time champion Armstrong moved one place down to fifth, at 3:19 behind Chavanel, with reigning yellow jersey champion Alberto Contador of Astana in seventh at 3:24.
Chavanel is not a contender for overall victory in the race, but his win has given a huge boost to his Belgian Quick Step team on what is the only stage of this year's race to be held entirely in the country.
© AFP 2010