St 2: ‘Home’ win for canny McEwen

After going close on stage one, Lotto-Domo's Robbie McEwen was the clear winner of stage two into Na

After going close on stage one, Lotto-Domo’s Robbie McEwen was the clear winner of stage two into Na

Although none of the eight Belgians on the Tour managed to win the last of this year’s stages on their home turf, local fans got the next best thing when Flemish-speaking Queenslander Robbie McEwen romped home in Namur in the colours of the Belgian Lotto-Domo team. The Australian finished a bike length clear of Thor Hushovd, but the Norwegian did have the considerable consolation of taking the yellow jersey from Fabian Cancellara thanks to bonuses gained on the line. This pair finished a good distance clear of the rest of the pack thanks to some clever positional riding coming through the bends in the final kilometre. The last of them swept round towards the finish and momentum coming out of it panned the sprinters right across the road. McEwen and Hushovd clung to the inside line and reaped the reward as stage one winner Jaan Kirsipuu, Alessandro Petacchi, Mario Cipollini and the rest were left floundering – some of them perhaps not helped by a finish line crash involving CSC’s Kurt-Asle Arvesen and Cofidis’ Jimmy Casper. As on stage one, Petacchi’s Fassa Bortolo team seemed to have done everything right in setting up their man for a final run for victory. A six-man break comprising Mark Scanlon (Ag2r), Jakob Piil (CSC), Jrome Pineau (Brioches), Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner), Christophe Edaleine (Cofidis) and Christophe Mengin ( went away after 10 kilometres but never got more than five minutes clear during 174 kilometres on the front. As the pace increased in the bunch as the break was reeled in there were a number of falls, the main casualty being Cipollini’s lead-out man, Gianmatteo Fagnini, who was taken away in an ambulance with a suspected broken collar-bone. Indeed, things got so nervy that Phonak, US Postal and Euskaltel all rode near the front of the peloton to keep their leaders out of trouble. Quick Step eventually took up the running once the break had been caught, but once again Tom Boonen failed to figure in the final mad dash for them. Yellow jersey Cancellara gave another demonstration of his ‘engine’ when he pulled the bunch along for the best part of two kilometres heading towards the last kilometre, but the twisting, technical finish favoured the nimble handling skills of former BMX champion McEwen rather than the pure horsepower of Petacchi and many others.