British sprinter Mark Cavendish won the second stage of the Tourde France on Sunday, with Lance Armstrong finishing safely in the packand Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland keeping the leader's yellowjersey. Cancellara captured the opening time trial a day earlier.
Wenatchee's Tyler Farrar of the United States finished second and RomainFeillu of France was third in the 116-mile route from Monaco toBrignoles. .
Armstrong is making a comeback to the Tour four years afterretiring. The 37-year-old Texan said his strategy for this leg was"just avoid trouble and get in the rhythm of the race."
The Tour rolls across the rim of the Mediterranean for mostlyflat stages the next few days, with a challenging team time trialTuesday. Three days in the demanding Pyrenees start in Stage 7.
"Yesterday was not really a normal stage," Armstrong said ashe headed toward his Astana team bus. "These start to be the morenormal stages."
The heat, however, was anything but normal.
"St(age) 2 done. Hot, hot, hot," Armstrong tweeted later."Up/down/left/right but pretty uneventful," he wrote, beforehailing a big fan turnout on the roadsides and congratulatingCavendish.
Many riders groaned about the weather.
"The heat was like you were baking bread. ... It wasterrible," Cancellara said on French TV. He recounted how withabout an hour left of riding his team manager said the temperaturehit 104 degrees. "I haven't seen heat like that in years."
Cavendish had little trouble with the conditions. The24-year-old rider, who is from the rarely hot Isle of Man, wonthree stages in the Giro d'Italia in May and is proving to be amongthe world's top sprinters.
He burst from the main pack behind a textbook escort by hisColumbia teammates, then took over alone to finish a split secondin front.
"I'm glad I could win to just pay them back," Cavendish said,who finished in 4 hours, 30 minutes, 2 minutes - the same time asall but two of the riders. "It's emotional for me."
With his fifth Tour stage win, Cavendish took the green jerseyawarded to the best sprinter. This is his third Tour, but he hasnever finished. He wants that to change when the three-week raceends July 26 in Paris.
Armstrong, teammate Contador and other title contendersapproached the stage cautiously to avoid crashes. Armstrong was80th and Contador 58th.
The stage featured four minor climbs along sun-baked hills in alayout that favored sprinters and breakaway specialists. During theride, water bottles sailed out of the pack like corn kernelspopping, as cyclists refreshed themselves along the route thatfeatured medieval sites like a Cistercian abbey.
There were three minor crashed midway through the race. Oneinvolved Saxo Bank team rider Frank Schleck of Luxembourg, apossible title contender.
The field will face a similar ride Monday, a 122-mile leg fromthe port city of Marseille to La Grande Motte. The forecast is forhot weather.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times