Cycling: Boonen relieved to seal sprint stage win

Boonen cruised across the line more than a bike- length ahead of his closest rival, Thor Hushovd of Norway, to take the third and most comfortable Tour stage win of his career.

Boonen's relief on clinching victory was palpable. In 2004 he took more than a week to win a Tour stage - far too long for the Belgians, well aware of their status as cycling's leading nation but now into their third decade without a potential overall contender for the race.

"It's good to get this [stage win] off my chest." Boonen said yesterday. "Now I can relax a bit and avoid so much pressure." Two days before the Tour got under way, however, the Belgian had got something else out of his system - an infected molar tooth in his lower right jaw.

"It was very, very painful." Boonen admitted. "I had thought of not starting the race at all, but fortunately we could find a dentist in time."

Yesterday's 181.5km stage was designed for the sprinters, cutting a broad but not excessively hilly semi-circular swathe through the Vendée region, one of France's cycling heartlands.

There were few opportunities for the locals to shine, but Thomas Voeckler, who led the Tour in 2004, took advantage of the one classified climb of the day, a short ascent close to the finish, to seize the first points on offer for the King of the Mountains classification.

Voeckler would be the first to admit the polka-dot jersey he therefore donned after the stage does not have the same prestige as the maillot jaune he stoutly defended for 10 days last summer.

However, it was still a gesture appreciated by his team, Bouygues Telecom - their headquarters are a stone's throw from yesterday's finish line.

Voeckler earned a spot on the podium thanks to him taking part in a four-man break which - thanks to his presence - earned huge cheers from the public lining the route as the quartet attempted, unsuccessfully, to fend off the chasing peloton, led by Boonen's team workers.

The Salt Lake City-born Dave Zabriskie, currently leading the race, did not spark as enthusiastic a response from the crowds, but there was no questioning his right to the yellow jersey.

Gifted with a fine sense of humourous understatement - "I rode my bike" was his response to press questions as to how he had spent his first day as race leader - Zabriskie is also clearly an immensely talented time triallist, as he showed on Saturday when he won the Tour's opening stage by two seconds over the favourite, Lance Armstrong.

Although he had aimed to take the yellow jersey from the first day, Armstrong had reason to be satisfied with Saturday's performance. In just 19km, the six-times Tour winner managed to gain a 66-second advantage over his arch-rival Jan Ullrich, underlining his strength by overtaking the German, who had started a minute before, close to the finish line.

Tomorrow's team time trial is Armstrong's first opportunity to return to yellow but beforehand, on today's flat 200km run to Tours, there is another prospect of a bunch sprint. Boonen, having got his teeth into one victory, will surely be up for second helpings.

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for Cycling Weekly

Results from stages one and two

SATURDAY

Stage One (19km, Fromentine to Noirmoutier-en-l'Île): 1 D Zabriskie (US) Team CSC 20min 51sec; 2 L Armstrong (US) Discovery Channel +0.02sec; 3 A Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team +0.53; 4 G Hincapie (US) Discovery Channel +0.57; 5 L Bodrogi (Hun) Crédit Agricole +0.59; 6 F Landis (US) Phonak Hearing Systems +1min 02sec; 7 F Cancellara (Swit) Fassa Bortolo same time; 8 J Voigt (Ger) Team CSC +1.04; 9 V Karpets (Rus) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne +1.05; 10 I Gonzalez de Galdeano (Sp) Liberty Seguros-Wurth +1.06; 11 B Julich (US) Team CSC +1.07; 12 J Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team +1.08; 13 J Enrique Gutierrez (Sp) Phonak Hearing Systems +1.12; 14 L Leipheimer (US) Gerolsteiner +1.13; 15 M Rich (Ger) Gerolsteiner +1.16; 16 J-L Rubiera (Sp) Discovery Channel s/t; 17 Y Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel +1.18; 18 B McGee (Aus) Française Des Jeux +1.24, 19 M Wauters (Bel) Rabobank +1.25, 20 I Basso (It) Team CSC +1.26.

YESTERDAY

Stage Two (181 km, Challans to Les Essarts): 1 T Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step 3hr 51min 31sec; 2 T Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole s/t; 3 R McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto; 4 S O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis; 5 L Pagliarini (Br) Liquigas; 6 J Antonio Flecha (Sp) Fassa Bortolo; 7 P Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner; 8 J Pineau (Fr) Bouygues Telecom; 9 B Cooke (Aus) Française des Jeux; 10 A Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros all s/t; 11 M Quinziato (It) Saunier Duval) +5sec; 12 R Hunter (SA) Phonak; 13 I Isasi (Sp) Euskaltel; 14 Y Krivtsov (Ukr) AG2R; 15 A Furlan (It) Domina Vacanze; 16 M Iglinskiy (Kaz) Domina Vacanze; 17 S Hinault (Fr) Crédit Agricole; 18 A Geslin (Fr) Bouygues Telecom; 19 J Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile; 20 F Rodriguez (US) Davitamon-Lotto) all s/t.

Leading overall standings: 1 D Zabriskie (US) Team CSC 4hr 12min 27sec; 2 L Armstrong (US) Discovery Channel +2sec; 3 L Bodrogi (Hun) Crédit Agricole +47; 4 A Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile +53; 5 G Hincapie (US) Discovery Channel +57; 6 F Landis (US) Phonak +1min 02sec; 7 F Cancellara (Swit) Fassa Bortolo; 8 J Voigt (Ger) Team CSC +1:04; 9 V Karpets (Rus) Illes Balears +1:05; 10 I Gonzalez de Galdeano (Sp) Liberty Seguros +1:06.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Subject Leader of ICT & Computing

£21588 - £36756 per annum + negotiable: Randstad Education Chelmsford: ICT/Com...

C# Senior Web developer (C#, VBA, Strong Education,C++, JAVA)

£40000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Senio...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

£45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil