Australia and the FDJeux.com team celebrated their second stage win in three days after the young sprinter Baden Cooke powered past Jean-Patrick Nazon in a hard-fought bunch sprint at Sedan.
Cooke's team-mate and race leader, Bradley McGee, briefly ignored the fact he is wearing the yellow jersey to give his young countryman the lead-out he needed in the process of outgunning far more experienced Tour riders like Jaan Kirsipuu, third, and Erik Zabel, fourth.
The French were able to console themselves with a spectacularly long break by the 26-year-old Frédéric Finot, whose 185km effort only collap-sed in the Sedan suburbs.
The other moral victor of the day, bizarrely enough, did little more than pedal. The most famous victim of stage one's massive pile-up, 32-year-old Tyler Hamilton, was strapped on to his bike in the riding position swathed in 20 bandages over his broken right collarbone.
As the news spread that Hamilton, widely considered one of the leading favourites for the general classification, would be defying medical logic and not quitting, crowds of journalists gathered outside his team bus.
"I've not seen media hordes like that at the Tour since Lance [Armstrong] lost the time trial last year," the four-times Tour winner's former team-mate, Frankie Andreu, now working for American television, said wryly. "Disaster sure sells." Indeed, such was the attention on Hamilton that for the first time in this year's Tour, Armstrong - who barely gave the swarming cloud of journalists a second glance as he pedalled past - was hardly even bothered by the press.
Among those in the media scrum was Patrick Ferguson, producer of a $6.8m Imax film sponsored by the American government currently being made about Hamilton and his CSC team, who were putting on a brave face about their rider's shrinking prospects.
"Our films are supposed to be educational and fun," Ferguson enthused while his crew mounted a small platform for their Imax camera - a device roughly the size of a small guided missile - in order to get better shots of Hamilton. "A Tour de France is an ideal opportunity to study everything implied by the brain - including consciousness and pain."
There would, he admitted, be some fairly good opportunities coming up for pain in CSC, starting with studying how Hamilton's neurons were frazzled by five hours of riding at average speeds of over 40kph. "Fun", on the other side, did not seem like a word that would be crossing the CSC leader's consciousness often in the near future.
The film crew had also taken shots of the Massachusetts-born rider having a deep massage on his injury, while sleeping, from the team osteo-path Ole Kaare.
Speaking at the start, Kaare was convinced that Hamilton "will get through if he survives the first 20km. Then his collarbone will get used to the constant bouncing". The team are certainly fans of Kaare: "I dislocated my arm when I was running to a McDonald's and he put it back in seconds," the CSC press officer, Bryan Nygaard, recalled.
Others, like the Briton Sean Yates, CSC's second directeur sportif, were more pessimistic. "He'll get as far as he can," said Yates, formerly a team-mate of Pascal Simon, the French rider who broke his collarbone and then spent six days in the 1983 Tour lead before abandoning on the road to Alpe D'Huez.
Bent forward slightly because his shoulder bandages are designed to keep him curved over the bike, Hamilton was his usual quietly optimistic self before facing the crowds. "I'm not doing this for the team, I'm doing it for me," he said.
Hamilton is something of an expert on pain. The American ground away 11 of his teeth in pain after somersaulting into a tree at 60kph last year during the Giro d'Italia and breaking a bone in his left shoulder. Armstrong's former domestique continued for 16 days, with three days in the Dolomites included, and finished second overall.
Yesterday, after five hours of pedalling on bone-shaking roads in northern France, the American was simply glad to finish in the main peloton, an anonymous 100th on the stage.
Alasdair Fotheringham writes for Cycling Weekly
SECOND STAGE (204.5km, 127.8 miles, La Ferté-sous-Jouarre to Sedan): 1 B Cooke (Aus) FDJeux.com 5hr 6min 33sec; 2 J-P Nazon (Fr) Jean Delatour; 3 J Kirsipuu (Est) AG2R; 4 E Zabel (Ger) Telekom; 5 T Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole; 6 R McEwen (Aus) Lotto; 7 P Bettini (It) Quick Step; 8 S O'Grady (Aus) Crédit Agricole; 9 F Rodriguez (US) Vini Caldirola; 10 M Artetxe (Sp) Euskaltel; 11 O Freire (Sp) Rabobank; 12 G Glomser (Aut) Saeco; 13 L Paolini (It) Quick Step; 14 P Bossoni (It) Vini Caldirola; 15 S Commesso (It) Saeco all same time. Selected: 21 J Ullrich (Ger) Team Bianchi; 30 A Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom; 54 L Armstrong (US) US Postal; 61 I Mayo (Sp) Euskaltel; 66 D Millar (GB) Cofidis; 79 S Botero (Col) Team Telekom; 80 J Beloki (Sp) ONCE; 100 T Hamilton (US) CSC all s/t. Overall: 1 B McGee (Aus) FDJeux.com 8hr 58min 28sec; 2 Millar +4sec; 3 Cooke s/t; 4 H Zubeldia (Sp) Euskaltel +6; 5 Ullrich; 6 Nazon both s/t; 7 V H Pena (Col) US Postal Service +10; 8 Hamilton; 9 A Flickinger (Fr) AG2R both s/t; 10 Armstrong +11; 11 Beloki +13; 12 Botero s/t;. Selected: 38 Mayo; 63 Vinokourov. Mountains: 1 C Mengin (Fr) FDJeux.com 14pts; 2 W Beneteau (Fr) Brioches 10; 3 F Finot (Fr) Jean Delatour 8. Points: 1 McEwen 58; 2 Cooke 57; 3 Zabel 50. Teams: 1 US Postal Service 26:56:00; 2 Bianchi +8sec; 3 FDJeux.com 17. Under 25: 1 Cooke 8:58:32; 2 Flickinger +6; 3 V Karpets (Rus) Ibanesto.com 12.Reuse content