Tour de France: Belgium's spirits lifted by McEwen's sprint finish

Robbie McEwen may hail from the other side of the planet, but barring an actual Belgian, you could hardly have asked for a more local winner of the second stage of the Tour de France.

Robbie McEwen may hail from the other side of the planet, but barring an actual Belgian, you could hardly have asked for a more local winner of the second stage of the Tour de France.

The 32-year-old Australian has spent the bulk of his eight-year career riding for Dutch and Belgian teams, and his current squad, Lotto-Domo, is sponsored by the Belgian national lottery. He lives in Brakel, the city regarded as the hub of the country's cycling, and is married to a local ophthalmologist.

As if that were not enough to make him Belgian by adoption, McEwen rattled off most of his explanations for the fourth Tour stage win of his career in high-speed Flemish, a language he dominates so well he sometimes has problems remembering the equivalent word in English.

Already second on the first stage, his win was timely, given that there are only eight Belgians in this year's Tour peloton, one short of a record low. It is a statistic which has rendered it tricky for one of the most cycling-mad nations to feel they were getting their money's worth in the three stages of the sport's blue riband event run on local soil this year.

But McEwen's anarchic sprinting style and tendency to ride just within the regulations proved an advantage here. He was in his element in a finale featuring both a large roundabout and a long-left hand curve in the last kilometre.

It was a panorama waiting for crashes to happen, and on the final corner the French sprinter Jimmy Casper came close to taking down the field when his front wheel slipped and he spun across the road.

Fortunately only one other rider was affected, Norway's Kurt-Asle Arvesen, who sat clutching his head in his hands, presumably to avoid further damage as nearly 200 riders roared past just inches away from him at 60kph. Both riders suffered heavy bruising, but were able to finish.

However, the only other Norwegian in the Tour, Thor Hushovd, was busy making it into the history books as he crossed the line in second place behind McEwen.

The burly 25-year-old gained enough bonus seconds ­ 12 ­ in the process to leap-frog ahead of the Swiss prologue winner Fabian Cancellara in the overall classification, thereby becoming the first ever Norwegian to lead the Tour.

Problems with his rear gearing had almost put an end to his attempt on yellow 15 kilometres from the finish, but thanks to a chain of green-clad Crédit Agricole riders, Hushovd successfully wormed his way back through the line of following team cars behind the peloton before getting down to business.

Crédit Agricole and the other sprint teams had moments earlier put paid to a 160km break containing the race's one Irishman, AG2R's Mark Scanlon.

Riding his first Tour, Scanlon was one of six riders who went clear after just 10km of racing and who stubbornly hung on to a four-minute advantage up until the final hour.

"Our advantage was never big enough to have any real chance of staying away, but in any case it was worth a try." he said afterwards.

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for Cycling Weekly

SECOND STAGE (123 miles, Charleroi to Namur): 1 R McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo 4hr 18min 39sec; 2 T Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole; 3 J-P Nazon (Fr) AG2R; 4 D Hondo (Ger) Gerolsteiner; 5 S O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis; 6 J Kirsipuu (Est) AG2R; 7 E Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile; 8 A Petacchi (It) Fassa Bortolo; 9 G Glomser (Aut) Saeco; 10 M Cipollini (It) Domina Vacanze; 11 P Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner; 12 T Boonen (Bel) Quick Step; 13 A Vierhouten (Neth) Lotto-Domo; 14 S Calzati (Fr) RAGT; 15 B Cooke (Aus) Fdjeux; 16 T Voeckler (Fr) Brioches; 17 F Renier (Fr) Brioches; 18 M Elmiger (Swit) Phonak; 19 S Commesso (It) Saeco; 20 L Brochard (Fr) AG2R all same time. Overall classification: 1 Hushovd 9hr 05min 42sec; 2 F Cancellara (Swit) Fassa Bortolo +0.08sec; 3 McEwen +0.17; 4 L Armstrong (US) US Postal +0.18; 5 J Voigt (Ger) CSC +0.23; 6 J I Gutierrez Palacios (Sp) Banesto +0.24; 7 O Pereiro (Sp) Phonak +0.27; 8 C Moreau (Fr) Crédit Agricole +0.28; 9 B Julich (US) Team CSC; 10 G Hincapie (US) US Postal p/b Berry Floor both s/t; 11 J E Gutierrez (Sp) Phonak +0.30; 12 A Vicioso Arcos (Sp) Liberty Seguros +0.31; 13 L Leipheimer (US) Rabobank; 14 C Sastre (Sp) Team CSC both s/t; 15 K-A Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC +0.32; 16 S O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis +0.33; 17 J Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team s/t; 18 F Landis (US) US Postal +0.34; 19 T Hamilton (US) Phonak; 20 B Eisel (Aut) Fdjeux.com both s/t.

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits