The second stage of the 2009 Tour de France, as well as the first road stage, saw none other than Columbia-HTC's Mark Cavendish take a clear sprint victory.
The British rider touted as the world's best sprinter put clear distance between himself, second-placed Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream), and third-placed Romain Fiellu (Agritrubel).
The 187-kilometer stage from Monaco to the city of Brignoles had many small, rolling hills to climb, not like the usual opening stages to the Tour, which are pancake-flat.
Early in the day, a breakaway managed to escape, but the hot conditions and sprint-hungry peloton made their chances for victory slim-to-none. Stef Clement (Rabobank), Cyril Dessel (Ag2r), Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux), and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) made the breakaway and gained a maximum advantage of around five minutes.
When the chase was on, though, at around 50 kilometers remaining, Columbia-HTC took control over the peloton and began to whittle down the advantage of the breakaway riders.
With fewer than 10 kilometers remaining, the four breakaway riders were caught, and Columbia-HTC worked to set up their sprinter Cavendish for the win. Teammates George Hincapie and Mark Renshaw kept the pace high and made sure Cavendish made it to the end of the stage in a good position to sprint.
Once the finish line was in sight, no one could stop the Manx-Express from taking his first Tour stage this year. He opened up a clear, three bike-length advantage over Farrar and Fiellu.
Cavendish earned the Green Points jersey for his stage win today, a jersey he may well keep if he continues to win more stages.
Race leader Fabian Cancellara (Saxobank) retained his overall lead by finishing in the main bunch as well as avoiding a crash in the last kilometer that prevented Belgian champion Tom Boonen (QuickStep) from contesting the sprint.