The second stage marked the return of the Tour to the land of cycling, along the roads of the great Flanders classics: Tour of Flanders, Het Volk, etc. It was anticipated that the race should start to get more serious during this stage, with the wind and the risk of hitting the kerbs definitely playing an important role. It was fairly short at 168.5 km (104.7 mi) in length and with no categorized climbs.
The riders Marcel Sieberg, Rubén Pérez and Cédric Herve at the head of the second stage.
Credit: Lieven Gekiere
There was a breakaway during the stage by Marcel Sieberg, Cedric Herve and Rubén Pérez who shared the bonuses available at the three sprints: however, this never stretched beyond 6 minutes ahead of the peloton and they were caught some 3 km from the finish.
Within the last 2 km, a Liquigas rider fell sideways causing others to fall. Around 20 riders fell blocking the entire road and leaving approximately 30 riders to sprint for the victory, eventually taken by Gert Steegmans in his home country ahead of his compatriot and team-mate Tom Boonen, who took over the green jersey by coming second in the stage.
Tom Boonen (blue outfit, centre) during the race.
Credit: Lieven Gekiere
At 236 km (147 mi), this is the longest stage in this year’s Tour. After Flanders, the peloton returned to France along some of the roads used for the Paris–Roubaix race, to finish in the town where that race starts. Nicolas Vogondy and Mathieu Ladagnous broke away from the field within the first 10 km, and were joined after 42 km by Stephane Auge and Frederik Willems. By leading the breakaway group over the only classified climb of the day, the Cote de Blerancourt, Auge gained the polka dot shirt. The group was caught by race leaderFabian Cancellara, and by the rest of the peloton, some 500 meters from the finish. Cancellara held off the sprinters to win the stage and to gain time bonuses that extended his lead in the general classification.
This stage headed virtually due south, with four category 4 climbs, passing through the Champagne region and the plains of Brie, before crossing the valleys in the Yonne department along its 193 km (120 mi) course. Injuries received in the race for points on the first hill, forced Xabier Zandio's immediate withdrawal, and caused Remy Di Gregorio to finish almost 8 minutes behind the leaders and rendered him unfit to resume the race the next day. The main breakaway was initiated by Matthieu Sprick and he was joined by Sylvain Chavanel (whose time bonuses gained at intermediate sprints and hills lifted him into the top 10 in the general classification), Gorka Verdugo, Juan Antonio Flecha and Christian Knees; the lead over the peloton was never more than four minutes, and they were caught with just under 5 km remaining. In the first clean sprint of this year's race, Thor Hushovd won from Robert Hunter and earned time bonuses that moved him into second place overall.
The fifth stage featured eight climbs, including one Category 2 climb. Many of the sprinters lost contact with the peloton, but all of the major contenders finished together, apart from Alexander Vinokourov. Vinokourov crashed before the final climb, and ended up losing more than a minute to the rest of the field. The stage was won by Filippo Pozzato.
This stage is relatively flat, with only two category 4 climbs, and was the last opportunity for the sprinters to shine before the race went into the mountains. On the 40th anniversary of the death of Tom Simpson, Cofidis rider Bradley Wiggins led from the two kilometre mark and at one stage was 18 minutes clear, but riding alone took its toll and with seven kilometres left he was reeled in. That left Tom Boonen to beat Óscar Freire and Erik Zabel in a sprint finish for his first Tour stage win in two years. After the stage Wiggins revealed his lone breakaway was a gift to his wife on her birthday, with Wiggins only finding out about the date's significance after the race.
This was the first mountain stage and the start of the real difficulties for many of the riders. The first kilometres, with three smaller climbs, were a gradual introduction for the riders, before they tackled the Alps and the first real mountain pass of the Tour, the Col de la Colombière (16 km at 6.7%), lying 15 kilometres from the finish line.
Linus Gerdemann was in a 15-man break for much of the 197.5 km stage but the T-Mobile rider went it alone over the Col de la Colombière, finishing 40 seconds clear of Inigo Landaluze, to take the yellow jersey from Fabian Cancellara.
This was the shortest road stage, but was very tough. The climbing started from the outset, with two small climbs in the first 25 km before, from 75 kilometres out, tackling the Cormet de Roselend (19 km at 6%), the Montée d'Hauteville - the start of the Col du Petit Saint-Bernard - and the climb up to Tignes (18 km at 5.5%) for a very difficult finish at a height of 2068 m.
Denmark's Michael Rasmussen went it alone for victory in Tignes to secure the Tour de France Yellow jersey. Rasmussen, who began the day 39th overall, was part of a breakaway halfway through the 165 km eighth stage. He went solo on the last climb to finish two minutes and 47 seconds ahead of Iban Mayo and 5:04 clear of Linus Gerdemann, now second overall.
Alexander Vinokourov and Andreas Klöden both lost 4:29 while Michael Rogers crashed out of the race. T-Mobile leader Rogers was in the same group as Rasmussen - and the race leader on the road - on the descent of the Cormet de Roselend when he hit a roadside barrier. He bravely carried on before being forced to pull up later with a dislocated shoulder.
Levi Leipheimer sustained a ten-second penalty for slipstreaming behind his team car after sustaining a mechanical issue which necessitated a bike change. Had this not occurred, Leipheimer would have finished 2nd overall in the general classification, 2 seconds in front of Cadel Evans.
After joining with a breakaway, Colombian Mauricio Soler made a strong move over the Col du Télégraphe, and stayed away through the descent of the Col du Galibier to claim the first-ever Tour de France stage win for the wild-card Barloworld team.
Speculation ensued after the race, as Alberto Contador had a flat tire while chasing Soler. Many believed that he would have caught Soler had this not happened.