Thor Hushovd from Norway was first to cross the line at St Brieuc, in the second stage of the Tour de France. However, first stage winner Spaniard Alejandro Valverde has retained the yellow jersey.
Norway's Thor Hushovd powered to his sixth victory on the Tour de France when he won a mass sprint to snatch the second stage on Sunday.
The Credit Agricole rider, who won the prologue in Strasbourg two years ago, outwitted his fellow sprinters in a nervous finish after 164.5 kms from Auray to St Brieuc.
He beat Team Columbia riders Kim Kirchen of Luxembourg and Gerald Ciolek of Germany.
It was not enough, however, to take the overall leader's yellow jersey off Alejandro Valverde's shoulders as the Spaniard of the Caisse d'Epargne team finished safe in the main bunch.
"I knew it was a sprint that could suit me but it was hard, with the wind and this turn towards the end," said Hushovd, who had his first Tour stage win in Bourg en Bresse in 2002.
"Tactically, the team did a good job with Jimmy (Engoulvent) and William (Bonnet)," said team manager Roger Legeay.
France's Sylvain Chavanel and Thomas Voeckler broke away after a few kilometres of the stage to build a lead of five-and-a-half minutes but their advantage started to melt before they reached the intimidating Cote of Mur-de-Bretagne, a
1.5-km ascent at an average gradient of 8.5 per cent.
Compatriots Christophe Moreau and David Le Lay, who was born in St Brieuc, joined them at the summit.
The Francaise des Jeux team, defending Philippe Gilbert's green jersey for the best sprinter and the Caisse d'Epargne, protecting Alejandro Valverde's overall lead, increased the pace with 50 kms remaining.
Gert Steegmans's Quick Step team, anticipating a mass sprint, joined the effort as the bunch caught up with the breakaways less than two kms from the finish.
Swiss Fabian Cancellara, a time-trial specialist, tried his luck alone with one km to go but he was soon caught by Filippo Pozzato, a winner in St Brieuc four years ago, and the peloton.
Hushovd waited for the last 100 metres to burst out of the bunch, proving the smartest of the field to claim his sixth win of the season.
Last year's best climber Juan Mauricio Soler, who injured his arm and wrist in a crash on Saturday, was dropped out of the
peloton 25 kms from the finish, his face a mask of pain.
Date created : 2008-07-06