May 15, 2005 – Another dreary day greeted 133 starters at the 2nd stage of the Tour de Picardie. The cool wet weather and rolling terrain helped stimulate an aggressive start, with several riders being dropped in the opening kilometers as the peloton stretched itself against the gutter.
Attack after attack kept the action hot at the front, and a proliferation of punctures created significant attention on the back as well. The Navigators suffered a major disappointment as sprinter Oleg Grishkine punctured twice in the first 30 km, leaving him with a difficult fight back to the caravan. By the time he had returned to the main group, an 8-man break had formed. Grishkine charged across to the leaders with teammate O’Loughlin, and the group swelled to 13 before Grishkine crashed, ending his day.
A strong chase by Lotto brought the break back, but a counter set six riders free at 61 km. Bodrogi (C.A.), Monnier (Cofidis), Calzati (ag2r), Berges (Agritubel), Bouquet (Mr Bookmaker), and Mederel (Auber) worked to build a 4-minute lead, as Lotto controlled the bunch for their leader Steegmans. At 100km, the chase picked up momentum and the gap began to fall and was at 2′ with 50 km remaining. Calzati attacked and Mederel followed as Berges and Bodrogi fought to regain contact. At 20km to go, it was Mederel, Berges, and Calzati, but their gap was only 1 minute.
The three were caught with 15 km remaining, as Quickstep and Lotto drove the group towards a bunch kick. The blistering pace split the group in several pieces in the closing kilometers, and fate struck hard as race leader Steegmans hit the deck along with 3rd placed Khalilov inside 2km. Although they would get same time as the leaders, they were out of the sprint. Quickstep powered the train and defending champion Tom Boonen popped clear at 250 meters. A hard charge by LPR’s Napolitano made it a photo finish, with the Belgian superstar adding another victory to his palmares. Navigators Insurance’s Mark Walters finished in the lead group in spite of two flats in the last 50 km.
2. STEEGMANS @ s.t.
3. EISEL @04