Well, I thought the small hills at the end might lead to a successful break-away. Several tried, but the last lone break-away, Max Kessler from T-Mobile was caught about 100-150 metres from the finish. Ouch. There was a major crash 2km from the finish which gave the sprinters some room to maneuver. Robbie McEwen once again came out of no where, sprinted, and won.
Thor Hushovd, riding with a huge bandage over the stitches in his arm, sprinted for some intermediate sprint time bonuses to put himself ahead of Hincapie in GC. He was very well placed in the final sprint, but he was too tight into McEwen and when McEwen drifted towards him, Hushovd jinked hard and his foot came off the pedal. He had to settle for third, and regaining the Malliot Jaune. Not bad for a guy who lost a lot of blood yesterday.
BTW: The race organizers have banned those stupid foam hands from the last 2km of the race. I had a good look at them in the earlier parts of the race – they aren’t the big fat ones you can put your hand in like you see at USian spectator sports, they’re quite thin. It’s easy to imagine getting a paper cut from one of those – especially if it slaps across you at 70km/hr.
Tomorrow sees Hushovd in yellow, McEwan in green. Tomorrow is going to be another “lumpy” stage with some small category 3 and 4 climbs. It crosses through Belgium over the same territory as the Liege-Bastogne-Liege spring classic, and finishes in the Netherlands up the same hills that the Amstel Gold spring classic finishes up, so maybe one of the Dutch riders will go for it. But more likely it will end up with another mass sprint, with McEwan, Hushovd and Boonen battling it out.