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Last Updated: Monday, 5 July, 2004, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
McEwen wins sprint finish
Robbie McEwen celebrates victory as he wins the second stage
Australian Robbie McEwen won a sprint finish to claim victory in the second stage proper of the Tour de France.

The Lotto-Domo team leader, second on Sunday, came home ahead of Thor Hushovd, who became the first Norwegian to claim the Tour yellow jersey.

Hushovd takes over from Fabian Cancellara, now eight seconds back, with McEwen moving to third overall.

Favourite Lance Armstrong is in fourth place, 18 seconds back, after the 197km stage from Charleroi to Namur.

McEwen managed to avoid a crash on the final sprint which saw Cofidis rider Jimmy Casper and Norwegian Kurt-Asle Arvesen, of Team CSC, touch wheels and come off.

Several riders were forced to swerve to avoid them but McEwen stayed out of trouble to record his fourth stage win in the Tour.

Thor Hushovd celebrates claiming the yellow jersey
It is an awesome feeling, a big dream come true
New leader Thor Hushovd
The stage, held in dry conditions, was brought to life by a six-man breakaway including Irish champion Mark Scanlon.

They built up a lead of five minutes before being caught 20 km from the finish.

Armstrong, bidding for a record sixth victory, remained comfortably hidden in the main peloton as he sought to stay out of danger prior to Wednesday's team time trial.

The stage claimed a second casualty after McEwen's team-mate, fellow Australian Nick Gates, finished outside the time limit in Sunday's first stage after seriously injuring his knee.

Italian Gian Matteo Fagnini was forced to abandon with a suspected broken collarbone after a mini pile-up which left the Domina Vacanze rider in a field.

Further on, Cofidis rider Frederic Bessy also ended up on the roadside verge after a fall, but the Frenchman continued in some pain.

Italian Stefano Casagranda also crashed, but his compatriot Paolo Bettini continued to fare well.

The Quick Step rider finished the stage assured of the polka dot jersey for the race's best climber after claiming maximum points on the first sprint.

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