ESCH-SUR-ALZETTE, Luxembourg – Norway's Thor Hushovd reclaimed the overall Tour de France lead from George Hincapie on Monday during a sweltering ride in which Australia's Robbie McEwen captured the second stage in a sprint finish.
Hincapie, the fourth American to wear the leader's yellow jersey in the 103-year history of the Tour, dropped to fourth overall. Belgium's Tom Boonen is second and McEwen third.
McEwen, a sprinter from the Davitamon-Lotto team, was followed by Boonen in the 137-mile stage. Hushovd was third after his left shoe popped out of its pedal in the final stretch.
This was the ninth stage victory in nine Tours for McEwen. He is trying to win the green jersey as the three-week race's best sprinter, a title he captured in 2002 and 2004.
The route from Obernai in eastern France was the second-longest stage in this year's race. Riders had to withstand intense sunshine, with road temperatures climbing to nearly 122 degrees.
"It makes a long hard day. You have to drink a lot," McEwen said.
Hushovd rebounded from an accident Sunday, when his right arm was sliced open by a large cardboard hand that a fan was holding over the safety barriers. He needed stitches and said Monday he still hurt and it was hard to move his arm.
But in the final sprint "you forget the pain," he said. "I've got the yellow jersey. I can't complain."
Hushovd, the green jersey winner of the last Tour, took the race lead Saturday, beating Hincapie by fractions of a second in the prologue time trial that kicks off the race.
But wily riding by Hincapie on Sunday helped the former teammate of Lance Armstrong take the yellow jersey from Hushovd — if only for a day.
Hushovd got it back Monday by collecting bonus seconds in sprints along the route and for his third-place finish. He now hoped to keep it at least until the first long time trial of this Tour on Saturday.
There was bumping and jostling between McEwen and Hushovd in the final dash to the line — not uncommon in group sprints. McEwen said the powerful Norwegian's front wheel brushed against his left shoe. The two riders talked things over.
"We're still friends," McEwen said.
"It wasn't his fault," said Hushovd.
McEwen called the stage victory "very special," adding he remembers each one.
"Every year you have to prove yourself again and again," he said, noting he recently turned 34. "I haven't slowed down yet."