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Armstrong remains 10th after two stages
BRIGNOLES, France -- Britain's Mark Cavendish won the second stage of the Tour de France in searing heat Sunday, with seven-time champion Lance Armstrong finishing safely in the trailing pack.
Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland kept the overall lead after capturing the opening time trial a day earlier. He leads Alberto Contador by 18 seconds. Bradley Wiggins is third, 19 seconds back, and Armstrong is 10th overall, 40 seconds behind.
"The heat was like you were baking bread. ... It was terrible," Cancellara said on French TV. He said that with about an hour left of riding his team manager said the temperature hit 104 degrees. "I haven't seen heat like that in years."
Armstrong finished 80th. When asked how the stage went, he said "hot" before a long pause.
"It's hard to hydrate," he said outside his team bus. "But, you know, it's hot for everybody."
The 37-year-old Texan, on his comeback Tour four years after retiring, said his strategy was "just avoid trouble and get in the rhythm of the race."
Cavendish clenched his fists and smiled as he crossed the line a split second in front of runner-up Tyler Farrar of the United States and third-place finisher Romain Feillu of France.
With a solid escort from his Team Columbia, Cavendish almost made the 116-mile ride it look easy.
"I'm glad I could win to just pay them back," he said after finishing in 4 hours, 30 minutes, 2 seconds, the same time as all but two of the riders. "It's emotional for me."
Cavendish won three stages in the Giro d'Italia in May and is proving to be among the world's leading sprint specialists. This was Cavendish's fifth Tour stage win.
Cavendish took the green jersey awarded to the Tour's best sprinter. This is his third Tour, but he has never finished. He said his goal was to win a stage and complete the three-week race, which ends July 26 in Paris.
There were three minor mid-race crashes. One involved Saxo Bank rider Frank Schleck of Luxembourg, a possible title contender. The last one occurred at a fork in the route in the last mile.
"With the heat like that, sometimes there's a lack of concentration among the riders," Cancellara said.
Cancellara also had a slight mishap. Teams often protect the yellow jersey like a queen bee, but he briefly dropped back on his own for a seat adjustment from a Saxo Bank mechanic before catching up.
On a muggy day with temperatures exceeding 86 degrees, the riders completed a tricky course that began in the principality of Monaco and ended in Brignoles.
During the ride, water bottles sailed out of the pack like corn kernels popping, as riders refreshed themselves along the route through the sun-baked Provence hills that featured medieval sites like a Cistercian abbey.
The stage was marked by four minor climbs in a layout favoring sprinters and breakaway specialists. Monday's third stage will be similar -- a 122-mile course from the Mediterranean port city of Marseille to La Grande Motte. The forecast is for hot weather.
AP Sports Writer Samuel Petrequin contributed to this report.