Alessandro Petacchi won stage one of the Tour de France with a ground out win up the long drag to Brussels’ Atomium. The Italian wasn’t necessarily the fastest today, but unlike many others he managed to stay upright.
Today’s stage was always going to end in a sprint, but Petacchi’s win came almost by virtue of him being the last man standing. He avoided three crashes within the last three kilometres, the second of which brought most of the bunch to a standstill.
The first happened on a gentle but fast right hand bend when Mark Cavendish was seemingly hampered, went straight on. This brought down Jeremy Hunt, Oscar Freire and two others. Cavendish immediately picked himself up, jumped back on his bike and rode in to the finish.
The incident will re-open the wounds from the Tour of Switzerland where Hunt lead a brief eight rider protest against Cavendish the day after his crash with Haussler.
Then, as the pace went up, the road got narrower and with the kilometre flag just behind them, a touch of wheels sent riders crashing down, including race leader Fabian Cancellara.
The resulting pile of bikes and bodies stretched from one side of the road to the other, and no one was going anywhere
That left around 20 riders contesting the sprint, but the carnage wasn’t over yet. As the sprint went up the left hand side of the road, riders switched across to get the fastest wheel. The concertina affect saw an Ag2r La Mondiale rider hit the tarmac.
The sprint was in disarray and Petacchi had a slight advantage and was travelling at full speed. Renshaw, suddenly free from the duty of leading out Cavendish, tried to claw him back but made no inroads in to the Italian’s lead.
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It was his first win at the Tour since taking four stages in 2003. He hasn’t ridden the Tour since 2004, when he pulled out towards the end of the first week.
Behind the peloton was still picking itself up off the floor. From that point on they simply rode up to the finish line. Cancellara escaped serious injury, others may not be so lucky.
The win bought Petacchi the green jersey after Brit David Millar minded it for the day. While the Italian isn’t expected to make it to Paris, Thor Hushovd’s third puts him in a strong position over Cavendish and Farrar who also crashed. The American’s bike was so damaged he was forced to walk across the line.
All the contenders for the general classification came through those crashes unscathed, although Levi Leipheimer and Ivan Basso crashed earlier in the stage, along with Millar; none were hurt.
Stage one: Rotterdam – Brussels, 233.5km
1. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre in 5-09-38
2. Mark Renshaw (Aus) HTC-Columbia
3. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervélo
4. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Katusha
5. Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Française des Jeux
6. Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas
7. Jose Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
8. Christian Knees (Ger) Milram
9. Ruben Perez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
10. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma all same time
15. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky
62. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions
72. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervélo
81. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky
136. Steve Cummings (GB) Team Sky
149. Charly Wegelius (GB) Omega Pharma
178. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia
179. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervélo
Overall classification after stage one
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Saxo Bank in 5-19-38
2. Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Columbia at 10sec
3. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 20sec
4. Lance Armstrong (USA) Radioshack at 22sec
5. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky at 23sec
6. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 27sec
7. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Transitions at 28sec
8. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Radioshack at 28sec
9. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky at 32sec
10. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Milram at 35sec
75. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 56sec
110. Steve Cummings (GB) Team Sky at 1-07
123. Charly Wegelius (GB) Omega Pharma at 1-10
124. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia at 1-10
136. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervélo at 1-13
173. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervélo at 1-23
Points competition Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre
King of the mountains Not awarded yet
Young rider classification Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Columbia
US sprinter Tyler Farrar was one of those affected by the crashes
Race leader Fabian Cancellara
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