97th Tour de France
Stage 1 - Rotterdam to Brussels - 225.5 km (139.8 mi)
04 July 2010
It was a pancake-flat stage through the Netherlands and into Belgium on an Independence Day in America that saw four of its countrymen in the top ten of the race. Of course, though, it was a Swissman decked out in yellow as Fabian Cancellara rode as the leader with his Saxo Bank team. Conditions were windy through the lowlands today, a route devoid of any real elevation gain also devoid of any natural buffers to the breezes off the North Sea. It was a day that began two riders shorter in the peloton, as both Mathias Frank (BMC) and Manuel Cardoso (Footon-Servetto) were forced to withdraw after accidents in the prologue left them unable to depart the hospital for the first road stage.
It was also a day conducive to a breakaway effort, and the attacks came flying off the front as soon as the neutral zone through town had been navigated through and the racing began in earnest. Lars Boom (Rabobank) was the instigator of the successful attack, soon collecting latch-ons Maarten Wijnants (Quick Step) and Alan Perez (Euskaltel). The trio worked together to build up seven minutes on the peloton inside of the first thirty kilometers of racing. They would reach the first of three intermediate sprint points on the day, in Zeeland Neeltje Jans 73 kilometers into the stage, with the gap having dissipated by about a minute thanks to the work of Saxo Bank in controlling the peloton for race leader Cancellara. Boom would take the six points ahead of Perez and Wijnants, and they would resume trying to maintain their distance from the main field.
As the winds kicked up more fiercely, though, the staying power of the breakaway was severely tested. Another minute had melted off of the lead at the 80km mark; as everyone in the peloton battled to remain toward the front and buffeted from the wind, the upswing in tempo was churning up the tarmac and putting the leaders in jeopardy. The gap between the triumvirate off the front and the hard-charging field behind had halved from its maximum of seven-plus minutes by the time they went through the feed zone in Wolphaartsdijk. It really was just a matter of time before things came back together for the sprinters. With things more secure, the chase reeled itself back to a more sensible pace... after all, they didn't want to reintegrate the field too early only to see a more formidable breakaway emerge that couldn't be caught before the sprint could be set up.
The cat-and-mouse games continued over the next hundred kilometers, as the peloton strung out the leaders a padding that never went back over five minutes but also didn't vary much from there for the next half-century or so. At the Netherlands-Belgium border, the second intermediate sprint looming, it was back down to 3:30 between the two groups. Splitting the points amongst each other, Wijnants crossed the sprint line in Putte ahead of Perez and Boom. They would still be away nine kilometers later when the final intermediate sprint came up in Ekeren, though the gap would have dropped another minute by that point. The peloton was really charging behind as Perez took the final spoils ahead of Boom and Wijnants, each man earning 12 points on the day for his efforts.
As the peloton nipped at their heels, first Boom tried an attack and then, with 30km left to race, Wijnants bolted off the front. He was soon joined by Moldovan national champion Alexandr Pliuschin (Katusha) and the two pushed the gap back close to one minute but never over that mark. Everything was finally integrated together inside ten kilometers to go, the futile dreams of Wijnants and Pliuschin left in Grimbergem as the sprinters prepared for their field day.
Inside three kilometers remaining to the line, a crash had major implications as both Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Mark Cavendish (Columbia) were negated from the sprint when Jeremy Hunt (Cervelo) overcooked a 90-degree right-hand turn and crashed them out of the running. Cavendish's lead-out man, Mark Renshaw, would be pressed into duty in the sprint. And with a second crash piled up in the background of the few men who avoided it up front, it appeared that he had a chance for the victory. But instead it was a wily veteran who got his just rewards for a career defined by persistence.
Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre), in the downswing of a dominant career, showed that he still has a lethal finishing kick to call upon in the final meters of a sprint finish. Renshaw could only cling to his wheel, holding off defending green jersey Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) for second place. The day was owned by the Italian, who in winning Stage 1 claimed (and I'm shocked by how low this number actually is) his fifth career Tour de France stage victory. Of course, he's usually been a man of the Giro (21 career stages)... but on this day in Belgium, Petacchi proved that he is still at 36 a dangerous sprinter no matter where it is contested...
RESULTS - STAGE 1
- Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) 5:09:38
- Mark Renshaw (Columbia)
- Thor Hushovd (Cervelo)
- Robbie McEwen (Katusha)
- Matthieu Ladagnous (FdJeux)
- Daniel Oss (Liquigas)
- Jose Joaquin Rojas (Caisse d'Epargne)
- Christian Knees (Milram)
- Ruben Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
- Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto) all s.t.
- Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) 5:19:38
- Tony Martin (Columbia) +0:10
- David Millar (Garmin) +0:20
- Lance Armstrong (Radio Shack) +0:22
- Geraint Thomas (Sky) +0:23
- Alberto Contador (Astana) +0:27
- Tyler Farrar (Garmin) +0:28
- Levi Leipheimer (Radio Shack)
- Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) +0:32
- Linus Gerdemann (Milram) +0:35
Brent Bookwalter (BMC)
Adriano Malori (Lampre)
Janez Brajkovic (Radio Shack)
Michael Rogers (Columbia)
- Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) 35
- Mark Renshaw (Columbia) 30
- Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) 26
- Robbie McEwen (Katusha) 24
- Matthieu Ladagnous (FdJeux) 22
- Daniel Oss (Liquigas) 20
- Jose Joaquin Rojas (Caisse d'Epargne) 19
- Christian Knees (Milram) 18
- Geraint Thomas (Sky) 17
- Ruben Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 17
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
- NOT APPLICABLE AFTER PROLOGUE
BEST YOUNG RIDER
- Tony Martin (Columbia) 5:19:48
- Geraint Thomas (Sky) +0:13
- Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) +0:22
- Adriano Malori (Lampre) +0:25
- Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) +0:28
- Kristjan Koren (Liquigas) +0:32
- Daniel Oss (Liquigas) +0:33
- Ignatas Konovalovas (Cervelo) +0:34
- Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) +0:35
- Jose Joaquin Rojas (Caisse d'Epargne) +0:39
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