Photos: ASO Group (c)
Trust the land of Merckx--Eddie Merckx that is, four-time Belgian Tour de France champion in the aerly 1970's--to throw a wrench into the results of today's Tour stage.
As this 223.5 km mostly flat race progressed from Rotterdam, Holland to Brussels, Belgium, the peleton passed through Flanders and Merckx's hometown of Meise, just after his 65th birthday.
If only to make the race less predictable and more interesting, you might say that Merckx had something to do with the final results which started with a breakaway, traveled across miles of cobblestoned streets, hit the path of loose dogs, and ended with two successive crashes in the last miles of the stage.
Speaking at a presser after his win, the 36-year-old Petacchi said, “For seven years I did not win on the Tour, and to do so here is always very different from other victories."
“But I’m not sure that Cavendish could beat me today if he had been there, because I really did a good sprint.” It is his fifth stage win in the Tour de France.
Those fighting words could come back to haunt him in the rest of the Tour. Even though Pettachi hasn't been around since 2004, there is no doubt a lot of competition from strong sprinters Cavendish, Hushovd and Farrar in this year's race.
First came the breakaway when Lars Boom (RAB) sprinted ahead of the peloton. He was chased and caught by Perez Lezaun (EUS) and Wynants (QST). By 17km the break was ahead by 7’10”, an advantage that continued for the majority of the stage. Saxobank pushed to the front of the peleton and dominated the pace at this point.
At 55km, a dog ran in front of the peloton, taking down David Millar (GRM) and Evan Basso (LIQ). Neither seemed too injured and took new bikes for the chase back to the main group.
At 67km, RadioShack, Liquigas and Astana teams forward in the peloton but Saxo continued to control the front.
At that point, Cavendish's words could have echoed through the peleton--that the breaks are almost always caught, and the sprinters can be set up to win at the end. But it was not to happen this time.
With 32km to go, Belgian rider Maarten Wynants of QuickStep was the first to attack the lead group: he was caught, attacked again two kilometers later and opened a good gap.
At 27km to go, Pliuschin attacked off the front, chasing Wynants, and Boom and Perez, were caught by the peloton.
With 25km to go Wynants was caught by the Moldavian champion and the two led by 25”. Behind them, the trains of Garmin, Milram and HTC-Columbia led the peloton in a fast pursuit.
But as the big teams were priming their gams for the final sprint, the crashes started. The first, on the last turn of the stage, took out Mark Cavendish (THR) and Oscar Freire (RAB).
Garmin took over front of the peleton, hoping to launch Tyler Farrar in the final straight but with about 800m to go, another accident halted the progress of most of the peletong except about 40 riders.
Petacchi started his sprint with 200m to go and was trailed by Mark Renshaw and Thor Hushovd. It is the Italian’s fifth stage win in the Tour de France, following his collection of four in the 2003 race. It’s his first appearance in the Tour since 2004.
Cancellara was caught up in the last major crash but as it happened within the final three kilometers he didn’t lose time and will wear the yellow jersey in stage two.
After a great time trial on day one, Tony Martin of HTC Columbia turned into a domestique for day two as a part of the lead-out train for Mark Cavendish.
“I’m looking at the race on a day to day basis, I want to keep the white jersey as long as possible," said Martin.
1. PETACCHI Alessandro 208 LAMPRE - FARNESE 5h 09' 38"
2. RENSHAW Mark 117 TEAM HTC - COLUMBIA 5h 09' 38" + 00' 00"
3. HUSHOVD Thor 95 CERVELO TEST TEAM 5h 09' 38" + 00' 00"
4. MC EWEN Robbie 75 KATUSHA TEAM 5h 09' 38" + 00' 00"
5. LADAGNOUS Matthieu 65 FDJ 5h 09' 38" + 00' 00"
6. OSS Daniel 46 LIQUIGAS-DOIMO 5h 09' 38" + 00' 00"
7. ROJAS Jose Joaquin 169 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 5h 09' 38" + 00' 00"
8. KNEES Christian 145 TEAM MILRAM 5h 09' 38" + 00' 00"
9. PEREZ MORENO Ruben 186 EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 5h 09' 38" + 00' 00"
10. ROELANDTS Jürgen 108 OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO 5h 09' 38" + 00' 00"
Standings in the General Classifcation after Stage 1
1. CANCELLARA Fabian 13 TEAM SAXO BANK 5h 19' 38"
2. MARTIN Tony 115 TEAM HTC - COLUMBIA 5h 19' 48" + 00' 10"
3. MILLAR David 57 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 5h 19' 58" + 00' 20"
4. ARMSTRONG Lance 21 TEAM RADIOSHACK 5h 20' 00" + 00' 22"
5. THOMAS Geraint 39 SKY PRO CYCLING 5h 20' 01" + 00' 23"
6. CONTADOR Alberto 1 ASTANA 5h 20' 05" + 00' 27"
7. FARRAR Tyler 53 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 5h 20' 06" + 00' 28"
8. LEIPHEIMER Levi 25 TEAM RADIOSHACK 5h 20' 06" + 00' 28"
9. BOASSON HAGEN Edvald 36 SKY PRO CYCLING 5h 20' 10" + 00' 32"
10. GERDEMANN Linus 141 TEAM MILRAM 5h 20' 13" + 00' 35"