The first nine stages of the 2013 Tour de France produced plenty of drama. It all started out with the Orica-GreenEdge bus stuck under the finish line banner as the peloton charged toward the finish of stage 1. Fortunately, the bus was removed just in time, although the finish was moved twice by officials en route.
It's common for the first part of the Tour to include many crashes as the large peloton nervously establishes its pecking order, but the confusion resulting from the judges decisions on the opening stage caused a massive pile-up. Although all 198 riders were awarded the same time and continued into the race, American Ted King, suffering from a separated shoulder, could not ride in his aerodynamic position and was dropped in the team time trial and missed the time cut on stage 4.
The crashes continued in the remainder of the opening week, with Janez Brajkovic and Christian Vande Velde among those eliminated after crashes.
The first nine stages of the 2013 Tour de France gave several men the chance to wear yellow, including Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), a surprising Jan Bakelants (RadioShack), whose solo move on stage 2 upset the sprinters.
Simon Gerrans gave Orica GreenEdge its first Tour de France stage win on the next day, then helped drive his team to a narrow victory and the maillot jaune in the team time trial. He later passed the honour along to teammate Daryl Impey, who made history as the first South African to lead the Tour.
The big-named sprinters of the race took turns winning stages on stage 5 through 7, with Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) each taking turns on the stage podium. Sagan's repeat victory in the green jersey competition seems all but assured.
The mountains jersey has gone from Juan José Lobato to Pierre Rolland, who looked like a measles vaccination advocate in his spotted knicks and jersey. It passed briefly to Blel Kadri (AG2R) and then back to Rolland, who continues to dizzy in the his white kit with big red polka dots.
The first mountain stages were described as some of the hardest days on the bike for a number of riders, even those outside of the gruppetto. The stage to Ax3 Domaines put just about everyone except stage winner and new race leader Chris Froome (Sky) out of contention, while the following day it was the Sky team's turn to suffer, as second placed Richie Porte dropped out of contention, and Vasili Kiryienka missed the time cut. Froome held onto yellow, as a two-man escape succeeded and Dan Martin (Garmin Sharp) gave Ireland a stage victory in the Tour 50 years after Seamus Elliot put the country on cycling's map.
Check out the attached gallery featuring some of the highlights from the first nine stages.