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A look at the school, the races and the future of this unique 'sport'
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Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) survived late-race carnage to win his first Tour stage in seven years.
Briefs on McEwen, Wiggins, Footon, Millar and Evans
Masters of not crashing
If Alessandro Petacchi is turning into the master of avoiding the crashes, spare a thought for Robbie McEwen. The green jersey triple winner, who finished fourth in Stage 1, is a master bike handler, and said if you thought Sunday was eventful, just wait another 48 hours for some colossal cobbled madness.
"I went across to the right and a guy from AG2R [ Lloyd Mondory - ed.], he crashed almost straight on me – I don't know how I managed to get past him," McEwen said. "There'll be more chances tomorrow [Stage 2]. It's a difficult stage. Then on the one across the cobbles [Stage 3], you'll see way more carnage than you've seen today."
Wiggins prologue: difference of opinions
Brad Wiggins's assessment of his 77th place in Saturday's prologue couldn't have contrasted more jarringly with L'Equipe's verdict. A performance that Wiggins judged satisfactory was described as "colossally poor" in the French newspaper's Sunday edition.
What everyone seemed to agree on was that Wiggins had ridden with excessive caution on a route made tricky rather than treacherous by the rain on Saturday afternoon. Repeated warnings by the Team Sky staff not to "do a Boardman" - in other words crash out like former hour recordman Chris in Saint-Brieuc in 1995 – probably didn't help The Wigg's cause. Or his nerves for that matter.
Young blood, literally
Footon-Servetto lined up at this year's Tour with not a single rider boasting previous experience in the Grande Boucle. The team's Spanish directeur sportif, Matxin Fernandez, told Procycling on Sunday morning that his gold lamé longshots were at the Tour to "attack all the time, get into breaks, and generally spice up the racing."
Matxin added that it "doesn't matter how many riders we take to Paris, whether it's five, six or eight." Far be it from us to suggest that his optimism seems misplaced, but the omens don't look good: having finished the prologue caked in blood after a nasty smash, the team's Portuguese sprinter Manuel Cardoso was already on his way home on Sunday.
Millar poised for yellow?
Some pundits reckon that Garmin's David Millar has a decent shot at claiming the yellow jersey from Fabian Cancellara over the next few days. To do so, Millar will no doubt have to avoid the "carnage" that he predicts could ensue over the cobbles on stage 3.
"The bunch will be in pieces, there'll be crashes, breaks going up the road," Millar told us before the team presentation in Rotterdam last Thursday night. "A lot of guys, especially the GC riders, will be shit scared. Strength, fitness, experience…it'll all count, but positioning is the most important thing. If you go into the first sector in 60th or 70 position, you're fucked."
Millar gained confidence and a love for the cobbles in this year's Tour of Flanders, where he made a late-race breakaway.
An old tradition dies
A race spokesman confirmed on Monday that the oath of loyalty read by the youngest rider on behalf of the peloton at the beginning of stage 1 has disappeared from Tour tradition. Why? "Because we realized it had no impact on whether people cheated or not," sniffed the ASO source.
Evans prologue, difference of opinion
When it comes to an assessment of one's performance, do you listen to the rider or the director? If it's the former, Saturday's Rotterdam prologue was a smidgen below par for BMC's Tour leader, Cadel Evans, who felt he wasn't "where I really wanted to be" at 39 seconds off Cancellara's winning time.
But when Procycling asked his team manager John Lelangue at the start of Sunday's opening road stage, Lelangue was effusive. "I was totally satisfied," said the Belgian. "Due to the roads, the weather, and the rain, you don't have to take risks in 8.9 kilometres when you have 3,600 kilometres coming. The most important thing in the first week is preserving your GC, staying healthy [in the second week], and then being really there in the last week with the Pyrenees and the final time trial."