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Philippe Gilbert on the podium
Omega Pharma-Lotto boss celebrates a great day for the Belgian team
Back in October 2010 when this year's Tour de France route was unveiled, Omega Pharma-Lotto team manager Marc Sergeant pinpointed today's first stage as a target for Philippe Gilbert and on the day, the Belgian has delivered in imperious style claming the stage and yellow jersey.
Gilbert stamped his authority on the race on the final rise, bridging across to Fabian Cancellara and then accelerating away on the final ramps of the Mont des Alouettes climb.
Sergeant may well lose Gilbert at the end of the season but was in an understandably joyous mood at the finish, praising not just Gilbert but also his teammates for the amount of work they put in the build up.
Gilbert now leads Cadel Evans by three seconds with a host of other favourites a further three seconds back. Lotto have precious time to celebrate today's success though and must turn their attention to tomorrow's team time trial around Cholet with more than Gilbert's lead a matter of concern. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, who performed so well last year, is just six seconds back but with three Lotto riders crashing during today's stage the Belgian outfit will have to ride out of the skins to keep Gilbert in yellow and hold Van Den Broeck's current position of 5th.