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Stage One of the Tour takes us through the Netherlands to Brussels, Belgium. Along the way the peloton will expereince the sea-side roads – will the wind play a role today?
Good morning and welcome back to the Tour de France. After yesterday's exciting prologue, things really get underway today, with 223.5 kilometers from Rotterdam to Brussels. Part of the route goes along the North Sea, so we may see wind echelons come into action. But in the end it will probably come down to a mass sprint.
We have a long neutral section this morning, and the riders are now all obediently following the race car.
Two riders are missing today. Mathias Frank (BMC) and Manuel Cardoso (Footon) both crashed heavily yesterday and are out. Cardoso is suffering from a broken jaw and shoulder blade.
Mathias Frank of BMC Racing Team went down on the wet course and crossed the finish line dripping blood all over the place. But the worst of his problems turned out to be a broken right thumb, a torn muscle in his left thigh and a badly cut lip. Not a nice way to end your debut Tour de France.
The 23-year-old wiped out on a right-hand curve on the wet road. "My back wheel slipped away on the painted lines," Frank said. "I thought I could get control again but I was too close to the barriers and hit the barriers going pretty fast."
“It's a loss for the team and a loss for Mathias because the Tour de France is always a dream for every rider," said DS John Lelangue.
The sun is shining! What a pleasant surprise! It is only supposed to get up to 25° Celsius today. But there may well be lot of wind blowing off the North Sea....
The peloton is on the Erasmus Bridge, which is full of fans. An incredible turnout.
We seem to be having some sort of ceremony on the bridge. The peloton has stopped, there is a platform. Perhaps we will have the "official" start here.
Now we hear the French national anthem.
What is today's profile like? Well, flat is the word that comes to mind. Lots of flat.
The riders are looking a bit confused about the whole ceremony, and no doubt are itching to get on their bikes and going again.
And they are off again!
Cancellara is at the head of the field, in his yellow outfit. Next to him is Lance Armstrong.
Fränk Schleck and Christian Vande Velde have a little chat.
The bikes of a number of riders were scanned for illegal motors. Everyone passed the test. And “everyone” was: A. Schleck, Cancellara, Fuglsang, Armstrong, Wiggins, Flecha, Boasson Hagen, Basso, Zabriskie, T. Martin, Monfort, Vogondy, L. L. Sanchez, and Costa.
The race has started officially now, and Lars Boom of Rabobank takes off about one-half of a second later.
Maarten Wynants of QuickStep and Alan Perez of Euskaltel are with him. They have a nice little lead.
A few people turned out in Rotterdam to watch the prologue yesterday – a few hundred thousand, that is. Authorities estimate that 400,000 to 450,000 were along the course Satudray.
This trio is really moving fast. They already have a 1:20 gap on the field.
The field is happy to let these three go.
The gap has now leaped to over four minutes.
And the gap hits the five minute mark.
Meanwhile the gap is over six minutes. Boom is our virtual leader.
At the start in Rotterdam, Daniel Benson spoke to world champion Cadel Evans about his ride in the prologue and his aim for the next few days. “It was medium, not bad not good. It was good to get things started. I would have preferred to have been a bit closer to the other GC contenders but it wasn’t to bad. The first thing now is to stay out of trouble.”
Daniel Benson also spoke to HTC head honcho, Bob Stapleton about Mark Cavendish’s chances for today. “I don’t have concerns about him. He’s the fastest he can be. I’m not nervous at all. I think he thrives on people that question him.”
And the gap is now seven minutes.
Martijn Maaskant of Garmin-Transitions jumps fom the peloton and tries to get away.
Ah, that is why Maaskant took off. He pulls over to teh side of the road and exchanges a number of hugs and kisses with family and friends.
Geraint Thomas (Sky) was the proud wearer of the British national champions jersey today in Rotterdam. It’s the first time he’s donned the kit but instead of a white jersey and shorts combo, he decided on black shorts. “It feels special. To represent your country and have this jersey on my back at the greatest race in the world is special. I wanted to keep it real and keep it old school. I prefer the black shorts.
Thomas will have a busy Tour. As well as keep Bradley Wiggins out of trouble on the flat, he also has the task of leading out Edvald Boasson Hagen in the sprints.
“Obviously I’ll help keep Brad out of trouble and then finish with Edvlad. Flecha and I will be there for him but it will be hard with just the three of us against the likes of Columbia so we’ll just have to feed off them and hopefully we’ll deliver him well. Cervelo, Garmin-Transitions and Columbia are the strongest and we’ll float in between them and hope it comes off.”
Lots of people out on the beach, enjoying the beautiful summer weather.
Manuel Quinziato’s sole responsibility for the stage will be keep Roman Kreuziger and Ivan Basso out of trouble. Daniel Benson spoke with him at the start. “We’re going to have a few stressful days but we’re happy it’s sunny and there isn’t much wind. We’ll look to keep Roman and Ivan out of trouble. We don’t have any sprinters so the important thing for us is to get through the first few stages without having any problems. Later in the race, after the Alps, I can try and do something in a break, perhaps.”
For those of you playing our Easton-Cyclingnews Wheelset a Day Giveaway during the Tour de France, here is your trivia question for the day:
Professional riders rack up thousands of miles a year in training. According to the team's own estimate, how many miles with BMC riders rack up this season?
For a hint, click here.
Enter your answer in our contest page here.
Today's prize is an Easton EC90 Aero wheel set. Click here for information about the prize.
The gap has steadied now at right about seven minutes.
Tyler Farrar starts today as one of the favourites. Can he celebrate Independence Day with a win for his American team Garmin-Transitions. Daniel Benson spoke to team boss Jonathan Vaughters and asked if the team had finalised their leadout train yet.
“We’ve not finalised it. You finalise that with 20K to go and who is feeling better. That could be an advantage and we’ll keep in flexible. Yesterday he showed his incredible form and we’ve built a team around him for this year and hopefully we can turn the tide today.”
Who is leading what ranking after those few kilometres yesterday? Here is the GC:
1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank 0:10:00
2 Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia 0:00:10
3 David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Transitions 0:00:20
4 Lance Armstrong (USA) Team Radioshack 0:00:22
5 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:00:23
6 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 0:00:27
7 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Transitions 0:00:28
8 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team Radioshack
9 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:00:32
10 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team Milram 0:00:35
Not surpisingly, the points classification looks quite similar.1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank 15 pts 2 Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia 12 3 David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Transitions 10 4 Lance Armstrong (USA) Team Radioshack 8 5 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 6 6 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 5 7 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Transitions 4 8 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team Radioshack 3 9 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team 2 10 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team Milram 1
HTC-Columbia's Tony Martin is the white jersey of best young rider today.
1 Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia 0:10:10
2 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:00:13
3 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:00:22
4 Adriano Malori (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini 0:00:25
5 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo 0:00:28
And here is how the teams rank:
1 Team Radioshack 0:31:25
2 Team HTC - Columbia 0:00:01
3 Garmin - Transitions 0:00:02
4 Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:00:16
5 Astana 0:00:20
Which category is missing? Right, the mountain jersey. There were no climbs yesterday (or today) which are polka-dot worthy.
Adam Hansen of HTC--Columbia has gone down hard. There are fears he may have done something to a collarbone. Teammate Bert Grabsch is with him, helping to get the Australian back to the peloton.
Cancellara is trailing the field at the moment. It's not a problem, though. He like many others was simply answering the call of nature.
Tom Boonen was genuinely bummed not to be in the race today as he appeared outside the team bus this morning. "I didn't think it was going to be a problem being here, but it actually is," he told Cyclingnews, still very disappointed not to be at the start of this year's Tour de France.
Asked about today's finish in Brussels, just across form the Atomium, which is the longest finishing straight of the Tour, slightly uphil, he said:
"I never did a good sprint in that finish, never! I finished second once , but it is a very hard sprint because you see the line with 900 metres to go. You have to wait a looong time before starting the sprint. But as I could see yesterday at the prologue, Farrar is doing really wll. He has increased is form these last 2-3 months and the Tour is his great objective, so I think he's the big favourite today."
The gap has gone up again, to 7:26.
Hansen is back in the peloton at last. Hope he is all right.
QuickStep's Sylvain Chavanel talked to Hedwig Kröner before the stage. “To be putting a guy in a breakaway today would just be suicidal. I believe there are much more chances tomorrow.”
Of course, he has a teammate in today's break!
“I don't believe there will be great echelons today,” he continued. “There's not too much wind, and it's more of a tailwind.”
We now hear that it was Mark Renshaw who helped Hansen back to the peloton and not Grabsch.
David Mlilar, Ivan Basso and others have crashed. As far as we know they are all up and going again. Apparently a dog ran onto the road and brought them down.
Basso has four helpers to bring him back to the peloton, but first he needs a new bike.
Millar has attached himself to the Liquigas group moving up through the team cars.
Huge crowds here! Looks like a mountain stage!
The number of people here along the road is really staggering. The Dutch love their cycling!
So who are these three in the break group?
Lars Boom is a 24-year-old Dutchman with Rabobank, making his Tour debut. He has excellent credentials, having been world U23 time trial champ in 2007 and both road and time trial national champ in 2008.
He rode for Rabobank junior team in 2002 and 2003, and the Rabo CT team from 2004 to 2008. He joined he big boys last year.
He has been successful on the road, too. Last year he won the overall title in the Tour of Belgium, and took a stage in the Vuelta a Espana. So far this year he has won a stage at Paris-Nice.
Hansen is with the peloton, but continues to hang about 3 metres behind it.
Wynants, 28, is a Belgian riding for QuickStep. He joined them in 20087, having previously ridden for Chocolade Jacques-T Interim. He was U23 road champion in 2004. This is his maiden Tour de France.
The gap is dropping slightly, now at 6:48.
Alan Perez Lezaun of Euskaltel-Euskadi is 27 years old. He turned pro with Orbea in 2005, and joined his current team in 2007. This is his second Tour.
Millar is still having bike issues stemming from his earlier crash. He gets a new bike and is back in the peloton.
The gap continues to fall, and is now nearing six minutes.
Boom takes the first intermediate sprint, ahead of Perez and Wynants. They did not contest for the points.
This is the fifth time that the Tour has started in the Netherlands. The others were Amsterdam (1954), Scheveningen (1973), Leiden (1978) and 's-Hertogenbosch (1966).
The gap continues to come down, now at 5:34.
Hansen drops back again and again. The team doctor has told letour.fr that they suspect his collarbone is broken, but they are allowing him to continue in this stage as long as he can. It will be off to hospital directly afterwards.
Once again, huge crowds along the roadside.
The gap is really plummeting now. It is approaching the three minute mark.
Basso drops back to the team car -- apparently just for a chat.
Very interesting. Basso shows us how to change a shoe whilst riding the Tour de France..... He does get a certain amount of help from the team car.
Saxo Bank leads the peloton.
Basso has been escorted back to the peloton.
Where do the riders in this race come from? All over the place. The most-represented country is, believe it or not, France, with 35 riders. Spain is in a close second place, with 31 riders, followed by Italy (17), Germany (15), Belgium (13) and Australia (12).
Hansen continues to hang out by the race doctor and his team car.
Team Sky head coach Shane Sutton has spoken to Eurosport television about Bradley Wiggins' prologue performance. Sutton is in the second Team Sky car in the race convoy.
"He didn’t want to do a Boardman, fall off and break a bone. He's disappointed that he didn’t get out what he had I the tank it was a bit of blip but you can rectify that over three weeks. He's lost around 30 seconds to the real contenders but he's in the same time as the Schlecks."
"Now we'll get through the pave section and re-evaluate. We've got a good strong team. We'll be geared to that pave day. It's a very dangerous stage in the race."
The break is now entering the feed zone and collecting their lunch.
The riders have now covered 100km of the first stage. That leaves 123.5km to go. The race route changes direction slightly, heading towards Belgium. The riders will be pleased to have more of a tailwind for a while.
The peloton is now in the feed zone. The pace has dropped as riders grab their musette, throw them over their shoulders and begin to see what's for lunch. Probably small sandwiches, bars and gels for the second half of the race. Bon Appetit!
The break has earned a few extra seconds as the trio work hard together.
The Dutch roads are flanked by bike paths and so we've seen plenty of the public trying to ride next to the riders. There was one young fella there, riding on the back of his dad's bike.
Nicholas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale) is getting treatment from the race doctor. He seems to have taken a tumble but has no serious injuries.
Dave Millar (Garmin-Transitions) has stopped next to his team car. He seems to be resolving a problem with his race radio. Now a small adjustment to his rear brake from the team, helping him get back to the peloton. Millar is wearing the green points jersey today.
Sergio Paulinho of RadioSHack dros back to pick up some water bottles.
Two riders from the peloton went for a spin on the neighboring bike path. They soon realized that wasn't such a good idea and got back on the road.
A handful of riders debuted new aerodynamic helmets in yesterday's prologue. They have shorter tails and a removable visor. Details here.
A mass nature break for the peloton!
Caisse d'Epargne and HTC-Columbia now have riders at the head of the peloton.
Armstrong and teammates are near the back of the field, but now moving up.
Cancellara and Fränk Schleck are also at the back of the field.
The gap has crept up to nearly five minutes again.
Bradley Wiggins of Sky stops for some work on his bike. A teammate is with him to bring him back up to the front.
Brent Bookwalter of BMC finished 11th in the prologue, not as good as his second-place finish in the Giro opener, but still quite good. “My ride was okay, but it wasn't blistering,” he told Cyclingnews.
Matt White of Garmin has confirmed that Millar wasn't injured earlier in the crash, but that his bike is still having some issues.
HTC-Columbia, Garmin-Transitions, and Cervelo all have a rider at the head of the field. Saxo Bank is right behind them.
The gap is coming down again, to just over four minutes.
The leading trio drives through another section with many fans, who are happy to cheer on their landsman Boom.
Rinaldo Nocentini of AG2R was just by the team car and looks quite misshapen. His jersey and pockets are stuffed full with water bottles and gels and other yummy things.
Jens Voigt is also picking u some bidons from his Team Saxo Bank car.
HTC-Columbia's Tony Martin came oh-so-close to winning the prologue. "In the first minutes, I was very disappointed, as I had realistic hope of getting the yellow jersey," Martin told Cyclingnews after the podium ceremony. "But then, I expected Fabian to show off a great performance here again today; in the end I'm happy about my second place.”
The three leaders go through a town, whose entire population seems to be out cheering and clapping.
WE don't want to sound like a broken record, but we are stunned by the number of fans out along the road today.
Dries Devenyns of Quick Step took a tumble, but is up and going again quickly.
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) spoke to Eurosport television before the start of the stage. He was pleased with his seventh place in yesterday's prologue.
"Yesterday was a surprise for me. I can ride a good prologue but usually if it's over 5km, it's not for me. Seventh was good and shows my condition is where I want it to be."
Farrar played down the idea that today's finish was a duel between him and Mark Cavendish.
"I don’t think of it that way. There are too many good riders here. We have a lot of the best sprinters in the world. It's more than two riders trying to sprint today."
Adam Hansen seems to be feeling better. He is now up at the front of the field.
Further ahead, Boom is starting to do some stretching on the bike.
This is Farrar's second Tour de France and he insisted he was relaxed before the first sprint stage.
"Last year it was my first Tour and I didn’t know what to expect. This year I hope I can keep the momentum for the next three weeks," he said.
"It's a long stage, so you can't let yourself get stressed out on the bus before the start when you've got five hours to race. We'll start getting nervous when we get close to the finish."
The leading trio movs into Belgium, with the sidewalks full of cheering fans.
They approach the second intermediate sprint of the stage.
The point went to Wynants ahead of Perez and Boom.
Mathieu Peget of Caisse d'Epargne is the next to visit the race doctor's car.
The Belgian streets are still line with fans, enjoying both the Tour and the beautiful weather.
Down goes the gap again, to just over two minutes.
Andy Schleck of Saxo Bank was the big loser of the day yesterday, losing 1:09 on the stage, and he was very upset with himself after his poor performance. “I had a real shit day!” he twittered.
Looks like we had another crash in the field, but it all moved along again quickly. A Milram rider went down and then a handful of others tumbled too.
The leaders went through the final intermediate sprint. Perez won this won, so each of the three has taken one today.
Alessandro Ballan of BMC was one of those who went down, and he is still shaking it off and looking rather disgusted.
Ballan is now getting his turn at the doctor's car. He has his left arm and leg sprayed.
The peloton has arrived in Antwerp.
And down comes the gap again, under two minutes.
In fact the lead is now barely over a minute and a half.
Lampre has also moved towards the front of the field. They, too, have a sprinter who can win today.
Cancellara took home his fifth Tour de France stage win, and admitted he has a secret weapon. “The engine, that's me,” he said.
The riders are still wending their way through Antwerp.
The peloton is taking its tie now, and the gap has gone back up to 1:50. Don't want to catch those escapees too early now, do we?
Bob Stapleton told Cylingnews that he held talks with Bjarne Riis about a possiblity of merging their two teams, but that it came to nothing.
He also indicated that it looked like Andre Greipel would leave HTC-Columbia at the end of the season.
Wynants bellies up to the bar and gets a shot of whiskey.
No wait, that's not right. He goes to the team car and gets two fresh water bottles.
Hard to believe, but there is actually another race going on!
Actually it is not going on right now, as the first stage of the Tour of Austria has already ended. We won't disclose the name of the reader, but you can see it here.
Liquigas has moved up to help with the lead work, as has Sky.
A Sky rider is trying to break form the field. It is Serge Pauwels.
Once again the three leaders drive through a town with the sidewalks full of fans.
The gap is holding steady at just under two minutes.
David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) was one of the few to be happy about the wet weather. "But it is my strongest point to ride fast when it rains. However, I had in my mind that I crashed earlier this year during the time trial of the Tour of Algarve. But today, when I raced, the road wasn't slippery at all. It was a very nice road and a great course."
Robbie McEwen knows all about the finish today in Brussels. He's won the Paris-Brussels classic four times.
"I've been thinking about this finish for a long, long time. I've won Paris-Brussels four times but this is the Tour and is an extra step up. But I feel good and there's no reason why I can't be up there for win. I'm going to be going for it," he told Eurosport television.
"Everyone knows the stage and the finish but every finish has something special about it. This one is a difficult little finish. It is easy to go too soon or go too late. It's about timing but most of all, it's about having good legs."
Pauwels wasn't trying to get away, he was just making a short visit to his family on the side of the road. He is back in the field now.
There are lots of traffic islands and things in the road here.
We now hear that the Milram rider who went down earlier was Thomas Rohregger. He has paid a short visit to the race doctor and is ok.
We now see RadioShack at the head of the field.
The gap is now down to 1:24.
Now the gap has reached the one minute mark.
Omega Pharma-Lotto is doing its share of lead work now.
Wynants takes off, with Boom behind him.
Perez can join the other two, but their gap is now only 27 seconds.
Wynants has taken off on his own.
Freire hs punctured and must work his way up alone through the team cars.
Alexander Pliuschin has broken from the field and has joined Wylandts.
The two leaders have a minimal advantage.
Freire finally found two teammates to help pull him back up.
The two have built up their lead slightly, it is now over half a minute.
Pliuschin attacks but can't get rid of Wynants.
Hansen is still hanging on at the end of the field.
And the gap continues to grow, up to 46 seconds.
The gap is nearly a minute now. Will we have a mass sprint finish or will these two make it to the end alone?
If there is one man who knows something about sprinting in the Tour de France, it is Erik Zabel. And he thinks sprinter Mark Cavendish is going to do well at this Tour, starting today. Read more of the German's comments here.
The peloton is moving along at a good clip now. The sprinters' teams don't want to let this chance slip away.
Christian Knees of Milram, the GErman national champion, has moved to the head of the field. He is riding for sprinter Gerald Ciolek.
There's a Garmin at the head of the field, but we see lots of HTC-Columbia behind him.
Incredible how Wynants can still hold on like this. He has been at the head of things from the word go today.
42 seconds left. Will these two be chomped up by the fast moving mob on the last km?
Or sooner? The gap is only 25 seconds.....
Johan Van Summeren of Garmn has done much of the chase lead work.
The two leaders refuse to bow to destiny and pick up their speed. It doesn't help, the gap is 15 seconds.
An HTC-Columbia rider now at the head, really pushing the pace.
Wynants looks back and sees the peloton getting closer and closer.
And that was it! The break is over.
A Lampre rider ahead, with HTC-Columbia, Garmin also to be seen.
The sprinters' teams start taking up positions.
The peloton is spread across this wide road, taking up the whole surface.
Millar moves up to help Farrar.
Hansen won't be helping Cavendish today. He is at the wrong end of the peloton.
Lampre still leads.
all the big names are up there: Petacchi, Freire, Ciolek, Hushovd, McEwen, Cavendish....
A crash at the sharp right hand turn!
Four or five top riders were down: petacchi, cavendish, Freire
That changes everything!
HTC still leads the way. Will they ride for Renshaw?
Another mass crash! The road is blocked!
Maybe 30 riders still going. And another crash!
Petacchi takes it! So he wasn't involved in that earlier crash.
They are still untangling themselves from teh big crash. Farrar went down at some point land now walks to the finish line.
They riders are coming over the finish line in groups The Schlecks and Cancellara come to the finish line only now.
Second place went to Renshaw and third to Hushovd.
We don't know of any injuries from these crashes, and hope of course that there are none.
We really do not such endings to stages and races. A very sad way to decide a winner.
Petacchi rejoiced when he crossed the finish line, but now looks more thoughtful than overjoyed.
All the riders will be given the time of the winner, since the crashes happened so close to the finish. There are no changes in the GC, either.
That was it for today. Thanks for reading along. Please join us again tomorrow, and let's hope for a crash-free stage!