Tour de France 2010

July 3-25, 2010, Rotterdam, France, Road - GT

Complete Live Report

Live commentary by:
Susan Westemeyer

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?

  1. 11:47:38 CEST

    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.

  2. 11:55:14 CEST

    We have a long neutral section this morning, and the riders are now all obediently following the race car.

  3. 11:58:01 CEST

    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.

  4. 12:01:08 CEST

    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.

  5. 12:04:20 CEST

    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....

  6. 12:05:02 CEST

    The peloton is on the Erasmus Bridge, which is full of fans.  An incredible turnout.

  7. 12:06:06 CEST

    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.

  8. 12:07:46 CEST

    Now we hear the French national anthem.

  9. 12:10:59 CEST

    What is today's profile like?  Well, flat is the word that comes to mind.  Lots of flat.

  10. 12:12:20 CEST

    The riders are looking a bit confused about the whole ceremony, and no doubt are itching to get on their bikes and going again.

  11. 12:13:51 CEST

    And they are off again!

  12. 12:15:14 CEST

    Cancellara is at the head of the field, in his yellow outfit.  Next to him is Lance Armstrong.

  13. 12:18:26 CEST

    Fränk Schleck and Christian Vande Velde have a little chat.

  14. 12:22:15 CEST

    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.

  15. 12:23:08 CEST

    The race has started officially now, and Lars Boom of Rabobank takes off about one-half  of a second later.

  16. 1.5km remaining from 223.5km

    12:24:00 CEST

    Maarten Wynants of QuickStep and Alan Perez of Euskaltel are with him.  They have a nice little lead.

  17. 12:26:37 CEST

    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.

  18. 12:27:37 CEST

    This trio is really moving fast.  They already have a 1:20 gap on the field.

  19. 12:28:46 CEST

    The field is happy to let these three go.

  20. 12:34:01 CEST

    The gap has now leaped to over four minutes.

  21. 212km remaining from 223.5km

    12:37:48 CEST

    And the gap hits the five minute mark.

  22. 12:43:16 CEST

    Meanwhile the gap is over six minutes.  Boom is our virtual leader.

  23. 12:45:21 CEST

    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.”

  24. 12:49:40 CEST

    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.

  25. 12:51:37 CEST

    Martijn Maaskant of Garmin-Transitions jumps fom the peloton and tries to get away.

  26. 12:54:12 CEST

    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.

  27. 12:59:20 CEST

     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.”

  28. 12:59:56 CEST

    Lots of people out on the beach, enjoying the beautiful summer weather.

  29. 13:02:46 CEST

    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.”

  30. 13:07:08 CEST

    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.

  31. 13:11:58 CEST

    The gap has steadied now at right about seven minutes.

  32. 13:14:41 CEST

    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.”

  33. 13:19:25 CEST

    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      

  34. 13:22:45 CEST

    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  
  35. 13:26:57 CEST

    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      

  36. 13:31:44 CEST

    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     

  37. 13:32:20 CEST

    Which category is missing? Right, the mountain jersey.  There were no climbs yesterday (or today) which are polka-dot worthy.

  38. 13:36:00 CEST

    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.

  39. 13:37:35 CEST

    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.

  40. 13:40:47 CEST

    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."

  41. 171km remaining from 223.5km

    13:41:18 CEST

    The gap has gone up again, to 7:26.

  42. 170km remaining from 223.5km

    13:43:38 CEST

    Hansen is back in the peloton at last.  Hope he is all right.

  43. 13:46:12 CEST

    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.”

  44. 13:47:01 CEST

    We now hear that it was Mark Renshaw who helped Hansen back to the peloton and not Grabsch.

  45. 13:51:00 CEST

    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.

  46. 13:52:10 CEST

    Basso has four helpers to bring him back to the peloton, but first he needs a new bike.

  47. 13:53:09 CEST

    Millar has attached himself to the Liquigas group moving up through the team cars.

  48. 13:55:16 CEST

    Huge crowds here!  Looks like a mountain stage!

  49. 13:57:34 CEST

    The number of people here along the road is really staggering.  The Dutch love their cycling!

  50. 13:59:45 CEST

    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.

  51. 14:01:49 CEST

    Hansen is with the peloton, but continues to hang about 3 metres behind it.

  52. 14:05:12 CEST

    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.


  53. 156km remaining from 223.5km

    14:05:53 CEST

    The gap is dropping slightly, now at 6:48.

  54. 14:10:01 CEST

    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. 

  55. 150km remaining from 223.5km

    14:12:56 CEST

    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.

  56. 14:13:45 CEST

    Boom takes the first intermediate sprint, ahead of Perez and Wynants.  They did not contest for the points.

  57. 14:19:07 CEST

    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).

  58. 146km remaining from 223.5km

    14:21:18 CEST

    The gap continues to come down, now at 5:34.

  59. 14:27:36 CEST

    Hansen drops back again and again.  The team doctor has told 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.

  60. 14:28:12 CEST

    Once again, huge crowds along the roadside.

  61. 140km remaining from 223.5km

    14:29:15 CEST

    The gap is really plummeting now.  It is approaching the three minute mark.

  62. 14:30:00 CEST

    Basso drops back to the team car -- apparently just for a chat.

  63. 14:31:35 CEST

    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.

  64. 14:32:13 CEST

    Saxo Bank leads the peloton.

  65. 14:33:46 CEST

    Basso has been escorted back to the peloton.

  66. 14:36:12 CEST

    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).

  67. 14:39:52 CEST

    Hansen continues to hang out by the race doctor and his team car.

  68. 14:44:06 CEST

    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."

  69. 125km remaining from 223.5km

    14:47:34 CEST

    The break is now entering the feed zone and collecting their lunch.

  70. 14:50:52 CEST

    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.

  71. 14:53:50 CEST

    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!

  72. 14:55:20 CEST

    The break has earned a few extra seconds as the trio work hard together.  

  73. 15:04:41 CEST

    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.

  74. 110km remaining from 223.5km

    15:05:48 CEST

    Nicholas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale) is getting treatment from the race doctor. He seems to have taken a tumble but has no serious injuries.

  75. 15:07:59 CEST

    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. 

  76. 15:09:22 CEST

    Sergio Paulinho of RadioSHack dros back to pick up some water bottles.

  77. 15:12:05 CEST

    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.

  78. 15:15:03 CEST

    A handful of riders debuted new aerodynamic helmets in yesterday's prologue.   They have shorter tails and a removable visor.  Details here. 

  79. 15:15:19 CEST

    A mass nature break for the peloton!

  80. 15:16:56 CEST

    Caisse d'Epargne and HTC-Columbia now have riders at the head of the peloton.

  81. 15:18:00 CEST

    Armstrong and teammates are near the back of the field, but now moving up.

  82. 15:19:54 CEST

    Cancellara and Fränk Schleck are also at the back of the field.

  83. 99km remaining from 223.5km

    15:21:38 CEST

    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.

  84. 15:24:34 CEST

    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

  85. 93km remaining from 223.5km

    15:27:14 CEST

    Matt White of Garmin has confirmed that Millar wasn't injured earlier in the crash, but that his bike is still having some issues.

  86. 15:28:36 CEST

    HTC-Columbia, Garmin-Transitions, and Cervelo all have a rider at the head of the field.  Saxo Bank is right behind them.

  87. 89km remaining from 223.5km

    15:31:30 CEST

    The gap is coming down again, to just over four minutes.

  88. 15:33:27 CEST

    The leading trio drives through another section with many fans, who are happy to cheer on their landsman Boom.

  89. 15:34:43 CEST

    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.

  90. 15:35:17 CEST

    Jens Voigt is also picking u some bidons from his Team Saxo Bank car.

  91. 15:37:16 CEST

    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.”

  92. 15:39:26 CEST

    The three leaders go through a town, whose entire population seems to be out cheering and clapping.

  93. 15:42:33 CEST

    WE don't want to sound like a broken record, but we are stunned by the number of fans out along the road today.

  94. 15:44:33 CEST

    Dries Devenyns of Quick Step took a tumble, but is up and going again quickly.

  95. 15:47:40 CEST

    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."

  96. 15:48:42 CEST

    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.

  97. 15:50:27 CEST

    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."

  98. 15:51:42 CEST

    The leading trio movs into Belgium, with the sidewalks full of cheering fans.

  99. 15:52:28 CEST

    They approach the second intermediate sprint of the stage.

  100. 15:53:03 CEST

    The point went to Wynants ahead of Perez and Boom.

  101. 15:53:51 CEST

    Mathieu Peget of Caisse d'Epargne is the next to visit the race doctor's car.

  102. 70km remaining from 223.5km

    15:58:20 CEST

    The Belgian streets are still line with fans, enjoying both the Tour and the beautiful weather.

  103. 16:00:31 CEST

    Down goes the gap again, to just over two minutes.

  104. 16:04:34 CEST

    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.

  105. 16:05:26 CEST

    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.

  106. 16:07:22 CEST

    The leaders went through the final intermediate sprint.  Perez won this won, so each of the three has taken one today.

  107. 16:10:25 CEST

    Alessandro Ballan of BMC was one of those who went down, and he is still shaking it off and looking rather disgusted.

  108. 16:11:00 CEST

    Ballan is now getting his turn at the doctor's car.  He has his left arm and leg sprayed.

  109. 16:13:08 CEST

    The peloton has arrived in Antwerp.

  110. 59km remaining from 223.5km

    16:14:08 CEST

    And down comes the gap again, under two minutes.

  111. 16:15:15 CEST

    In fact the lead is now barely over a minute and a half.

  112. 16:16:29 CEST

    Lampre has also moved towards the front of the field.  They, too, have a sprinter who can win today.

  113. 16:20:29 CEST

    Cancellara took home his fifth Tour de France stage win, and admitted he has a secret weapon.  “The engine, that's me,” he said. 

  114. 16:22:10 CEST

    The riders are still wending their way through Antwerp.

  115. 53km remaining from 223.5km

    16:23:19 CEST

    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?

  116. 16:27:07 CEST

    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.

    Read more about it here.


  117. 16:28:10 CEST

    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.

  118. 16:30:35 CEST

    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.

  119. 48km remaining from 223.5km

    16:34:46 CEST

    Liquigas has moved up to help with the lead work, as has Sky.

  120. 16:35:30 CEST

    A Sky rider is trying to break form the field.  It is Serge Pauwels.

  121. 16:38:21 CEST

    Once again the three leaders drive through a town with the sidewalks full of fans.

  122. 16:39:20 CEST

    The gap is holding steady at just under two minutes.

  123. 16:41:07 CEST

    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."

  124. 16:43:23 CEST

    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."

  125. 16:44:56 CEST

    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.

  126. 36km remaining from 223.5km

    16:46:13 CEST

    There are lots of traffic islands and things in the road here.

  127. 16:46:53 CEST

    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.

  128. 16:48:36 CEST

    We now see RadioShack at the head of the field.

  129. 34km remaining from 223.5km

    16:49:21 CEST

    The gap is now down to 1:24.

  130. 33km remaining from 223.5km

    16:50:24 CEST

    Now the gap has reached the one minute mark.

  131. 16:51:11 CEST

    Omega Pharma-Lotto is doing its share of lead work now.

  132. 16:52:34 CEST

    Wynants takes off, with Boom behind him. 

  133. 16:53:02 CEST

    Perez can join the other two, but their gap is now only 27 seconds.

  134. 16:56:55 CEST

    Wynants has taken off on his own. 

  135. 16:57:41 CEST

    Freire hs punctured and must work his way up alone through the team cars.

  136. 16:58:00 CEST

    Alexander Pliuschin has broken from the field and has joined Wylandts.

  137. 197.5km remaining from 223.5km

    17:00:00 CEST

    The two leaders have a minimal advantage.

  138. 17:01:19 CEST

    Freire finally found two teammates to help pull him back up.

  139. 23km remaining from 223.5km

    17:02:09 CEST

    The two have built up their lead slightly, it is now over half a minute.

  140. 17:04:00 CEST

    Pliuschin attacks but can't get rid of Wynants.

    Hansen is still hanging on at the end of the field.

  141. 22km remaining from 223.5km

    17:05:54 CEST

    And the gap continues to grow, up to 46 seconds.

  142. 20km remaining from 223.5km

    17:07:20 CEST

    The gap is nearly a minute now.  Will we have a mass sprint finish or will these two make it to the end alone?

  143. 17:09:27 CEST

    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.

  144. 17km remaining from 223.5km

    17:10:23 CEST

    The peloton is moving along at a good clip now.  The sprinters' teams don't want to let this chance slip away.

  145. 17:12:07 CEST

    Christian Knees of Milram, the GErman national champion, has moved to the head of the field.  He is riding for sprinter Gerald Ciolek.

  146. 17:14:12 CEST

    There's a Garmin at the head of the field, but we see lots of HTC-Columbia behind him.

  147. 17:15:53 CEST

    Incredible how Wynants can still hold on like this.  He has been at the head of things from the word go today.

  148. 13km remaining from 223.5km

    17:17:01 CEST

    42 seconds left.  Will these two be chomped up by the fast moving mob on the last km?

  149. 212.5km remaining from 223.5km

    17:19:00 CEST

    Or sooner?  The gap is only 25 seconds.....

  150. 17:19:00 CEST

    Johan Van Summeren of Garmn has done much of the chase lead work.

  151. 17:20:47 CEST

    The two leaders refuse to bow to destiny and pick up their speed.  It doesn't help, the gap is 15 seconds.

  152. 9km remaining from 223.5km

    17:21:55 CEST

    An HTC-Columbia rider now at the head, really pushing the pace.

  153. 17:22:27 CEST

    Wynants looks back and sees the peloton getting closer and closer.

  154. 8km remaining from 223.5km

    17:22:58 CEST

    And that was it!  The break is over.

  155. 17:23:31 CEST

    A Lampre rider ahead, with HTC-Columbia, Garmin also to be seen.

  156. 7km remaining from 223.5km

    17:24:32 CEST

    The sprinters' teams start taking up positions.

  157. 17:25:52 CEST

    The peloton is spread across this wide road, taking up the whole surface.

  158. 17:26:23 CEST

    Millar moves up to help Farrar.

  159. 17:27:04 CEST

    Hansen won't be helping Cavendish today.  He is at the wrong end of the peloton.

  160. 17:27:40 CEST

    Lampre still leads.

  161. 17:28:34 CEST

    all the big names are up there:  Petacchi, Freire, Ciolek, Hushovd, McEwen, Cavendish....

  162. 17:29:24 CEST

    A crash at the sharp right hand turn!

  163. 17:29:55 CEST

    Four or five top riders were down:  petacchi, cavendish, Freire

  164. 17:30:32 CEST

    That changes everything!

  165. 17:30:00 CEST

    HTC still leads the way.  Will they ride for Renshaw?

  166. 17:31:00 CEST

    Another mass crash!  The road is blocked!

  167. 17:31:00 CEST

    Maybe 30 riders still going. And another crash!

  168. 17:32:00 CEST

    Petacchi takes it!  So he wasn't involved in that earlier crash.

  169. 17:32:47 CEST

    They are still untangling themselves from teh big crash.  Farrar went down at some point land now walks to the finish line.

  170. 17:33:49 CEST

    They riders are coming over the finish line in groups  The Schlecks and Cancellara come to the finish line only now.

  171. 17:34:13 CEST

    Second place went to Renshaw and third to Hushovd.

  172. 17:35:06 CEST

    We don't know of any injuries from these crashes, and hope of course that there are none.

  173. 17:36:14 CEST

    We really do not such endings to stages and races.  A very sad way to decide a winner.

  174. 17:37:01 CEST

    Petacchi rejoiced when he crossed the finish line, but now looks more thoughtful than overjoyed.

  175. 17:38:55 CEST

    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.

  176. 17:40:58 CEST

    That was it for today.  Thanks for reading along.  Please join us again tomorrow, and let's hope for a crash-free stage!

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