Oscar Freire (Rabobank) was one of the sprinters who could not take advantage of stage one's final bunch sprint in Brussels on Sunday, as he crashed with just two kilometres to go.
The crash in the tight right-hand bend, the last before the finishing straight, also brought down Mark Cavendish from HTC-Columbia, Jeremy Hunt (Cervélo TestTeam) and another rider from Lampre-Farnese Vini. It appeared to be Cavendish who was first to misjudge the corner, losing his teammate Mark Renshaw's wheel to the left and triggering the crash.
Freire, who like Cavendish did not sustain any injuries from the fall, said that he couldn't remember who caused the fall. "The last kilometres were very fast," he said at the finish. "It was a difficult curve, I didn't think it was that tight towards the end. One rider went into it a bit faster than the others, and this triggered the crash. But I don't remember who it was."
The fall effectively ended both sprinters' chances of a victory in what was a very hectic finale into Brussels, but not a particularly dangerous finish. Asked what were the factors that caused riders to lose control of their bikes, Freire said, "The first day is always very nervous, and the directors make them even more nervous through the earpiece radio. Then, some people don't know where they belong. A lot of these crashes happen because of that."
The Spaniard added that the riders not leading out a sprint, and even those going for general classification, should distance themselves from the top of the field in order to make it less crowded.
"Maybe some of the leaders, once they've inside the two last kilometres, should maybe fall back a bit more than they do," he said. "It's still better to lose one or two seconds than all the Tour."
Fortunately, nobody got hurt in their crash today. The three-time world champion as well as the Manxman will thus again be able to try for a fast finish victory soon, and Freire said that his legs were responding well today.
"This was only the first day to try for a bunch sprint. There will be others. I felt good. I couldn't engage in the final sprint, but I had good feelings throughout the day."