Stage 2: Challans - Les Essarts
Boonen overcomes toothache, McEwen to win stage one
Zabriskie maintains status-quo in maillot jaune, Armstrong bides his time
A few days ago, 24-year-old Belgian phenom Tom Boonen had such a terrible toothache that he thought he might not be able to start the Tour De France. "I thought I was going to die I was in such pain," Boonen said of his dental emergency. But a visit to a dentist in Nantes cleared up the Quick.Step rider's molar misery and today in the fly-blown French bourg of Les Essarts, Tom Terrific powered to his 12th victory of the 2005 season. Boonen has had a fabulous season already, with back to back wins in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix three months ago, and now his Tour win, showed "Staf" Boonen is certainly a sprinter to be reckoned with. Boonen took over the maillot vert from Lance Armstrong, who really didn't want it anyway.
Boonen explained his win today by telling Cyclingnews, "Today in the finale, I stayed pretty much in the back with my teammate Guido [Trenti]...I was in like 15th, 20th position, and then in the last two kilometres, I wanted to go up front. So Stefano [Zanini] brought me up and then Guido set me up for the last kilometre. At the finish line, it was a little uphill which suits me, so I just waited for the right moment and started sprinting... and it was no problem."
Bada bing, bada boom...big bad Boonen smoked his arch-rival, Aussie Robbie McEwen today in Les Essarts, but the Quick.Step rider is taking nothing for granted in the 92nd Tour De France. "It was a very hard finish today; one for the strong guys. I think I was using two gears bigger than Robbie...but maybe tomorrow Robbie wins... Ach, every stage is different." In the chaos of the final kilometres on Stage 1 of the 92nd Tour De France, it didn't seem like McEwen's Davitamon-Lotto team was asserting themselves enough in the final kilometres.
Robbie calmly explained post-stage, "I just got the timing wrong; I just went too early... I went from about 250m (out) and it was too far. As soon as (the road) straightened up, I went and then I had a little problem with the gears, getting on the 11 (cog). But it was bit of a tactical mistake; I just went from too far and basically gave the other guys a lead-out...so I'll just have to do better next time."
Maillot Jaune Dave Zabriskie (CSC) had few problems and finished 71st in today's stage. DaveZ is just chillin', taking it day by day, but the 26 year old Batman fan and non-Mormon from Salt Lake City understands that he's probably not going to Paris with his Tour De France leader's jersey. "Yeah, anything's possible, but sooner or later, the (maillot jaune) is probably going to go away from Dave Zabriskie."
In response to his team manager Bjarne Riis's comment to Danish TV that "if Zabriskie loses three or four kilos, he could be a GC rider, Zabriskie smiled and responded and said "Yeah, it's possible, but I'd be pretty skinny (smiles)... I look at myself in the mirror, and I don't know where I'd lose that. But if Bjarne thinks it's possible, then maybe it is. But there's also a balance with losing weight. You can't pedal the bike on just bones, you need muscle too, but I'll try to find that balance and see what happens."
DaveZ's CSC teammate Bobby Julich, third in the 1998 Tour De France and winner of the 2005 edition of Paris-Nice, sees that Zabriskie, a Salt Lake City, Utah native who now lives in Berkeley, California with his girlfriend Randi, has a great future in cycling. "As far as I can see, Dave's it," Julich told team-csc.com. "There's no one else that's impressed me in the European scene. He's the future of American cycling. I'm glad he's on my team and I can show him my experience. I can show him how he can avoid my mistakes. I'm looking forward to racing with him until I'm put out to pasture."
Another of Zabriskie's fellow Americans in the 92nd edition of the Tour De France, six time Tour winner Lance Armstrong, moved one step closer to his seventh TdF win, finishing safely in 63rd on today's stage. "It was a typical first stage for the Tour; kinda crazy. Riders were cracking a little bit and there were are always crashes. Those finishes, they still scare me...I won't miss those!"
Only three riders lost any time today and all were either Robbie McEwen's (Van Bon and Vansevenant) or Tom Boonen's leadout men (Zanini). Boonen took over the maillot vert, while Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) took the first maillot a pois for best climber with his win on the only rated climb of the day: the Cat. 4 Côte du lac de la Vouraie with 16.5km to go.
How it unfolded
On a hot summer early afternoon, 189 Tour De France riders took the start seven minutes early at 13:01, as the first ever en ligne stage of the ProTour designated Tour de France got underway. The first attack by was after 9km by Sylvain Calzati (Ag2r), but he was caught after 13 km. Stage 1 featured three intermediate sprints, and at the first in Orouet (km 17.5) it was South African Robert Hunter (Phonak) over Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) and Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux). A counter move of four riders got away after 28km, including Laszlo Bodrogi (Credit Agricole), who began Stage 1 in fifth, 0'59 behind maillot jaune Zabriskie. Also up there were Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom), Cañada (Saunier Duval), and Calzati (Ag2r). After 36km, the four leaders had a lead of 2'05, and Bodrogi was maillot jaune virtuel. After 50 km, Bodrogi, Voeckler, Cañada, and Calzati had 2'50 on the CSC-led peloton and climbing.
With 100km to go at Saint-Vincent-Sur-Jard, the gap from the leaders to the peloton was 4'10, gradually growing, and soon after, Jaan Kirsipuu (Credit Agricole) and Iker Camano (Euskaltel-Euskadi) got tangled up and Camano hit the deck and needed a bike change. The average speed after two hours was 47.5 km/h and after the feed zone with 82km to race, the gap to the break was still 4'15. Quick.Step, Francaise des Jeux and Lotto all joined the chase, and at the 50km to go mark, the gap fell to 2'50, but the chase was not really intense. As the break passed through Mareuil-Sur-Lay-Dissais with 37km to go, the gap was 2'00.
At the last sprint of the day in Chateau-Guibert with 31km to go, Bodrogi took the points, with Calzati and Canada second and third and the peloton 1'30 behind. With 16.5km to go on the only Cat. 4 climb today up the Côte du lac de la Vouraie, Voeckler took the points, as Bodrogi dropped off the break. With just 6km to go, the break is kaput and after a bit of a handshake between Calzati and Voeckler, the three remaining riders were absorbed and the peloton began to wind up for the sprint, with Francaise des Jeux, Liquigas, and Quick.Step battling for position.
After a wild finish, Boonen won by over a bike length from Hushovd, Boonen, O'Grady and Pagliarini in the first bunch sprint of this year's Tour. Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r) crashed inside the final kilometre, causing a few splits in the peloton, but in the end he was relatively OK and all riders in the bunch were given the same time.
Stage 3, Monday, July 4: La Châtaigneraie-Tours, 212.5km
Monday morning's Stage 3 heads from the country hamlet of La Châtaigneraie east through the lower Loire Valley, across rolling green countryside past beautiful chateaux like Chinon and Azay-le-Rideau to another finish for the fast men on Avenue Grammont in Tours, where the Paris-Tours classic finishes every October. Can Robbie McEwen get his revenge on his young arch-rival Tom Boonen? The long, straight finish will be the final judge Monday.
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