Saturday, 2 July 2011

Belgian in Yellow #TDF Stage One review

There was a three man breakaway from the flag dropping to mark the start of this year's Tour. They were Perrig Quemeneur (Europacar), Jeremy Roy (Française des Jeux) and Lieuwe Westra (Vaconsoleil-DCM). Three French teams and two of them making their debut in the Tour. There were a couple of minor crashes in the opening kilometers.

But the three stayed away until 18 km from the finish, it means that they did take the big points at the only intermediate sprint for stage one (a new feature this year) leaving twelve point scoring positions at 87km. Roy, Westra and  Quemeneur took the top points in that order. Behind them it looked like Mark Cavendish was getting the lead out he needed when the pack were going for it. Garmin, Sky and Omega Pharma-Lotto, were also trying to set up their sprinters for the points. 13 was the best they could take on the line. Andre Grieple (Omega) a former team mate of Cavendish was also in contention. But then Tyler Farrar (Garmin) went over the entire race on the left and took Cavendish and others by surprise. 2'35" after the first three he took the 13 points. The full run down was:
  1.  Jeremy Roy (FDJ) 20pts
  2.  Lieuwe Westra (VDC) 17pts
  3. Perrig Quemeneur (EUR) 15 pts
  4. Tyler Farrar (GRM) 13 pts
  5. André Griepel (OLO)  11pts
  6. Francisco Ventoso (MOV) 10pts
  7. Denis Galimzyanov (KAT) 9pts
  8. Borut Božič (VDC) 8pts
  9. Tom Boonen (QST) 7pts
  10. Jimmy Engoulvent (SAU) 6pts
  11. Mark Cavendish (HTC) 5 pts
  12. Allesandro Petacchi (LAM) 4 pts
  13. Mickael Delange (OLO) 3 pts
  14. Samuel Dumoulin (COF) 2 pts
  15. Fabio Sabatini (LIQ) 1 pt
The leaders being captured at 18km it was Omega Pharma-Lotto who were setting the pace at the front. TC were also in the hunt though more for Matt Goss for the finish rather than Cavendish today there was a sharp climb at the end to come. But a spectator got in the way of the bunch and between ¾ of the field were caught behind it.

Some of the favourites in that lead group of about 40 were Philippe Gilbert (OLO), Cadel Evans (BMC), Bradley Wiggins (SKY) , Thomas Voekler (EUR) and Damiano Cunego (LAM). No Contador and Schlecks who were caught behind the crash and chasing.

There was a second crash on the small ascent about 3 km from the end. Which somehow delayed Wiggins. It depends where this happened as the 3km rule may apply to some of those that would eventually finish in the Contador group and be given the same time as the bulk of the lead group. Whereas others who finshed with them would have been part of a split before that point in the race.

However, even before the start of today's race Philippe Gilbert was being talked about as a potential winner on this stage. With his many wins this year many had come with an uphill finish. It was he who was on second wheel when the national jersey of Switzerland, wore for more stages this year than his normal just Time Trials, by Fabian Cancellera, making a long break for the end with 700m to go. However, even for a time triallist like the big Swiss rider this was too soon. And he was caught by the Belgian national champion who rode away from the rest. 


Behind then the 37-year-old Australian Cadel Evans (BMC) then started to ride across the gap. But it was too late Gilbert was away racing to the stage win, yellow, green and polka dot jerseys. But Thor Hushovd (GRM) that stronger style of sprinter led the pack behind Evans over the line in third after Cancellera had long faded, ahead of Jose Rojas (MOV), Jurgen van den Broeck (OLO) Geraint Thomas (SKY), Andreas Klöden (RSH), Rein Taaramäe (COF), Chris Horner (RSH) and Tony Martin (HTC) makin up the rest of the top 10.

The group with Contador, the Schlecks and Wiggins amongst others finished 1'21" down the road from Gilbert. 1'15" down on that group.

With Omega Pharma-Lotto also leading the team race going into the team time trial, Gilbert will wear the yellow numbers with his yellow jersey into tomorrow's Team Time Trial. The White Jersey for the young rider will go to Britain's Geraint Thomas, which he wore last year from stages 3-6, before finishing 9th in that classification. 


Update As I expected the 3 km rule came into play Wiggins and others in that group of 77 it turned out got the time 6 seconds down on Gilbert. That includes other team leaders Robert Gisink (RAB), Mark Cavendish (HTC), Silvian Chavanel (QUI), Janez Brajkovič (RSH) and Ivan Brasso (LIQ). But most importantly Andy Schleck (LEO).


Those at 1'21" included Alberto Contador, meaning that he gives up 1'15" to Andy Schleck on day one. Normally they say the Tour cannot be one on day one, but that crash may have caused Contador who won by only 39 seconds last year to lose, or have to dig deep to do anything to win this year, assuming a duel between him and Andy Schleck.

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