Gilbert Takes Stage 1 of Tour de France
Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) has drawn first blood in the Tour de France 2011.
Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) has drawn first blood in the Tour de France. The Belgian classics ace stormed past Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek)in the last 500 m to win the 191.5-km run from Passage du Gois to Mont des Alouettes in 4:41:31. Cadel Evans (BMC) finished second at 0:03, and Thor Hushovd (Garmin) took the bunch sprint for third at 0:06.
The hostilities began early, with Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar) attacking right at the official start and being joined by Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil) and Jeremy Roy (Francaise des Jeux). The escapees' lead grew to 3:45 at eight km and six minutes at 13 km. Astana, Garmin, HTC-Highroad, and Omega Pharma-Lotto sent riders to the front, and the break's lead maxed out at 6:30 and then began to drop.
Today's stage was, as early Tour de France stages often are, crash-ridden. Before the official start, Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) crashed. At 42 km, with the break 4:45 ahead of the bunch, Nicolas Roche (Ag2r) and Andrei Amador and Anthony Charteau (both from Movistar) crashed. In both cases, the riders got back to the peloton, but the early crashes were a harbinger. Six crashes occurred today, with the worst one occurring near the end of the stage.
With 60 km left, the fugitives led the field by about four minutes. Omega Pharma-Lotto took over at the front and upped the pace. The break's lead dropped from 2:43 with 45 km left, to 1:40 with 31 km left, to 0:58 with 20 km left. With 18 km left, the break was reeled in.
Europcar assumed command and single filed the peloton. Nine km later, a rider struck a pedestrian who was standing in the road. A dozen riders went down, and the pileup delayed dozens more. All of the heads of state except two-time defending champion Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) were ahead of the mayhem.
In the lead group, BMC and RadioShack pressed the pace and forged a forty-second advantage on Contador. The Spaniard chased but was delayed by another crash with three km left. This crash held up Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and they finished with Contador, but because the pair crashed in the last three km, they were awarded the time of the lead group. Contador, however, lost 1:20.
Ahead, the fight for the stage win and the 2011 Tour's first yellow jersey raged. When the lead group reached the two-km climb to the finish, a flurry of attacks took place. Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) attacked, and then Greipel had a go with Gilbert on his wheel. Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) attacked, and Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) countered. With one km left, Cancellara made his move.
Gilbert took the Swiss rider's wheel and attacked with 500 m left. With 200 m remaining, Evans attacked to take second place.
In the overall, Gilbert leads Evans by 0:03 and Hushovd by 0:06. Gilbert will be hard-pressed to keep his lead because Stage 2 will be a team time trial, and Omega Pharma-Lotto is not a strong time trial squad. Who will win the rolling, 23-km event at Les Essarts? Sky? Garmin? HTC-Highroad? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and www.roadcycling.mobi and find out!