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Alessandro Petacchi wins stage 1 of the 2010 Tour de France as Cavendish, Farrar and Freire crash

2010 Tour de France stage 1, Allesandro Petacchi wins
2010 Tour de France stage 1, Allesandro Petacchi wins

Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese) won Sunday’s stage 1 of the 2010 Tour de France, dodging at least three crashes in the final three kilometers that took pre-race favorites Mark Cavendish, Tyler Farrar and Oscar Freire out of the mix.

Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) retains the yellow jersey he took with his dominating win in Saturday’s prologue in Rotterdam. The Swiss TT ace did hit the pavement, though.

“At the end I couldn’t do anything. I had to brake hard, and ended up doing a bit of a somersault once I landed,” said Cancellara, who admitted he was
slowly starting to feel the pain of his tumble.

“Now with the time passing I feel like my shoulder and my whole left side are hurting.”

The race medical staff said 12 riders were treated for bruises and scrapes. Among them: Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer (both RadioShack), Ivan Basso (Liquighas), David Millar (Garmin-Transitions), and Oscar Freire (Rabobank).

While there were some earlier crashes (Millar hit the pavement after dodging a dog in the first hour of racing), the final three crashes were within the 3km safety zone, so any delays will not affect overall standings.

Petacchi rejected any idea that his win was devalued by the crashes.

“It wasn’t unexpected for me. I’m here to sprint and win stages, and to do my best and that’s what I did,” said the Italian, who last raced the Tour in 2004, when he pulled out before the sixth stage.

“Of course Cavendish and I are sure to sprint against each other, but even if he hadn’t been caught up in a crash who’s to say I wouldn’t have won. I
think I did a great sprint.”

Boom’s early break

Just as he attacked at Kilometer 0 of the Tour of California’s fourth stage this year, Lars Boom from the Dutch Rabobank team put in an attack at the start flag Sunday. He was soon joined by Maarten Wynants (Quick Step) and Alan Perez (Euskaltel). The three very quickly opened up a large gap — they had seven minutes before the 30k mark, as Cancellara’s Saxo Bank held the front of the peloton.

2010 Tour de France, stage 1. Maarten Wynants
Wynants leads Perez and Boom in the day's big break.

At the 70km mark, the course turned right. Anticipating the crosswinds that some teams have dreaded — and others have eagerly anticipated — since the 2010 Tour route was announced last year, the GC teams fought their way to the front to protect their riders and perhaps force a separation. The winds were not as wicked as some had hoped, however, and the peloton stayed intact. The defensive and opportunistic accelerations did combine to bring down the gap to the lead three, however. By the 90km mark, the gap was just three minutes.

After getting safely through the windy section, the GC teams ceded the work back to Spartacus’s gladiators on Saxo Bank, most notably Stuart O’Grady and Jens Voigt. The gap to the lead trio went up over four minutes again.

After crossing the 100km mark, and then crossing into Belgium, the sprinters’ teams, notably HTC-Columbia and Liquigas, began to help Saxo chase. Oscar Freire’s Rabobank squad, despite having Boom in the break, also put a rider near the front, although he mostly stayed out of the wind. Cancellara, resplendent in yellow, stayed tucked safely with his team in the top 15 riders.

The gap came down to one and a half minutes with 55km to go. Coming through the crowd-lined streets of Antwerp, the tiring trio was able to pick up a few more seconds as the peloton, which looked like a parade as it carefully squeezed through the road furniture.

Coming into the final 30km the break’s gap was falling fast when the Belgian, Wynants, through in several attacks, shedding Boom and Perez. As those two were sucked up by the surging pack, Katusha’s Alexandr Pliuschin launched out of the peloton and quickly bridged to Wynants. The two began working together and maintained a 30-second gap over the pack.

The break:

  • Lars Boom (Rabobank), 32nd at 0:44
  • Maarten Wynants (Quick Step), 91st at 1:00
  • Alan Perez (Euskaltel), 179th at 1:24

The sprint teams allowed Wynants and Pliuschin to dangle. And the pair weren’t shy about exploiting the opportunity, driving the gap back up to near a minute with 15km to go, as the HTC-Columbia, Liquigas and Garmin-Transitions began to assemble their lead-out trains.

Pliuschin, the Moldovian national road champion, did the bulk of the work while the tired Wynants clung to his wheel as the route hit the smooth pavement and rolling hills of the last kilometers coming into Brussels. They had just 14 seconds with 10km to go, where Pliuschin almost overshot a tight left-hand turn. The two finally gave up the ghost with 8.5km to go.

The run in: Crashes on top of crashes

HTC-Columbia took control of the front with a big charge with 10km to go, but Cervelo (for Hushovd) and Lampre (for Petacchi) nosed around the front. Garmin took time to assemble over the next few kilometers, with riders mixing in with HTC. With 5km to go HTC’s Bert Grabsch took a monster pull to stretch the field out.

Stage 1, 2010 Tour de France
Time for a drink after getting across the line in one piece.

At least four riders, including Cavendish and sprinters Jeremy Hunt (Cervelo) and Freire, went down in a hairpin turn with 2.5km to go.

A larger crash a kilometer later was behind the lead sprinters, but clogged the narrow road with carnage.

Garmin, smelling a victory for Farrar, took control, but then another crash in the last 50 meters slowed Farrar.

Up front Hushovd led out the sprint, but Petacchi, who had been well positioned by his team in the final kilometers, launched up the left side and the 36-year-old Italian took the win by a large margin. Cavendish’s ace lead-out man Mark Renshaw was second with Hushovd third.

Cancellara later said the unexpected calm winds may have contributed to the crashes.

“The wind was never really that significant a factor. I think some teams were expecting that to play a big role, and that only served to make a lot of guys nervous.

“But the roads were just madness with the amount of people. It was like that from the start. With that, the wind, a lot of turns and quite a bit of nervousness in the peloton I think maybe some guys lost their concentration.”

Race notes

  • Adam Hansen (HTC-Columbia) injured his collarbone after a crash in the first hour of the stage. He finished the stage but later quit the Tour when X-rays revealed broken bones. David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) and Ivan Basso (Liquigas) also were involved in a crash soon after Hansen’s. The second crash was caused when a dog ran into the road.
2010 Tour de France stage 1, Tyler Farrar
Farrar got knocked off his line and out of a pedal.

Up next

Stage 2 heads West towards Spa, climbing some of the same hills where Eddy Merckx won five editions of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. After 98 flat kilometers, the route hits a series of categorized climbs — three Cat. 4’s, and three Cat 3’s, the latter of which all fall in the last 40km. After cresting the Cat.3 Col due Rosier, the final climb of the day, riders will descend 10km to Spa before finishing on 2.5km of flat road.

The last time a Tour stage finished in Spa, only 23 riders came in together ahead of a decimated field. The field will likely split again this year, with the chief protagonists of the Ardennes classics, most of whom also happen to be GC favorites, will come out to play. More on stage 2.

Complete results

Petacchi’s career grand tour stage wins

  • 2000 Vuelta a España: stages 8 and 12
  • 2002 Vuelta a España: stage 12
  • 2003 Tour de France: stages 2, 3, 5, and 6
  • 2003 Giro d’Italia: stages 1, 5, 6, 13, and 17
  • 2003 Vuelta a España: stages 3, 5, 12, 14, and 21
  • 2004 Giro d’Italia: stages 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 21, and points jersey.
  • 2004 Vuelta a España: stages 2, 4, 7, and 13
  • 2005 Giro d’Italia: stages 10, 13, 16, and 21
  • 2005 Vuelta a España: stages 3, 4, 8, 12, 21, and points jersey
  • 2007 Vuelta a España: stages 11 and 12
  • 2009 Giro d’Italia: stages 2 and 3
  • 2010 Tour de France: stage 1

Quick results:


  • 1. Alessandro Petacchi, Lampre
  • 2. Mark Renshaw, HTC-Columbia
  • 3. Thor Hushovd, Cervelo
  • 4. Robbie Mc Ewen Katusha Team
  • 5. Matthieu Ladagnous Fdj all s.t.

Overall standings

  • 1. Fabian Cancellara, Team Saxo Bank in 5:19:38
  • 2. Tony Martin, HTC-Columbia at 10
  • 3. David Millar, Garmin-Transitions at 20
  • 4. Lance Armstrong Team Radioshack at 00:22
  • 5. Geraint Thomas Sky Pro Cycling at 00:23

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