It might have been America’s birthday celebration in the United States, but it was the opening road stage of this year’s Tour de France in Europe, a sunny and crash-marred stage from Rotterdam, The Netherlands, to Brussels, Belgium.
A mind-boggling number of spectators from the cycling-mad nations lined the roads from start to finish, which was good for the race but bad for the riders, only adding stress to the nerves of a highly anticipated first field sprint. A dicey, and extremely sharp right-hand bend with 2km remaining saw the first of three crashes in the final two kilometers, with nearly the entire peloton stopped when a touch of wheels caused a pileup inside the final kilometers.
Though it was a disappointment for American fans that Tyler Farrar wasn’t able to contest the final sprint, the good news is that none of the 10 North Americans in the race were seriously injured, although RadioShack’s Levi Leipheimer headed to a local hospital to have a wrist x-rayed (no broken bones were found).
Lance Armstrong, RadioShack:
“(It was) total mayhem, definitely, in the finish. Typical first stage of the Tour, everybody wants to be in the front. There were millions and millions on the road. It’s so great to have so many supporters, but it’s a blessing and a curse. It makes the guys super nervous. And on these tight roads, with bad surfaces and a lot of turns, you saw in the final, there shouldn’t be any surprise that there are crashes there. In the final two kilometers there were three crashes, I was just behind the second one.”
Stage finish: 55th, same time as stage winner.
GC placing: 4th, at 0:22
Brent Bookwalter, BMC Racing:
Narrowly avoided crashing in final kilometer.
Stage finish: 80th, same time as stage winner.
GC placing: 11th, at 0:35
Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Transitions:
Was sitting on Alessandro Petacchi’s wheel in perfect position inside final 50 meters when AG2R rider Lloyd Mondory crashed, and his bike attached itself to Farrar’s. Farrar did not crash but was unable to contest the sprint.
Stage finish: 140th, same time as winner.
GC placing: 7th, at 0:28
George Hincapie, BMC Racing:
Went down in main field crash in final kilometer, but not seriously injured.
Stage finish: 56th, same time as winner.
GC placing: 66th, at 0:54
Chris Horner, RadioShack:
Went down in main field crash and landed on another rider. “Twisted my back, “ he said. “If it holds up, I’m fine.”
Stage finish: 170th, same time as winner.
GC placing: 25th, at 0:40
Levi Leipheimer, RadioShack:
Went down an hour into the stage when a loose dog caused a crash that also took down David Millar, Ivan Basso and Andreas Klöden. Headed to hospital following stage for wrist x-rays, but later reported that nothing was broken.
Stage finish: 133rd, same time as winner.
GC placing: 8th, at 0:28
Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Transitions:
Avoided crashing — thus avoided landing on ribs recently broken at Tour of Switzerland.
Stage finish: 147th, same time as winner.
GC placing: 89th, at 1:00
Dave Zabriskie, Garmin-Transitions:
Did not crash.
Stage finish: 170th
GC placing: 25th, at 0:40
It’s not a national holiday in Canada, but here’s a quick look at how the other North Americans fared:
Michael Barry, Team Sky:
Stage finish: 20th, same time as winner.
GC placing: 117th, at 1:08
Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-Transitions
Stage finish: 121st, same time as winner.
GC placing: 36th, at 0:46