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By Andrew Hood
The Dave Zabriskie Show came to the Tour de France on Sunday, momentarily diverting the cameras away from Lance Armstrong and the other big stars in the Tour’s stage 2. And the European media, getting their first taste of Dave Z’s quirky sense of humor, didn’t know quite what to make of it — especially when he dead-panned to French television on how his first day went in the yellow jersey.
“How did I spend it? Racing bikes,” said the 26-year-old CSC rider said with a sardonic smile.
Zabriskie enjoyed the view from the front of the peloton during most of Sunday’s 181.5km stage across France’s Vendée region, riding as the Tour’s first maillot jaune.
Zabriskie came across the line safely in 71st place to retain the jersey after CSC found some friends in the sprinter teams , who helped reel in a four-man breakaway with 6km to go to set up the mass gallop.Results are posted
“It was a normal stage considering the circumstances,” surmised Team CSC manager Bjarne Riis. “We didn’t let the break get too far away and we got some help from the others. It’s okay.”
Tom Boonen (Quick Step-Innergetic) took the sprinters’ opening scalp, relegating green jersey rivals Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) and Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) to second and third places, respectively.
Even a toothache couldn’t slow down the Belgian bomber, who almost didn’t start the Tour because an abscessed tooth Saturday morning.
“It’s very nice to get [a win] early,” said Boonen, who’s taking some mild antibiotics to deal with a tooth infection. “I was very motivated today because I wanted to get some points for the green jersey. The team was motivated. I was motivated. The first win is always important. Last year it took me longer [before winning a stage].”
Dave Z faces the world
Zabriskie arrived at the stage start on a pleasant sunny morning, the yellow jersey on his back and about 75 smelly, pushy and nosey journalists milling around outside his CSC team bus Sunday morning in Challans.
Zabriskie patiently answered the reporters’ questions, even the most mundane. Asked about how he felt after Saturday’s time-trial victory, the gangling American said, “All the events of the day replayed in my head and it was a little hard to fall asleep,” he said. Zabriskie added that he didn’t sleep in the yellow jersey, but “I did sleep with one of the [toy] lions, used as it an extra pillow.”
The CSC team celebrated its first-ever maillot jaune with a champagne toast Saturday night, but the squad was anxious to get down to the business of protecting the jersey Sunday afternoon.Results are posted
“It’s great to have the jersey, but at the end of the day, we’re here to work for Ivan Basso,” Zabriskie said. “This doesn’t change anything. I never even dreamed I would have the yellow jersey. I don’t know how long I will keep it, but sooner or later, the yellow jersey is probably going to go away from Dave Zabriskie.”
Team boss Riis said he wasn’t surprised his young charge won Saturday’s opener, but cautioned that the native Utahan still has a lot to learn before being making the switch to a GC rider. “Dave needs to lose 3 to 4 kilos [about 8 pounds] to climb better in the mountains. If he can do that, I’m sure he can be a threat for the Tour someday,” Riis said. “He’s impressed me ever since he’s come to this team.”
Zabriskie credits Riis with helping him come out of his shell. Notoriously shy, Zabriskie now has more confidence when speaking with the media. Of course, a day in the yellow jersey accelerated that learning process tenfold.
Attacks from the gun
In sharp contrast to the cool and windy conditions of Saturday’s time-trial opener, riders woke up Sunday for the Tour’s first road stage on a hot, muggy French summer day, with temperatures soaring to 93 degrees by the stage finish.
The 181.5km course from Challans to Les Essarts featured three intermediate sprints and the Tour’s first rated climb at the Cat. 4 Côte du Lac de la Vouraie with 16.5km to go. After crossing the flat Marais de Monts out of Challans, the course pushed past summer resort beach towns at St. Hilaire-de-Riez and Les Sables d’Olonne along the pleasant Atlantic Coast, turning inland with 75km to go. From there, the peloton rolled over undulating farm country to the tricky finish into Les Essarts.
All 189 riders made the start and it didn’t take long before the attacks ensued. Sylvain Calzati (Ag2r) made the first attack of the 2005 Tour within the first 10km (earning him the day’s most combative rider award).
Calzati was joined by 13 other riders who then pulled away from the peloton after the left turn through St. Jean-de-Monts toward the Tour’s first intermediate sprint at Orouet. South African Robbie Hunter (Phonak) shot ahead to take the six bonus seconds (and six points for the green jersey), ahead of two Tour rookies: German rider Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) and Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert (FDJeux).
Calzati counterattacked right after the sprint, taking with him Hungarian strongman Laszlo Bodrogi (Crédit Agricole), last year’s yellow jersey hero Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Télécom) and Spanish attacker David Cañada (Saunier Duval-Prodir).
Voeckler back in a jersey
A brisk northwesterly wind pushed the leading quartet down France’s verdant coast, quickly widening the gap to two minutes. Bodrogi led Voeckler and Calzati through the day’s second sprint at Talmont-St. Hilaire without even contesting it and the Hungarian slipped into the Tour’s virtual lead.
The gap was up to 4:15 through the day’s feed zone at half-distance but CSC didn’t appear all too worried. The whole team was massed at the front of the peloton, with Zabriskie on the seventh wheel, just behind Jens Voigt and just ahead of Bobby Julich.
“The team’s super-motivated and I’m motivated, so we want to keep the jersey as long as possible,” Zabriskie said. “We’ll see what happens.”
After pushing inland, the roads narrowed and the inevitable crashes came. Five riders made the medical report for a spill at 23km. Veteran sprinter Jaan Kirsipuu (Crédit Agricole) and Iker Camano (Euskaltel-Euskadi) were involved in another at 80km. Janeck Tombak (Cofidis) got the worse of another spill when the peloton whipped through a tight corner, while two more touched pavement at 138km.
“It’s going to be chaos out there,” predicted 2003 Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Bäckstedt (Liquigas-Bianchi). “There’s no big sprinter team to take control of the race, so guys are going to be attacking all over the place.”
The lead was trimmed to a comfortable 1:30 with 35km to go after Française des Jeux, Crédit Agricole, Quick Step and Davitamon-Lotto took over the chase from the relieved CSC team riders.
None of the day’s four attackers had previously won a Tour stage. Voeckler was the Tour hero last summer, defending the yellow jersey valiantly for 10 days into the Alps. He was hoping to claim a stage win for his Bouygues co-sponsor, the Vendée region, whose roads they were racing on Sunday.
Bodrogi took the points at the day’s third intermediate sprint with 31.5km to go, to lift him up to third place overall behind Zabriskie and Armstrong.
With the King of the Mountains jersey up for grabs on the day’s only climb, the quartet started to attack each other. Cañada made a strong run 500 meters from the low summit, but Voeckler shot past him to give his sponsor some nice podium time.
“We wanted to try to win the stage and we hoped to arrive to challenge for the stage, but it’s okay to get the souvenir of the climber’s jersey,” said the always-smiling Voeckler. “Richard Virenque was a great climber. I’m not at that level, so I can’t dream about having it in Paris, but for right now, it’s okay.”
The inevitable surge of the peloton couldn’t be resisted.
Bodrogi was gobbled up by the fast-charging peloton and the remaining three dangled a little longer. Calzati and Cañada shook hands as the peloton surged past with 6km to go.
Walter Benéteau (Bouygues) bolted out of the peloton with 4.5km to go and Constantino Zaballa (Saunier Duval) then tried his hand with 2.5km to go. Neither lasted long against the hard-charging sprinters’ teams.
Calm day for favorites
Armstrong pedaled across the line in 63rd place safely in the main bunch, which was given the same time as a 23-strong group that contested the stage win The race jury negated the five-second time difference because it judged that the split was caused by Ag2R’s Samuel Dumoulin whose bike skidded across the road after he crashed near the 1km-to-go banner.
“There was no wind, it was warm, it was the first day, everyone was nervous,” said Armstrong, who remained second overall, two seconds back. “The legs were all right. I’m feeling pretty good.”
Armstrong seemed relieved to let Team CSC carry the brunt of the work throughout the stage. Discovery Channel surged to the front in the late going to help steer Armstrong out of trouble. “The faster I pedal, the faster I can retire,” Armstrong joked.
The aftermath of Armstrong’s 19km TT drubbing was the big chatter Sunday. Alex Vinokourov (T-Mobile) and Floyd Landis (Phonak) were the only GC contenders to finish within one minute of the Texan tornado.
“Ordinarily, I am inconsistent in the opening prologue or time trial and yesterday was a little bit longer than usual,” Landis said before Sunday’s start. “There were a couple of big favorites, but I’m happy with my performance and the outcome of the race.”Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) was licking his wounds, trying to forget his disappointing performance when he lost 1:06 to Armstrong and suffered the humiliation of being passed by the six-time Tour champ.“It’s still a long way to the mountains,” Ullrich said cautiously. “I thought I would do better after winning the time trial at the Tour de Suisse. Hopefully it was just a bad day.”On Sunday, Ullrich finished safely with the front group of sprinters, a small sign that it was his Friday training crash, not a lack of form, that might be the real culprit behind Ullrich’s below par time trial.“I don’t put a lot of stock into Jan’s performance yesterday,” Armstrong stated. “He crashed into a team car going 60 kph the day before. That’s got to affect you. I crashed 10 days ago and it took me four or five days to get normal again. Jan will be good in a few days’ time. He’s got to; we’re going to Germany.”
The 92nd Tour de France continues Monday with the 212.5km third stage from La Châtaigneraie to Tours.Stage 2 Results
1. Tom Boonen (B), Quickstep, 3:51:31
2. Thor Hushovd (Nor), Credit Agricole, 00:00
3. Robbie Mc Ewen (Aus), Davitamon-Lotto, 00:00
4. O’grady Stuart (Aus), Cofidis, 00:00
5. Luciano Pagliarini (BRA), Liquigas-Bianchi, 00:00
6. Juan Antonio Flecha (Sp), Fassa Bortolo, 00:00
7. Peter Wrolich (A), Gerolsteiner, 00:00
8. Pineau Jérôme (F), Bouygues Telecom, 00:00
9. Baden Cooke (Aus), Francaise des Jeux, 00:00
10. Allan Davis (Aus), Liberty Seguros, 00:00
Full results are posted
1. David Zabriskie (USA), CSC, 4:12:27
2. Lance Armstrong (USA), Discovery Channel, 00:02
3. Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun), Credit Agricole, 00:47
4. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz), T-Mobile, 00:53
5. George Hincapie (USA), Discovery Channel, 00:57
6. Floyd Landis (USA), Phonak, 01:02
7. Fabian Cancellara (Swi), Fassa Bortolo, 01:02
8. Jan Ullrich (G), T-Mobile, 01:03
9. Jens Voigt (G), CSC, 01:04
10. Vladimir Karpets (Rus), Illes Balears, 01:05
Full results are posted
To see how today’s stage unfolded, simply CLICK HERE to bring up our Live Update window.