Sunday, July 03, 2011

Day One - Contador, Petacchi et al Hate Spectators

It was an astonishing first stage in the Vendee for the wrong reasons as the 2011 Tour de France began its 19 days of toil yesterday.  The peloton set off along beautiful French coastal scenery, a three man breakaway set off and stayed out until only a few kilometres from the end, then, with the pack together and rolling at top speed, the unexpected occurred.

Philipe Gilbert wins the opening stage
As the peloton swept past, a spectator inexplicably turned to watch them and stepped into the cyclists, she was struck forcefully and the rider ricocheted into the pack bringing down dozens of other riders and blocking the road.  When the chaos cleared, a group containing Alberto Contador, Roman Kruziger, Alessandro Petacchi and a host of other big names were a minute off the lead.  Worse was to come as a second crash at the head of the group halted them for a second time.

Philipe Gilbert for Omega Pharma Lotto sprinted over the line on a grade 4 hill finish and managed to make a clean sweep of the senior jerseys. A group containing Contador and Sanchez rolled over 1' 20" behind, a far larger margin that the one with which Contador one the TdF last year, he is going to have a huge struggle trying to make up time on the other top riders.  Philipe Gilbert entered the race as favourite, and some great form mixed with a dollop of good fortune has seen him atop the first day's standings.  Can he wear the yellow jersey all the way to Paris ? It is just possible.

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