race organisers pulled it out of the bag on Saturday with an opening stage
which included everything we could have wanted - and more.
win, numerous thrills and spills, some high-profile time losses, ample
dramatics - the 192km stage one contained more excitement than the previous 10
prologues thrown together.
outset, Andre Greipel showed the way with what the youth of today would
describe as an "epic fail": not only did the German crash in the
neutralised zone, he did so before the peloton had even reached the infamous
tricky part, the Passage du Gois, notorious for its slippery roads and
Mark Cavendish was clearly so amused by the situation that he took a day off,
forgetting to contest the intermediate sprint and going awol at the finish.
In fact, it
didn't look like it was going to be Omega Pharma-Lotto's day when, some 65km
into the race, Jurgen Van de Walle suffered a terribly painful-looking crash on
the front of the peloton. Waving his left arm in the air to warn the peloton of
a piece of street furniture, the tall Belgian failed to notice a sleeping
policeman and was thrown from his bike, landing heavily on his hip and
to Van de Wally - he got up, dusted himself down, made sure his bleach blonde
boy band locks were sticking out the right holes in his helmet, and went on to
guide his team-mate Philippe Gilbert to a win which almost everyone predicted.
could not have scripted it," said Eurosport's Carlton Kirby, filling in
for the big guns Dave 'n' Sean after a technical hiccup in the closing moments
of the race. Saddles disagrees - if anything was scripted, it was Gilbert's
win. In fact, Saddles even went as far as to predict that Gilbert would win
after chasing down an attack made my Fabian Cancellara - back of the net.
go to stubborn Spartacus, the man who usually wins the prologue and takes the
race's first yellow jersey. Cancellara couldn't resist having a pop himself -
and it would have been hilarious if, despite all the other day-one dramatics,
the net result was as we see it every year: Fab in yellow.
will go easy on the superlatives for Gilbert - suffice to say, there will be
ample occasion later in this Tour to big up a man who has now recorded
something ridiculous like nine straight wins in as many races.
the big talking point was the 1:20 lost by Alberto Contador and his compatriot Samuel
Sanchez. Bummer for Sanchez, fourth in last year's race, but game on for the
rest of the peloton. For years Saddles has been advocating some kind of
handicap system in the peloton, whereby the favourites are docked time at the
beginning and so are forced to ride aggressively from the outset. That's what
we have now.
Bank hardly the strongest team in Sunday's TTT, there's a good chance that
Contador will enter the hills of the Massif Central around two minutes down on
must be happy too - in keeping out of trouble and coming second place, the
Australian has 1:17 on Contador already. With the TTT coming up, that means
Evans will only be about 10 seconds down on his rival come the mountains...
what about the absent-minded spectator who seemed to cause that divisive and
decisive crash 6km from the finish by shouldering an Astana rider to the
defence, she was merely standing over-zealously on the edge of the verge - her
being hit was akin to a pedestrian on the edge of a curb/sidewalk having
his/her head thwacked by the side mirror of a passing bus (this has, in fact,
happened to Saddles before - legal dilemma: who's in the wrong?).
said, quite what she was doing coming to the world's biggest sporting event,
decking herself out entirely in yellow for the occasion, and then choosing, on
the brief moment the peloton zips by (perhaps hours after she turned up to bag
her spot) to look the other way, is beyond Saddles.
Stage two prediction
Sky and HTC will surely be the favourites but stage one taught us that anything
can happen - so they'd better watch out for stray dogs or misplaced spectators.
Saddles has a feeling things are going to go from bad to worse for Contador -
perhaps a crash or an unexpected extra time loss. Bad karma and all that. It
will be hot but windy, so some of the thin riders will have to be careful not
to get blown away. Last? Europcar or Saur-Sojasun.
Gilbert will make a statement: just like at his wedding, when it was all-round
gold, surely Phil Gil will go for the all-yellow look - including bike, shoes,
shorts, helmet, the works.