Tour de France - Tour de France hot or not: Contador karma?

Sun, 03 Jul 09:31:00 2011

Alberto Contador was the highest profile loser on the opening day of the Tour de France.

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The 28-year-old Belgian, whose extraordinary winning run stretches back to April, finished in a time of four hours, 41 minutes and 31 seconds, 0:03 ahead of BMC's Cadel Evans, with Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) a further three seconds back in third.

Reigning champion Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) was held up in a huge crash that decimated the peloton eight kilometres from the finish line, and eventually rolled in 1:20 off the pace.

Britain's yellow jersey hopeful Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) were was caught up in another crash, though will not lose time, as the incident occurred just inside the final three kilometres.

The dramatic finale was in stark contrast to the first part of the stage, and for a long while it had seemed we were in for one of the least eventful opening Tour stages in years.

Europcar's Breton rider Perrig Quemeneur initiated the first attack of the tour, and once Francaise des Jeux's Jeremy Roy and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil) had jumped onto his rear wheel, the peloton immediately eased off, content to let the trio go.

The Garmin-Cevelo and Omega Pharma-Lotto teams ensured their lead never grew above the seven-minute mark on an unusually quiet, and largely pedestrian, opening Tour stage.

Indeed the only real moment of drama in the opening few hours - save for a nasty fall from which Jurgen Van de Walle (Omega Pharma-Lotto) recovered well - came at the intermediate sprint in Avrille, where Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) won the sprint in the peloton ahead of Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) to snap up valuable points in the green jersey competition.

The three leaders were finally caught with 18 kilometres remaining as the Omega Pharma-Lotto team steadily increased the pace in the peloton, following a long stretch on the front from the Garmin-Cervelo duo of Dave Zabriskie and Julian Dean.

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With eight kilometres to go and the peloton closely packed, an Astana rider collided with a roadside spectator, bringing down over a dozen other riders, and holding up many more in behind.

While Evans, Robert Gesink (Rabobank), Frank Schleck (Leopard-Trek), Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer (both Radioshack) had positioned themselves toward the front of the peloton, Contador and Andy Schleck had not, and he was forced to grind to a halt and pick a slow path through the carnage ahead.

Though the Saxo Bank team immediately took up the chase, the relentless pace of the Europcar and Omega Pharma-Lotto squads at the head of the first peloton saw the gap widen.

Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) took advantage of a dip in pace to launch an attack just over a kilometre from home on the fourth-category Mont des Allouettes, but Gilbert immediately latched onto his wheel, before powering clear to take another impressive victory.

Evans emerged from the chasing group to take second, while Hushovd brought home the rest of the group.

Stage result:

1. Philippe Gilbert (Belgium/OmegaPharma-Lotto) 4hrs 41m 31s"

2. Cadel Evans (Australia / BMC Racing) +3"

3. Thor Hushovd (Norway / Garmin) +6"

4. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spain / Movistar)

5. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Belgium / Omega Pharma - Lotto)

6. Geraint Thomas (Britain / Team Sky)

7. Andreas Kloeden (Germany / RadioShack)

8. Rein Taaramaee (Estonia / Cofidis)

9. Chris Horner (U.S. / RadioShack)

10. Tony Martin (Germany / HTC - Highroad)

General Classification:

1. Philippe Gilbert (Belgium/OmegaPharma-Lotto) 4hrs 41m 31s"

2. Cadel Evans (Australia / BMC Racing) +3"

3. Thor Hushovd (Norway / Garmin) +6"

4. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spain / Movistar)

5. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Belgium / Omega Pharma - Lotto)

6. Geraint Thomas (Britain / Team Sky)

7. Andreas Kloeden (Germany / RadioShack)

8. Rein Taaramaee (Estonia / Cofidis)

9. Chris Horner (U.S. / RadioShack)

10. Tony Martin (Germany / HTC - Highroad)

Michael FitzGerald / Eurosport

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