After a somewhat relaxed start to today’s Stage 1 of the 2011 Tour de France, two crashes in the final 10 kilometers provided a dramatic finale to an otherwise slow day of racing. Unfortunately for some of the riders involved, it might have cost them their overall Tour hopes as well.
Here’s what we noticed:
1. What can you say about Omega Pharma – Lotto’s Philippe Gilbert? He’s clearly on top of his game and the most dominating rider in the sport on courses such as today’s. For a second I thought Fabian Cancellara might have gotten the better of the Belgian Champion, but the climb was just too long for the Swiss star to maintain any sort of a gap—especially over someone like Gilbert. It’s too bad King Phil won’t get a chance to wear the maillot jaune during a road stage—it would have been great to see him in it.
2. As for Leopard Trek’s Cancellara, today showed that he has a long way to go before he contends for victories in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Tour of Lombardy—the final two races he needs in order to have won all five Monuments.
3. Finishing second today, Cadel Evans rode a savvy finish, staying out of trouble and perhaps positioning himself for another shot at the yellow jersey. His BMC team will be hard-pressed to fend-off challenges from HTC, Garmin-Cervelo, and Radio Shack though—all of whom have riders just three seconds behind the Australian. But gaining time on Contador has to have the Australian feeling confident.
4. Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Jurgen Van den Broeck was another attentive rider; perhaps working for Gilbert helped the Belgian GC-contender stay at the front when many were hitting the deck.
5. Radio Shack’s Andreas Kloden and Chris Horner came through the day unscathed as well, positioning both men to take yellow after tomorrow’s TTT. Levi Leipheimer and Janez Brajkovic were caught behind the second crash inside the final 3 kilometers—both are even with their teammates on overall time.
6. While they didn’t win the stage, HTC-HighRoad enjoyed a trouble-free stage, staying out of the wind until the finale, and placing Tony Martin, Peter Velits, and Tejay Van Garderen in the first group at the end of the day. As a result, the team heads into tomorrow’s time trial rested and ready to give the German his first yellow jersey
7. In terms of the sprinters at this year’s race, Garmin-Cervelo’s Tyler Farrar and Thor Hushovd both look to be in fine shape, which bodes well for the team as the race moves forward. At some point, the squad will need to make a decision as to which rider to support for the green jersey, but for now, having two favorites doesn’t hurt.
8. Big losers today were obviously Saxo Bank’s Alberto Contador—he lost over a minute to just about everyone—and Garmin-Cervelo’s Ryder Hesjedal and Christian Vande Velde who lost 1:55 and 3:41 respectively, essentially ending their GC bids before they even began. Other men who lost more than a minute included Euskaltel’s Samuel Sanchez and Rabobank’s Luis Leon Sanchez, making today a stage to forget for Spanish fans.
9. As for tomorrow, my gut says we’ll see Radio Shack take the win and the yellow jersey. HTC and Sky will give them a run for it, with Garmin-Cervelo just falling short in the end as well.
What about you? What were thoughts on Stage 1? Who are your picks for tomorrow?
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