2011 Tour de France – Stage 1 Wrap-Up

Pavé would like to thank Handspun, Clément, and Laekhouse for supporting our coverage of the 2011 Tour de France.

Fotoreporter Sirotti


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?

Share your comments below.



About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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8 Responses to 2011 Tour de France – Stage 1 Wrap-Up

  1. MW says:

    Phillipe won me some money today! His job was made a bit easier with the group getting smaller with the crash but I think he would of done it anyway. I reckon SKY will do it tomorrow, Geraint into the Yellow and I hope he could keep it for a little while, very talented rider. Contador to be over 2 minutes behind the other major GC guys by the end of tomorrow.

  2. Zinoviev Letter says:

    A minor thing about today's stage is that it answered the question about which rider Ag2r will be backing, as Roche finished with the lead group while both Gadret and Peraud lost 2 minutes. Gadret actually appeared to be struggling at the back even before the crash, which leads me to suspect that he's cooked after his Giro heroics.

    By contrast, an answer is further away for Garmin's prospective leaders. It's pretty spectacular bad luck to have three fringe GC riders and have all three of them lose significant time because of a crash on stage one.

  3. Joe says:

    I'm not ready to count Vande Velde and Hesjedal out just yet. Twenty-four hours ago these two were outside chances for 3rd, (against rivals: Wiggins, Evans, Basso, Horner, Levi, Van den Broeck). There are still a number of those rivals ahead on time, but the TTT can be a jittery day, and I like Garmin's odd's. Also there is no longer a dead lock on the first two podium places in paris, since Contador is 1:20 down, and likely to loose more time tomorrow. So three weeks from now, I see Andy taking one spot on the podium (not certain which one), but there are still two more steps open, and I think it's still pretty open. I agree with MW above… Sky will be riding in Yellow by the day's end.

  4. Zinoviev Letter says:

    It depends what you mean by "count them out". I don't think that their top 10 chances are over, but it's certainly got harder for them. I never thought that they had a podium chance in the first place, even as an outside bet. Perhaps it's just about conceivable that Vande Velde could have sneaked a third place if absolutely everything went right for him (Contador having zero form after the Giro, Andy crashing, that sort of thing) but I really don't think it was on their agenda. If Garmin really thought that a podium place was a possibility, they'd have more than three guys who can climb in the team. Hesjedal is one of my favourite riders, but he simply isn't a GC rider of the caliber of Basso, Evans, Gesink etc.

  5. britton says:

    How about Cav getting beat in the sprint?

  6. Jean-Pierre says:

    today was like milan san remo part 2…unreal.

  7. grolby says:

    What can't you say about Gilbert?

    Interesting that you mention the implications of Cancellara's inability to make it stick for his taking LBL and Lombardia; between that and Gilbert's win in the Belgian championships on a flat course, is there any reason to doubt that he does have what it takes to get all 5 monuments himself? Obviously, the Belgian Championship is no Roubaix – it's Gilbert's ability to win even on courses that don't appear to suit him that is so impressive. As for today's win, he made it look easy. He's a scary-good racer.

  8. Simon says:

    I reckon Garmin are going to need to take a leaf out of Voeckler's book and go raiding for stage wins and just plain forget about the GC, I reckon it's a tactic that would suit Millar and Vande Velde in particular down to the ground, if he sat up for a few minutes there – I'd rather see him do that than crash again.
    It was good to see Cadel lighting it up at the finish, I wouldn't be surprised if he snuck a bit more time somewhere, maybe on stage 4, although probably behind Gilbert again. There seem to be a few stages like that spread throughout the tour, suiting a marauding puncheur with good legs. If he can hang on in there on the most evil of the mountain days and steer out of trouble, maybe his year. I am looking forward to watching AC come out trying to rip everyone's legs off as soon as it gets to the hills, I don't think after tomorrow he's going to have much alternative, that promises to be some spectacle…

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