After a somewhat relaxed start to todayâ€™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.
Hereâ€™s what we noticed:
1. What can you say about Omega Pharma â€“ Lottoâ€™s Philippe Gilbert? Heâ€™s clearly on top of his game and the most dominating rider in the sport on courses such as todayâ€™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 gapâ€”especially over someone like Gilbert. Itâ€™s too bad King Phil wonâ€™t get a chance to wear the maillot jaune during a road stageâ€”it would have been great to see him in it.
2. As for Leopard Trekâ€™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 Lombardyâ€”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 thoughâ€”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-Lottoâ€™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 Shackâ€™s Andreas Kloden and Chris Horner came through the day unscathed as well, positioning both men to take yellow after tomorrowâ€™s TTT. Levi Leipheimer and Janez Brajkovic were caught behind the second crash inside the final 3 kilometersâ€”both are even with their teammates on overall time.
6. While they didnâ€™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 tomorrowâ€™s time trial rested and ready to give the German his first yellow jersey
7. In terms of the sprinters at this yearâ€™s race, Garmin-Cerveloâ€™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 doesnâ€™t hurt.
8. Big losers today were obviously Saxo Bankâ€™s Alberto Contadorâ€”he lost over a minute to just about everyoneâ€”and Garmin-Cerveloâ€™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 Euskaltelâ€™s Samuel Sanchez and Rabobankâ€™s Luis Leon Sanchez, making today a stage to forget for Spanish fans.
9. As for tomorrow, my gut says weâ€™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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