The Tour de France Opens Dramatically (But the Shack Make a Great Showing)
For Team RadioShack supporters the expectation of our favourite team must be immense; the year to date has been a good one for the Team. Latterly Levi Leipheimer took the Tour de Suisse by riding an exceptional final stage time trial, Chris Horner won the Tour of California, crossing the line with Leipheimer in a show of incredible sportsman and friendship, Andreas Kloden won the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, with Horner making it a RadioShack one-two. And if all this were not enough Brajkovic, Hermanns, Rast and Machado have all finished in top World Pro Tour positions. Excited about the possibilities for the Tour de France? You should be!
And so to Stage 1 of the Tour de France.
After a monumental breakaway by Roy (FDJ), Westra (VAC) and Quemeneur (EUC) that lasted for well over 100 kms the peloton pulled these three leaders back 20 kms from the line. To this point the three leading men will have been thankful for their gap on the peloton. Behind them riders had fallen several times. No serious injuries were reported thankfully but there was ripped lycra and road rash to evidence the toll on some riders. Unfortunately the drama of the opening stage was not yet over.
With 9 kms to ride a crash undermined the efforts of many in the bunch. A yellow-clad fan, looking at the leading passing riders and standing on the very edge of the grass verge had a shoulder out. Hit by an Astana rider that shoulder that took down approximately 40 riders. The fallers dominoed across the road from right to left. As the last riders fell a RadioShacker toppled into those on the tarmac and another Shack rider was diverted into the ditch, still riding but very much in the ditch and looking for a way out.
It was unclear which of the RadioShack team went down or were slowed by the accident but out of the chaos Andreas Kloden and Chris Horner became visible at the front of what remained of the peloton. Kloden looked around for several seconds to see who was with him and to survey the impact on the race.
Omega-Pharma-Lotto (OLO) took responsibility for pushing the peloton ever onward. The pace was blistering. A notable omission from the leading riders was Alberto Contador (SBS), the 2010 Tour winner.
The run-in to the finish was littered with round-a-bouts and tightening corners.
With just over 3 kms to go RadioShack gave way to BMC at the front of the race; HTC and Liquigas were also keen to be at the front.
Hitting a shallow climb to the finish line Team RadioShack riders were positioned about 20 riders back, OLO having the front yet again.
And then it happened again. With 1.5 kms to go, another crash. Riders were scattered across the road; luckily Kloden and Horner were not amongst them.
Under the Flamme Rouge and still cycling uphill Katusha took point but OLO with Phillipe Gilbert were close by. Rising out of the saddle all of the riders were giving the final metres of the race absolutely everything that they had left.
Astana’s Vinokourov pulled out of the field but couldn’t shake Gilbert or Voeckler (EUC). Cancellara (LEO) made an effort taking off from the left hand side of the charging riders. Gilbert chased and closed the gap quickly as both riders raced along the right side of the road. Then Cancellara started looking back and unexpectedly pulled over to the left side of the road and, despite sitting in behind Gilbert, gave no real effort. Meanwhile Gilbert knew he had to take this final chance. He was in the lead and as we have seen so many times this year he stood out of the saddle and powered home, kissing the front of his jersey as he hit the line.
Cancellara eased up tremendously. Cadel Evans (BMC) passed him and took second place and Hushovd (GRM) took third. And quickly behind these two came Andreas Kloden to claim 7th place and Chris Horner 9th.
Stage Results for RadioShack:
7 Andreas KLÖDEN
9 Christopher HORNER
38 Levi LEIPHEIMER
39 Janez BRAJKOVIC
55 Yaroslav POPOVYCH
104 Markel IRIZAR ARANBURU
112 Haimar ZUBELDIA AGIRRE
134 Sergio Miguel Moreira PAULINHO
191 Dmitriy MURAVYEV
Leipheimer, Brajkovic and Popovych held up by the crash in the final 3 kms of the race were given the same time as the finishing bunch, giving each a 6 second deficit on Tour leader Gilbert.
By Julian Winn, staff writer