Beyond the Peloton

July 4, 2010 9:46 AM

Stage 1: Oh, the Humanity!

It started with a dog, and ended with a bike dragging on Tyler Farrar's derailleur.

On Fourth of July, Farrar had a golden opportunity to win his first Tour de France stage. The young American was perfectly positioned for the final sprint of Stage 1 in Brussels, particularly with Mark Cavendish already out of it after a crash at the 2 km mark. But in a day marred by crashes, Farrar fell victim to the final pileup, as his derailleur was caught by a fallen rider's front wheel, as Alessandro Petacchi won for the first time at the Tour since he took four stages in 2003.

201007041057394204488-pf.h2.jpgThere were no fewer than half a dozen crashes and they claimed sprint specialists and GC contenders alike. Ivan Basso and David Millar were bounced off their bikes by a dog running onto the route. Cavendish's quest ended by a crash near the sprint finish. And a massive pileup just inside the final km mark completely barred the route, causing all the major contenders to be stuck for some time, including Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador.

Per Tour rule, though, anyone crashing inside the 3 km mark received the same time as the winner. So there was no time gained or lost among all GC contenders.

Preview of Stage 2 (Brussels to Spa)

Crashes are less likely as the Tour continues in Belgium, but expect some separation in the peloton in just the third day of racing. The route follows parts of the classics Liege-Bastogne-Liege climbs, with three category 3s near the end, culminating with Col due Rosier less than 20 km from the finish line.

Prediction: Thor Hushovd (Norway, Cervelo) is the strongest among the sprinters and he can actually climb a bit. Expect him to stay with the front of the pack while other sprinters get dropped toward the end. Fabian Cancellara will keep the yellow.

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