Philippe Gilbert Powers to Victory in Stage 1 of Tour de France 2011

News & Results

07/2/2011| 0 comments
by AP and Roadcycling.com
Philippe Gilbert wins stage 1 of the 2011 Tour de France. Photo Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Philippe Gilbert wins stage 1 of the 2011 Tour de France. Photo Fotoreporter Sirotti.

Philippe Gilbert Powers to Victory in Stage 1 of Tour de France 2011

Team Omega Pharma-Lotto's Philippe Gilbert won today's stage 1 of the 2011 Tour de France to take the yellow leader's jersey, while defending champion Alberto Contador lost more than a minute because of a late crash.

Team Omega Pharma-Lotto's Philippe Gilbert won today's stage 1 of the 2011 Tour de France to take the yellow leader's jersey, while defending champion Alberto Contador lost more than a minute because of a late crash.

The Belgian champion, who dazzled fans by winning three classics in April, left it late before speeding ahead from the pack and kissing his National Champion jersey as he crossed the line.

"It was the last 500 meters, I had a lead ... (and) I went for it," Gilbert said and added "It was an extreme effort and I was able to take advantage."

Gilbert, who has notched 13 victories between race and stage wins this year, had been a favorite to win the opening stage.

He clocked 4 hours, 41 minutes, 31 seconds for the sun-baked 191.5 kilometer (119 mile) ride from La Barre-de-Monts to Mont des Alouettes in the western Vendee region.

Two-time Tour de France runner-up Cadel Evans of Australia and Team BMC Racing was second, three seconds back -- making him the best performer among the expected title contenders -- and Norway's Thor Hushovd was third, six seconds off the pace.

Evans showed impressive form and major guts by fighting his way up the final hill in an admirable attack on his fellow GC contenders who rode passively watching each other. Today Evans once again showed viewers why he deserves to win the overall Tour de France champion title.

"George (Hincapie) helped me really well going into the bottom of the climb and I was really perfectly positioned," Evans told Roadcycling.com and our mobile sister site Roadcycling.mobi after the stage.

"I thought I would go conservatively but then a Katusha or Astana rider attacked and I got a bit closed in. I tried to go across to Gilbert, but it was just a little bit too late," Evans added.

The 3,430-kilometer (2,131-mile) race that ends July 24 on Paris' Champs-Elysees is shaping up as a battle among riders like Contador and last year's runner-up Andy Schleck of Luxembourg. Three-time champion Contador, a Spaniard, beat Schleck by just 39 seconds last year.

However, they both ran into trouble towards the end of today's stage.

With about nine kilometers (5.5 miles) left, Astana rider Maxim Iglinskiy knocked shoulders with a fan on the roadside, causing a mass crash that delayed defending Tour de France champion Contador -- who was positioned too far back in the peloton -- and split the pack. About 40 riders stayed in front. Spaniard Contador finished 01:20 after Gilbert and is now 82nd overall thanks to a major failure by his team.

Schleck too got slowed down by yet another crash near the end, and finished the stage in 39th place. But according to race rules about crashes within last three kilometers, he was credited with the same time as the pack he was in - six seconds behind Gilbert - and placed 33rd overall. Thanks to the race rule, Schleck could pedal easily towards the finish line, while his GC competitors had to ride hard.

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