Petacchi Takes Stage 1 of Tour; Leipheimer, Lotz Crash Out
Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) has taken Stage 1 of the Tour de France. The Italian sprinter took a crash-marred sprint from Robbie McEwen (Lotto) and Erik Zabel (Telekom) to win the rolling, 168-km run from Saint Denis/Montgeron to Meaux in 3:44:33. Prologue winner Bradley McGee (La Francaise des Jeux.com) remains the overall leader.
The stage began in Saint Denis and was neutralized until the riders reached Le Reveil Matin (The Alarm Clark) in Montgeron, where the inaugural Tour began in 1903. There, the riders paused to honor the riders of the first Tour, and then the stage began in earnest.
The first intermediate sprint was at 19 km, and McEwen took it from McGee and Jean-Patrick Nazon (Jean Delatour). Christophe Mengin (La Francaise des Jeux.com), Walter Beneteau (Brioches La Boulangere), and Andy Flickinger (Ag2r) countered. The trio went unmolested and ran up a nine-minute lead by 68 km. At that point, Lotto began to chase, and Fassa Bortolo and La Francaise des Jeux.com joined the Belgian squad.
With 30 km remaining, 1:30 separated the bunch from the break. Beneteau attacked his companions. Flickinger countered and took the lead. The peloton reeled him in 11 km left.
Fassa Bortolo, Lotto, and Vini Caldirola battled for control of the peloton. With 500 m left, Jose Enrique Gutierrez (Kelme) crashed on the stage's last turn and precipitated a 30-rider pileup. Ahead of the crash, Petacchi lunged into the lead with 250 m left and held off McEwen and Zabel.
Behind the leaders, there was mayhem. Among those whom the crash felled were four-time defending champion Lance Armstrong (U.S. Postal Service) (cuts and bruises), Bradley McGee (cuts and bruises), Giro d'Italia champion Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) (cuts and bruises), Jimmy Casper (La Francaise des Jeux.com) (neck injury), Richard Virenque (Quick Step) (undisclosed injuries), Tyler Hamilton (CSC) (double break of his right collarbone), Vyatcheslav Ekimov and George Hincapie (both from U.S. Postal Service; both cuts and bruises), Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) (broken hipbone), and Marc Lotz (Rabobank) (cuts, bruises, and a broken eye socket). Leipheimer and Lotz will not start Stage 2. For some time, it was feared that Hamilton would abandon, but the man from Marblehead is taking painkillers and will start Stage 2.
In the overall, McGee leads David Millar (Cofidis) by 0:02 and Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel) by 0:06. Stage 2 will be another sprinters' stage. The rolling, 204.5-km run from La Ferte-sous-Jouarre to Sedan should see an early break reeled in by the sprinters' teams and a cavalry charge at the end. Who will win it? Petacchi? Green jersey wearer McEwen? Zabel? Check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/ and find out?
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