SAN DIEGO, July 1, 2012 – Fabian Cancellara showed on Stage 1 of the 2012 Tour de France why he is nicknamed “Spartacus.” Known best for his time trial skills, Cancellara decided to make a statement while keeping the yellow jersey on his shoulders for a second day.
On the short uphill finish, Cancellara put on a burst of speed, with Sky’s Evald Boassen-Hagen and Slovakian sprinting sensation Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Cannondale in hot pursuit. Cancellara couldn’t hold off the 22-year-old speedster Sagan for the stage win. But he could have coasted in with the major leaders and kept his yellow jersey. Make no mistake, Cancellara showed the rest of the riders he’s worthy of wearing yellow by earning it.
Sagan said after his first Tour stage victory, “Winning as a favorite is difficult. I knew Cancellara was the one able to train me. I’m sorry I didn’t help him.” Sagan is a rising star. He’s been accused of arrogance and was smart to make conciliatory remarks about Cancellara. Still, he backs up his talk with results.
Top contenders Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain’s Sky Racing and 2011 Tour champion Cadel Evans of Australia on team BMC remain in position right where they want to be to for a win three weeks from now in the world’s most well-known and prestigious race in professional cycling. Wiggins placed 16th and Evans placed 20th as part of the leading pack that came across the line to get the same time as the winners. So there is no significant change in the top five riders. Wiggins remains second, Sylvain Chavanel third, American Tejay van Garderen fourth, Boassen-Hagen fifth.
Evans posted to Twitter after the stage, “First road stage of the Tour completed… relatively easy start, fast intense finish. Real classic’s final; Sagan showed his class. #tdf” Follow him at @CadelOfficial
Denis Menchov and Philippe Gilbert have both moved up two spots to sixth and seventh; Evans, Vicenzo Nibali, and Ryder Hesjedal have all moved up five spots to round out the top ten.
The 123-mile stage from Liege to Seraing started with a breakaway by six riders that stretched to a four-minute plus lead at one point, but they were reeled back in by the peloton with about 20 miles to go.
Tejay van Garderen of BMC kept his white jersey as the best young rider. Dane Morkov is the first to wear the polka dot jersey as the “King of the Mountains.” Cancellara earned the green sprinters’ jersey, but he will yield it to Sagan who will wear it to start Stage 2 on Monday.
Tony Martin’s bad luck in the prologue perhaps previewed his worse luck today. Martin crashed early in the race along with Robbie Hunter of Garmin-Sharp. He received medical attention to his wrist and elbow after being banged up. He managed to hang in and finish, but later announced his Tour was over due to a broken collarbone.
The narrow Belgian roads caused nervous energy among the peloton, which started picking up the speed as teams tried to keep their leading contenders at the front and out of trouble. Sure enough, there was trouble behind them with two crashes in the final 20 miles.
Five riders including Michael Rogers of Team Sky and Luis Leon Sanchez of Rabobank went down in the first group. Just a few minutes later, one of those incidents that can only happen in professional cycling caused a larger group to crash when a photographer fan stepped into the road to shoot photos, causing riders to swerve around him. All of the riders picked up and rode on without further incident.
Among American riders, Christian Vandevelde has moved up to 15th place, 22 seconds back; Tom Danielson sits 35th, 31 seconds back; Levi Leipheimer of Omega Pharma-Quick Step has moved up to 54th place but has lost a few more seconds, and is 45 seconds back. Chris Horner of Radio Shack-Nissan is 81st, now one minute, 29 seconds out.
George Hincapie with BMC spent his efforts protecting the position of team leader Cadel Evans, riding hard through the last 20 miles when the peloton accelerated, and peeled off to finish in 102nd place, 2:27 seconds back.
Tyler Farrar is in 156th place, 3:53 seconds back. David Zabriskie of Garmin-Sharp is 4:07 back in 167th place.
Frank Schleck of Radio Shack-Nissan stayed with the leading peloton and lost no additional time. He remains 38 seconds back in 45th place, not at all insurmountable at this early point of the race. He won’t come out to play until the mountain stages next weekend.
Except for Martin, 197 riders survived and will start Monday’s Stage 2, which remains in Belgium for a third day, starting in Vise and traveling southeast toward France to Tournai. It is another long stage, but flatter than Stage 1 which should give fans the chance to watch a true sprint finish for the pure speed demons like Mark Cavandish of Sky, with Peter Sagan going for his second straight stage victory.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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