Stage One – Semi-Flat – 190 km - 01/07/2012
So after an exciting prologue which sorted out who was wearing what jersey for today, the tour headed out for a loop around south-east Belgium. Before stage one, Wiggins seems to be relieved that he doesn’t have the pressure of defending the yellow jersey, whilst Cancellara was looking to secure the yellow jersey for another day.
The route today took the riders over 5 category 4 climbs (2190m), with one of these climbs being the 2.4 kilometre-long climb of 4.7% gradient leading upto the finish line in Seraing. The long drag to the finish line essentially means that the big sprinters were the underdogs on this stage, and that a puncheur had the best chance of winning today.
The first stage started with some drama before the peloton even exited the neutral stage. The riders had to stop for a few minutes due to protestors blocking the route out of Liège. However, as soon as they were moved on, the race was allowed to continue.
As soon as the white flag was waved, a breakaway was formed. Nicolas Edet lead the way, with 5 others working with him to try and establish a solid gap on the peloton which was being controlled by the yellow jerseys team, Radioshack-Nissan. At 9km’s into the stage, the break had established a lead of 2″10′, which was still increasing. Their lead took a serious blow when they were forced to stop to allow a train pass across a level crossing. This made them lose a minute or so by the time they passed through the next time check. In the first hour of racing, the break averaged a speed of 24.2 mph and had a gap of 3″45′
Tony Martin added to a unfortunate first day, by colliding with Garmin’s Robbie Hunter after only 11km. Martin came off worse with some bruising to his left leg and and minor injuries to his left wrist and elbow. Throughout the day, he appeared to be suffering, with several trips back to his team and doctors car.
Michael Morkov was the first rider of this years tour to get KOM points, after securing 1 point for passing over the summit of the first 4th category climb. Perez, who was also in the breakaway, managed to get 1 point on the second summit 49km into todays stage. The third cat 4 climb saw Morkov double his tally to 2 points after a contested sprint. He ensured that he would be wearing the polka dot after claiming another point on the 4th climb.
The 6 riders in the break were the ones who claimed points 20 – 10 in the intermediate sprint. Matt Goss proved why he is one of the favourites for the Green Jerey after he beat Cavendish, Greipel, Renshaw and Sagan.
Two separate big pileups caused the chase, which was being lead by Radioshack-Nissan at the time, to be temporally halted. The first crash was caused by a simple touch of wheels, which made Rogers (SKY), Sanchez (RAB) and Rojas (MOV) all go down in the middle of the peloton. All the riders were able to get up to carry on racing. The second crash was caused by a spectator looking through a camera lens standing in the road, just like that crash which marred the first stage of last years tour. Valverde (MOV), Monfort (RNT) and Voeckler were all caught up.
The catch occurred at 9km’s after BMC and Lotto-Beliosel lead the front of the race to make sure the no-one in the break could get a surprise win.
Chavennel started to attack at 2 KM to go, but was soon caught up. Sagan looked like he was struggling on the final climb to the line, but as soon as Cancellara jumped off the front of the bunch with 1.5km to go, he found enough energy to stay on his wheel. Boasson Hagen managed to bridge the gap up to Cancellara and Sagan with 900m to go. Cancellara flicked his elbow to get Sagan to come through, but he wasn’t going to do it. Sagan started the sprint and went around Cancellara to get the win. Cancellara managed to secure second place by out-sprinting Boasson Hagen.
|1||Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale||4:58:19|
|2||Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan|
|3||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling|
|4||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team|
|5||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team|
|6||Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team|
|7||Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team|
|8||Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin – Sharp|
|9||Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin – Sharp|
|10||Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep|
|1||Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan||5:05:32|
|2||Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling||0:00:07|
|3||Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep|
|4||Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team||0:00:10|
|5||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling||0:00:11|
|6||Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team||0:00:13|
|7||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team|
|8||Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team||0:00:17|
|9||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||0:00:18|
|10||Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin – Sharp|
|1.||CANCELLARA Fabian||RADIOSHACK-NISSAN||55 pts|
|2.||SAGAN Peter||LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE||49 pts|
|3.||BOASSON HAGEN Edvald||SKY PROCYCLING||42 pts|
|4.||GILBERT Philippe||BMC RACING TEAM||33 pts|
|5.||CHAVANEL Sylvain||OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP||23 pts|
|6.||MOLLEMA Bauke||RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM||22 pts|
|7.||GENE Yohann||TEAM EUROPCAR||20 pts|
|8.||VALVERDE Alejandro||MOVISTAR TEAM||20 pts|
|9.||GESINK Robert||RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM||18 pts|
|10.||WIGGINS Bradley||SKY PROCYCLING||17 pts|
|Urtasun Perez (ESK)||1|
|11||Van Hummel (VCD)||5|
|15||Boasson Hagen (SKY)||1|
Original text by Anthony Douglas of Velostage.com.