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Sun, Jul.04.2004:11:09 AM

Stage 1: Liege-Charleroi

07-04-04.stage1 profile

Stage 1 was an ugly stage, not ugly in the way last year gave us a spectacular crash on the finish line, but ugly in the constant, crash here, crash there, lots of rain-slicked roads sense. Many riders were wearing torn shorts and riding spare bikes by the end of this race, and even Hamilton managed to have a crash of his own, though he recovered immediately. Eisel got the award for most spectacular crash on camera, as he tapped the wheel of the rider in front of him while he was talking with manager in the team car. He managed to do a somersault on the pavement, spilling his team radio and other goodies out on the roadway.

Piil was part of a two-man breakaway, and perhaps he was hoping for a repeat of his breakaway from last year's tour, but the day was not ugly enough to cause that sort of mistake from the peloton.

What surprised me most about this stage was the finish. I was expecting the typical, Fassa Bortolo leadout that was so dominant in this year's Giro, but the leadout was broken apart, with Petacchi boxed in a Jaan Kirsipuu edging out an accelerating McEwen to add another stage victory to his belt (O'Grady and Cipollini had crashed late in the race). Perhaps the riders aren't going to let Petacchi get his stage victories as easily this year?