An amazing sprint by Robbie McEwen for the win. McEwen had got caught up in a crash with 20km to go and had to spend the next 15km chasing back with the help of his teammates. McEwen was nowhere to be seen as Quick Step lead the peloton towards the last mile. Milram took over the sprint from Quick Step and had two riders to leadout Zabel. Boonen glued himself to Zabel's wheel, but they quickly found their leadout swamped as Robbie Hunter stirred things up. Hunter jumped early to the right with Discovery's Vaitkus just behind. Hunter ran out of gas and sat up just as McEwen accelerated out of nowhere around the outside of the pack and shot past ten+ riders. Boonen tried to catch McEwen's wheel but McEwen was accelerating too fast -- McEwen by at least a bike length (Steephill.tv video stills). Hushovd was able to jump off Boonen's wheel to take second.
McEwen fans will worry that this is his last of this year's Tour as McEwen's wrist is questionable: "When it happens you're not really thinking too much about it, you get back on your bike, you don't feel anything..But now I'm starting to feel the pain, in my hand, my wrist and my knee. It was a great day for me, but now I'm starting to get a bit worried for the rest of the Tour."
Today's race started across the famous London Tower Bridge. The early story was all about David Millar, who wanted to put on a show while the race was still on his soil. He helped launched an early break and then managed to drop the rest of the riders. He was eventually chased down by four riders from that break: Auge (Cofidis), Kuschynski (Liquigas), Grivoko (Milram), and Bichot (Agritubel). The break extended its lead to over 6 minutes with 90k to go. Along the way Millar picked up two early intermediate sprints, but it wasn't the green jersey he was going for: he was thinking of polka dots.
At first it wasn't clear what Millar was shooting for and I'm not sure he did either: "So today I thought, ‘You know what, I'm just going to go on a suicide mission.' And it ended up being productive, which is a real bonus." Millar didn't bother contesting the Goudhurst Hill KOM. Bichot put in an attack early up the climb-- it looked like he mistimed it as he was caught by Kuschynski, but the Cat 4 climb was longer than Kuschynski thought and Bichot was able to pass again. Millar's plan to take the KOM seemed to hatch once he got caught by the peloton after he was dropped from the break. Correction: According to Millar, "...I decided to radio behind and get my team riding and drop back to the peloton. I was not sure if I could hold my lead in the last KOM and it was 26 km away and we had 2minutes 20seconds. So I decided it would be best to shut the break down and get points after having a rest in the bunch."
Saunier Duval sent some riders to the front to reel in the rest of the break before the final KOM. Auge was the last of the break to stay off the front and managed to survive until the Farthing Common KOM to briefly move into the polka dot jersey. Millar was able to retake the lead by taking second in the KOM while the rest of the peloton was busy reorganizing itself due to the McEwen/etc crash.
McEwen's and Cavendish's troubles made things a bit more interesting for the sprint. Lotto had to organize a chaseback for McEwen and were joined by about 20 other riders. Cavendish appeared caught out by himself and looked very angry as he endured wheel changes then a bike change. Cavendish ended up losing 3:37. This left just Quick Step and Lampre to drive the peloton towards the finish.
Argritubel's Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez was the first abandon of the Tour, apparently due to a crash. There were several crashes today. Lancaster (Milram), Zandio (Caisse d'Epargne), and Mercado (Agritubel) were among riders who crashed into a road island. There was also the big crash that put McEwen and Cavendish (T-Mobile) into trouble.
- VeloNews Stage 1 Summary
- CyclingNews Stage 1 Results
- Graham Watson Stage 1 Photo Gallery
- BBC Stage 1 Photo Gallery
- BBC Stage 1 Summary
- CyclingNews Stage 1 Route Preview: "A rolling course that will favour an early break that will then be pulled back before the finale, where sprinters like Petacchi, McEwen, Freire, and Boonen will be looking for the first victory."
Course profile, Versus predictions, my predictions after the jump.
- Al: Robbie McEwen
- Paul: Tom Boonen
- Bob:Mark Cavendish
- Phil: Daniele Bennati
- My pointless sprint-stage prediction: McEwen over Boonen, with Barloworld riders participating in TV breakaways
- Actual: No Barloworld riders, but McEwen just trounce Boonen in the sprint.