Narrow roads and a nervous peloton once again lead to several riders hitting the deck during the day's stage. An early breakaway, launched at the drop of the flag by Lars Boom (Rabobank), spent much of the day out on the roads getting TV time... with never a chance of success with the sprinter's teams hungry for a win.
As is almost always the case in the first few days of the Tour, the riders were nervous and fighting for position, which lead to a few riders getting to test the crash worthiness of their bikes, helmets and Lycra. The main "losers" on the day included Mark Cavendish, who was caught up in a crash a few kilometers from the line as he and Jeremy Hunt (Cervelo Test Team) fought for position... which also brought down Oscar Freire. Not long after that, Farrar was nearly taken down by Lloyd Mondory's (Ag2r) solo crash into Farrar's rear wheel. The French rider has something of a reputation for making less than stellar decisions in the chaos of a sprint and lived down to that reputation.
Another crash just past the final kilometer mark- the "flame rouge"- brought down or haulted nearly all of the contenders and big hitters, including Cancellara, Contador and many others. Since the crash happened within the final 3km, all riders were awarded the same time as eventual winner Alessandro Petacchi.
Petacchi, using his powerful long distance sprint, timed his moe to perfection and was able to finish clear of mark Renshaw (Columbia-HTC) and Hushovd. Renshaw, who normally serves as leadout for Cavendish, was tossed into the spotlight as Cav's replacement after he became a non-factor due to his crash. Given Cav's recent spate of asphalt surfing sessions, Renshaw may get a few more chances to finish the job. Hushovd now steps a bit closer to his Green jersey, though it is now occupied by Petacchi, who has enjoyed a nice season this year. At 36, Ale Jet is a little older than he was the last time he won a Tour stage in 2003, but he's proven that he's still pretty quick for an old guy (sorta like me... huh).
Fabian gets to keep his Yellow jersey a little longer, though he'll be stiff tomorrow after his crash today. Contador looked to be unscathed, but will likely have a few bruises as well. Columbia's Adam Hansen hit the deck hard very early in the race and was off to hospital to check for possible fractures. So tomorrow's Stage 2 will see some achy bodies on the start line hoping for a slow start to the day's assault of some of the same roads used in the fabled Spring Classic, Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Stage 2 will see the field hit lots of smaller, but punchy climbs all day. With a total of 6 categorized climbs (3-4's and 3- 3's), the day is likely to play out like an Ardennes Classic... Liege-Bastogne-Liege... so look for some of the potential GC guys to flex a little muscle to improve their position after a bad prologue... like maybe Wiggins (if he's smart) or Evans. Evans fought a tough LBL, with Vinokourov finally winning the race, so he is unlikely to be given enough freedom to do much tomorrow... but Vino is known for his brash moves and might make a go at trying to have another great day in the region this year. The last of the climbs finishes with less than 15km to the finish- which is slightly downhill- so expect things to get nutty if the field is able to stay together.
If things stay together, expect the main sprinters to be trying to get the win; Petacchi could do well again, but look for Cav and Farrar to really be looking to make a statement. Otherwise, look for a group to get away on the rolling climbs and fight for the finish on narrow roads again. Were he not a threat for the final GC, I'd pick Evans, but he'll be heavily marked. It'd be cool to see somebody like Horner, Boasson Hagen, Voigt or Stuart O'Grady get a day of it. BUT... I'm more expecting to see the Russian headbangers of Katusha flogging themselves, as well as guys like Nicolas Roche (Ag2r), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Alessandro Ballan (BMC), Kevin Seeldrayers (Quick Step) or possibly even Damiano Cunego (Lampre) trying to get a shot at things.
Don't be surprised if you feel like you're having flashbacks to April/ May tomorrow... it could be a very interesting day.