The opening stages of the Tour de France are always a nervy affair. All the riders come to the race with fresh legs and big ambitions. And always there are crashes. Today's stage ended with three crashes in the final 3 kilometers. So far, all of the general classification riders seem to have survived unscathed. In a display of determination, Adam Hansen finished the stage with a broken collarbone from a crash earlier in the day. Levi Leipheimer apparently suffered a minor crash also due to an unleashed dog.
The Tour organizers threw a tricky finish on today's stage. With just under 3 kilometers to race, the road turned nearly 180 degress. That's never easy to navigate with 190 or so riders frothing for the finish. Watch the replay, and a white jerseyed rider loses his line as the road turns. It's been a difficult season so far for Mark Cavendish, and today, those difficulties continued. Maybe he missed the memo with the course info? But here, he seems to ride straight through the turn and into Mirko Lorenzetto of Lampre, sitting next to him. They then career into Oscar Freire and Jeremy Hunt of Cervélo TestTeam. Maybe we should just call him Crash from now on. That's two total Pinball moments in recent weeks.
Past the trick corner, the road turned narrow into the finale. Apparently, the entire field wanted to ride in the same place at the same time. The result? A massive crash which took down the Yellow Jersey Fabian Cancellara, among others. So far, no one has reported serious injuries. From the front, the cameras could not make out any of the details and showed a wall of bikes as the sprint unfolded ahead.
With a small group left for the sprint, still the crashing wasn't over. As he came to the front, Petacchi moved to his right, and the pack behind him swerved to follow. Lloyd Mondory of AG2R-La Mondiale rider got caught in the pinch. In a bizarre turn of affairs, the kind of performance art that only cycling crashes can create, the rider's bike grabbed hold of American sprinter Tyler Farrar. Farrar had to slow and unclip to keep his balance, as he tried to kick the sticky bike away. Vaughters response: Crabapples! Out of the sprint for today, the American missed the chance to celebrate Independence Day with podium kisses.
Up ahead, meanwhile, Petacchi won the sprint, his first Tour stage victory in quite some time. Mark Renshaw, who typically rides as lead-out to Mark Cavendish, finished second, while Thor Hushovd took third. Petacchi takes over as the leader in the Green Jersey competition. Because the crash among the bigs came so close to the finish, the general classification remains unchanged and no one will lose time. Fabian Cancellara wears the Yellow Jersey for another day, followed closely by Tony Martin, wearing the White Jersey of best young riders, and David Millar.