The disbelief in this Pez headline summarizes today's stage about as well as anything. There's nothing unusual about seeing the yellow jersey in a sprint during the opening week of the Tour, but usually that's because the yellow jersey has gone to someone who is actually a sprinter.
- Fabien Cancellara... winner! Always starting with the obvious, but more and more Cancellara looks like a patron trapped in the body of a cobbled classics rider. He's shown tremendous flair in today's finale, Saturday's jaw-dropping prologue, and of course the day he galloped away from the stars at Paris-Roubaix, on eerily similar roads. If he could climb, he'd be a mega-star. My five favorite current riders, in no particular order: Cancellara, Alessandro Ballan, Danilo Napolitano, Danilo DiLuca (subject to swift and severe change), and a toss-up between Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer.
- Stéphane Augé... winner! His well-known objective was the maillot pois, which he nabbed with relative ease. Sure, his shot at yellow came and went, but when you join a break that's been away for 200km already, you can't have great expectations. Anyway, we'll see if OJ can give ~:> a run for his money in the KOM contest, starting Thursday. He's a middlin' rider with a handful of wins, almost all stages of week-long races, and two Tours under his belt. At least Cofidis won't go home empty handed. (more on that in a moment)
- Tom Boonen... winner. He's looking more and more like Mr. Consistency. Also, the fact that McEwen didn't come around him suggests Robbie's magic speed isn't back yet. Stay tuned.
- Erik Zabel... sorta winner. He's on the cusp of contending for the maillot vert with today's second place, and managed to come by some pretty fast men in the process. But this was hardly a normal sprint, thanks to Cancellara's dash, and Zabel is also persona non grata after admitting he caused yesterday's massive pileup.
- Robert Hunter... winner I guess. I got harangued for not including him in the Power Poll yesterday, so to quell the masses here, I'll give Robbie the nod. He's doing very well, obviously, though I'm still more interested in what Romain Feillu does.
- ASO... winners! Today's pianissimo stage may well have been a demonstration of drug-free sport. The evidence is hardly conclusive, but for years stages like this have been getting faster and more hectic, causing riders to speak cryptically of "two speeds" in the peloton. It's pretty dicey to start declaring everyone 100% clean, but the slowing of the peloton on long, uneventful stages suggests maybe in toto things are turning a corner?
- Fans (before the last 5km)... losers! Good god, can you imagine waiting an hour for the peloton to pass by in a brief moment, only to be told they're running an hour or so further behind schedule? At some point I think VS started posting the gap from the caravan to the peloton... and the time was steadily going out.
- Fans at the finish... winners! I doubt even the Swiss fans in the audience could believe what they were seeing.
- Credit Agricole... losers. Alas, Thor Hushovd is still stuck in no man's land, and should probably start making good on that threat to hunt for stage wins. For French teams, getting noticed during the Tour is what it's all about, and for CA, that means Hushovd in week one. Mission not accomplished. Meanwhile, Cofidis have the spotty jersey and got major play from Wiggins in England, Agritubel have been on the attack from day 1 and are showcasing Feillu in the last KM, Francais des Jeux had Ladagnous leading the pack home into France plus Chavanel sprinting and Vaugrenard and Di Gregorio representing the future, and AG2R are keeping their powder dry for the mountains. Chances are huge that, of all the home teams, Credit Agricole are most likely to wind up empty handed this year.