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Stage One Kicks Off the Fun

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Letour-sq2_1__mediumThe inclusion of a long uphill drag at the end of stage 1 (the Alpe de Plumelec) completely scrambled the usual results of a Tour de France opening stage, and at least temporarily created some early intrigue. Big caveat: Alejandro Valverde isn't stupid enough to try to parlay today's win into a lasting gain; it's a stage win and nothing more. But the progression of yellow jersey holders just got interesting, and a few other classifications started sorting themselves out too.

Maillot Jaune

Le Tour accomplished one of their (IMHO) hidden goals of setting up a succession of yellow jersey holders in the first week -- share the spoils, as it were. Valverde goes first, and nobody expects him to defend it at this juncture. But stage favorite Oscar Freire was one of only a dozen riders to finish a single second back; everyone else sits 7" or more behind on GC. Assuming tomorrow is a bunch finish, as expected, the yellow will either stay with Valverde or go to the best finisher among the 1" guys. But the rest of that 1" group are GC guys who won't be near the front tomorrow, save for Pippo Pozzato, who's fast but not that fast. Thor Hushovd is in the next group (at 0.07), along with Zabel and Baden Cooke, should something happen to the top 13, but in all likelihood Freire is looking at two days in Yellow. And those 17 points may come in handy later too (Hushovd has 11).

King of the Mountains

As for the one maillot jaune that counts, the one in Paris, a number of guys who had vague dreams of wearing it (or at least being part of the conversation) dropped time right out of the chute: Tommy Voeckler and Sandy Casar are both 2.00 back already, and the day's cruelest victim is Juan Mauricio Soler, whose late crash came with a 3.04 time loss. Let the maillot pois chase begin! OK, Soler might somehow climb back into contention, given his climbing prowess, but by the end of the time trial he can be forgiven for thinking of long escapes in the Pyrenees.

Also dropping time -- the key qualification for an escaping KOM contender -- is Remy Di Gregorio, who finished in the two minute group. The young FdJ climbing ace won the polka dots at last year's Dauphine, so it's certainly not out of the question and must surely be in his thoughts as we speak. Whether he's ready to hang with the slightly more established Soler is to be determined. The even-better-established Casar and Voeckler may well be looking for the KOM now, particularly Voeckler who spent the day chasing early KOM points and has the first edition of the jersey. It's early, but this year's mountains comp may have a distinctly French accent.

So much for waiting around at the early stages for something to happen.... Spot anything else of interest?