Liquigas' budding superstar Peter Sagan opened his Tour de France account with a brilliant stage victory in Seraing, Belgium, closing down fellow luminaries Fabian Cancellara of Radio Shack, clad in the yellow jersey, and Edvald Boasson Hagen of Sky. Cancellara had escaped from a reduced peloton of climbers and puncheurs with under two kilometers to go as the stage sprinters melted away on the short but steep Cote de Seraing, another perfectly-timed move by the great Swiss classics ace. But Sagan, emerging as the sport's biggest winner, showed his own intelligence and climbing ability by holding fast to Cancellara's wheel -- something a long list of great riders have been unable to do over the years. Boasson Hagen escaped from the peloton and caught the leading duo -- then starting to play "after you, no after you" -- with one km left, and the sprint was on. With a three percent rise to the line, the powerful Swiss Bear stood a chance against the two more accomplished sprinters, but Sagan came past Cancellara easily int the final 50 meters for the win, while Boasson Hagen, gassed from his bridging effort, settled for third.
- Peter Sagan, Liquigas
- Fabian Cancellara, RSH, s.t.
- Edvald Boasson Hagen, Sky, s.t.
- Philippe Gilbert, BMC, s.t.
- Bauke Mollema, Rabobank, s.t.
- Alejandro Valverde, Movistar, s.t.
- Robert Gesink, Rabobank, s.t.
- Dan Martin, Garmin-Sharp, s.t.
- Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-Sharp, s.t.
- Dries Devenyns, OPQS, s.t.
- Fabian Cancellara, RSH
- Bradley Wiggins, Sky, at 0.07
- Sylvain Chavanel, OPQS, s.t.
- Tejay Van Garderen, BMC, at 0.10
- Boasson Hagen, at 0.11Points Classification
- Cancellara, 55 points
- Sagan, 49
- Boasson Hagen, 42
- Gilbert, 33
- Sylvain Chavanel, OPQS, 23
Stage 1 of the Tour de France was a beautiful 198km clockwise circuit around the Province of Liege in French-speaking Belgium. The road went up and down much of the day, paying tribute to the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic for which these roads and hills are best known. Six riders -- Yohann Gene, Pablo Urtasun, Nicolas Edet, Anthony Delaplace, Maxime Bouet and Michael Morkov -- made up the early break and stayed away until the last 10km. Radio Shack-Nissan-Trek took responsibility for the front of the pack, controlling matters and slowly reeling in the breakaway in order to protect Fabian Cancellara's yellow jersey. A couple crashes spread things out in the final 25km, one caused by a fan stepping into the road with his camera and setting off a pileup of more than a dozen riders.
BMC took over on the front with a dozen km to go, as the pack swamped the break along the banks of the Meuse River. With 5km to go, Lotto-Belisol did a full-team turn of impressive hammering, stretching things out, but not eliminating any of the stage favorites. An odd mix of climbers and sprinters positioned themselves for the curious finale on the Cote de Seraing, but reality quickly set in among the fast finishers -- none of whom were going to sniff victory unless they could hold on to the climbers for a beastly two or three minutes in Seraing. Eventually Orica-GreenEdge moved up as the race began to boil over, while BMC's Cadel Evans, Tour winner last year, sprang from the rear to put himself in position. Omega Pharma's Sylvain Chavanel attacked to ignite the fuse, but it was the Maillot Jaune who waited for that move, and the reaction to it, to fade. Cancellara's race senses are among the very best, but so too are Sagan's, it seems. The Slovak has now won 11 times since the beginning of May, virtually every race that was within his capabilities.
Morkov won the day's mountain points, and will be the first to wear the maillot a pois. Sagan's win moved him up the Green Jersey ladder, but Cancellara's second place kept him in control of the points and general classifications. Sagan will wear the Green tomorrow, and may well earn it for keeps then, but until then he is the points leader-in-waiting. Tejay Van Garderen of BMC finished close to the winners and will keep the white jersey as the best young rider.
Photo © Fotoreporter Sirotti