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July 02, 2006

Stage 1 on the road

There's a doomed break of 7 quality riders with about 20 miles to ride: Stephane Auge of Cofidis, Walter Beneteau and Matthieu Sprick of Bouyges Telecom, Unai Etxebarria of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Nicolas Portal of Caisse d'Epargne, Benoit Vaugrenard of Française des Jeux, and Fabian Wegmann of Gerolsteiner. They had 4:30 in hand for a long time, bu the gap is now only about 90 seconds.

Wegmann took the first King of the Mountains points, over a 4th Category climb, so he'll be the first rider in polka-dots.

Tom Boonen told the Tour website he thinks he'll take the yellow jersey off Thor Hushovd today, and wear it into Belgium. There's a 20-second time bonus for the win, 12 seconds for 2nd and 8 seconds for 3rd, and Boonen finished just 11 seconds behind Hushovd in yesterday's Prologue: "If I’m first and Thor is third, then it’s enough for me to get the lead and I think I have the speed to beat him..."

Boonen told Jason Sumner of VeloNews he thinks Hushovd's performance yesterday gives Boonen a better chance today, since the training Hushovd has focused on endurance and time-trialling is likely to hurt his sprinting.

With 21 kilometers, about 12.5 miles to ride, the team cars are getting pulled, and the gap to the 7 breakaway riders is down around 45 seconds.

At 10 miles to ride, the break is splitting. Beneteau has attacked off the front, he'll be the last one caught. Portal and another rider are trying to get back up with Beneteau, while the other 4 are sitting up, waiting to be caught.

Portal and Wegmann have given up, so only Beneteau is out there. The peloton slowed down on the capture, so he's out to 35 seconds, but he's got long, long odds.

Beneteau took the final intermediate sprint points and a 6 second time bonus. As the peloton approached the line, George Hincapie threw down, sprinting out of the field for the bonus time. One of Hushovd's Credit Agricole teammates countered, and passed Hincapie for the 2nd-place and 4 seconds bonus, but Hincapie took 2 seconds and became the loneliest man in the race, “the Yellow Jersey on the road.” It's going to be an interesting race for the GC.

Beneteau is caught and we're down into the last 3 miles to ride.

Danilo Di Luca has gone off the back. Apparently, he's on antibiotics, but he's going to lose a couple of minutes at least today.

Rabobank goes, then falls back. Liquigas has a few riders together on the right of the field. Less than 2 kilometers to ride. Hincapie is in the top 15, Hushovd is in the front 10.

One of the Liquigas riders pulls off, Backstedt is 8 riders back. Zabel, Freire, Hushovd near the front with a k to ride. Hushovd is in 2nd wheel, with McEwen right on his wheel. Zabel right behind McEwen.

Now the chaos comes, Boonen may have gone early, shadowed by McEwen, Jimmy Casper drops Boonen, Zabel is right there. Hushovd is bleeding heavily from his right arm. He's sitting against the barricades after the stage finish.

Looks like Jimmy Casper of Cofidis for the stage win, but it's very close.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 2, 2006 in Thor Hushovd, Tom Boonen | Permalink

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