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July 05, 2008

Stage 1 on the road

It's like a classic for the jersey today, as the Tour foregoes a prologue and gives the leader's jersey to the first man to finish a 197.5 kilometer stage in Brittany, the far west of France.

To borrow from Liggett, this one's got a sting in the tail, as there's a tough climb up to the finish that would seem to preclude the field sprint experts and throw things toward the classics specialists and sprint opportunists like Zabel and Freire.

Eight riders went away early: Jegou (FdJ), Voeckler (Bouyges), Auge (Cofidis), de La Fuente (Saunier Duval), Perez (Euskaltel), Arrieta and Lequatre (AG2R), and Schroeder (Milram). Their gap got up to 8:15, but has been creeping down for 70 kilometers.

There are polka-dot points up for grabs today, and it looks like Thomas Voeckler may be chasing them.

First rider out of the Tour is Herve Duclos-Lassalle of Cofidis. Son of longtime pro Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, he fell and injured his left wrist.

1st climb, 4th Category:
1) Bjorn Schroeder, 3 pts
2) Thomas Voeckler, 2 pts
3) David de la Fuente, 1 pt

2nd climb, 4th Category:
1) Voeckler, 3 pts
2) Schroeder, 2 pts
3) Geoffroy Lequatre, 1 pt

3rd climb, 4th Category:
1) Jegou, 3 pts
2) Voeckler, 2 pts
3) Schroeder, 1 pt

We've also had two intermediate sprints:

1st intermediate sprint:
1) Lequatre, 6 pts
2) Jegou, 4pts
3) Perez, 2 pts

2nd intermediate sprint:
1) Lequatre, 6 pts
2) Auge, 4 pts
3) Jegou, 2 pts

One interesting change to this year's Tour is that there are NO time bonuses available, either at intermediate or finish lines.

You can get an idea of which teams feel like they've got a chance at the finish by who is working at the front to bring the break back. Today, that's Rabobank (for Oscar Freire), Caisse d'Epargne (for Alejandro Valverde), Liquigas (for Fillippo Pozzatto) and Credit Agricole (for Thor Hushovd).

At the day's last intermediate climb, Schroeder took 1 more point than Voeckler, so whichever of that pair finishes the stage more highly placed will wear the first King of the Mountains jersey:

4th climb, 4th Category:
1) de la Fuente, 3 pts
2) Schroeder, 2 pts
3) Voeckler, 1 pt

With less than 40k to ride, the gap is down to just over 2 minutes.

3rd intermediate sprint:
1) Lequatre, 6 pts
2) Perez, 4 pts
3) Jegou, 2 pts

The gap has continued to drop. As it approached 1:30, the break started to splinter, with Auge and then de la Fuente attacking. Jegou was the only one who could bridge to de la Fuente, and the pair have kept about 1:30 on the field, while their 6 compatriots have been reabsorbed.

Jegou and de la Fuente were caught with about 7 kilometers to ride. At almost the same moment, a crash in back took down 3 Barloworld riders, including last year's King of the Mountains, Mauricio Soler, who has said he hopes to ride for yellow this year. He's seriously gapped as Silence-Lotto and now Team Columbia are full gas at the front.

Coming to the finish, a series of attacks went off the front, including Stefan Schumacher, then a big attack by Kim Kirchen that looked like it might stick with 250 meters to go, but Alejandro Valverde showed amazing closing speed, reeled in and rocketed past Kirchen and took the stage and the first yellow jersey of the 2008 Tour.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 5, 2008 in Alejandro Valverde, Thomas Voeckler | Permalink

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