|Jambon Awards: Tour Stage 1 |
A View from the Cube, by Locutus
What a day. In the undulating hills of Luxembourg, a stage that was riddled with crashes and attacks ended with Lampre's 23 year-old Swiss rider Rubens Bertogliati taking both the stage and the Yellow Jersey. As usual, the first stage of the Tour saw a lot of nervous riding. With so many riders and so many teams so close to the Yellow Jersey, the racing was aggressive from the start. Brad McGee of FDJeux.com took an early flyer, and then Jalabert came out of sprinting retirement to take third behind Erik Zabel of Telekom and Stuart O'Grady of Credit Agricole in the day's first intermediate sprint. This gave the smiling Frenchman the virtual Yellow Jersey, and his CSC-Tiscali team immediately took up residence at the front of the peloton.
In the midst of a series of attacks and chases, Christophe Moreau of Credit Agricole went down at least twice. The second time, he tangled up the crash-prone American, Tyler Hamilton of CSC-Tiscali. While it looked as though Hamilton didn't hit the pavement like Moreau, he did get slowed and had to spend energy chasing back to the peloton. Rabobank came to the front for a while, with Levi Leipheimer at the back of the train immediately in front of his old U. S. Postal mates. Levi seemed to be sending a message to his former boss, Lance Armstrong, saying that he would be a serious force to reckon with in the coming days. Then Rabobank launched the attack of Michael Boogerd up a steep climb; he was followed by Axel Merckx of Domo and a few other big names. The Yellow Jersey himself moved to counter, and together they got a nice gap on the field. This immediately panicked teams like ONCE and Credit Agricole, who led the successful chase to reabsorb the break.
As the attacks and counter-attacks continued, Telekom put the hammer down in the last 10km to keep the race together. They looked like they'd played their cards right as they wound into the last kilometer with Hondo in perfect position to lead out Zabel. Then the young Lampre rider put in a wicked attack up the final uphill section before the finish line, and Telekom had the same thought everyone else did: who is that guy? Perhaps as a result of his anonymity, Telekom hesitated long enough for Bertogliati to open up a big gap. As he crested the small hill and headed down to the finish, he looked over his shoulder to see the Telekom train desperately bearing down on him. Bertogliati looked like he'd run out of legs at the end, and the perspective of the cameras made it look like he'd be swallowed by the surge of the sprinters as he sat up and gazed over his shoulder one final time. It wasn't concession that caused him to sit up, but rather the realization that he had outfoxed the greatest riders in the world to take the stage. His strong ride in the Prologue--he finished 19th @ 16.94", just a fraction of a second behind Leipheimer--meant that the time bonus for the stage win landed him in the Yellow Jersey. A brilliant win for a strong young rider.
Ham-Gazers of the Day:
Golden Hams of the Day:
- Fred Rodriguez, Domo-Farm Frites. Did he have a crash off-camera? If not, his finish today--he finished at 3' 39" today, crossing the line with fellow sprinters Jimmy Caspers of FDJeux.com and Jan Svorada of Lampre--does not bode well for his chances in the days to come. Today's terrain should have suited him, so he is clearly not in form to challenge sprinters like Zabel, McEwen, and O'Grady right now. Hopefully this was just a bad day, and "California" Fred will bounce back with some strong finishes before the Tour hits the high mountains. Really, though, today's stage was great in part because there was so little ham-gazing. So what if Fred had a bad day? He was in good company, as the pace, the accelerations, and the crashes pounded a lot of riders.
- Christophe Moreau, Credit Agricole. He lost big time today (3' 20"), seriously damaging his hopes for a good GC finish, but this was likely the result of crashes: he crashed seriously while training in the leadup to the Tour, and he went down a couple of times today. Bad luck for the great hope of France.
Ham Grazers of the Day:
Too many to count. But one does stand out.
- Rubens Bertogliati, Lampre Daikin. He lived every rider's dream today, launching himself from obscurity into stardom within one kilometer of racing. He took the stage win, the Yellow Jersey, and the White Jersey, and showed his strong finish in the Prologue wasn't a fluke. If he never wins another race, he'll still be a cycling hero for the rest of his life. Way to go dude!
- Christophe Mengin, FDJeux.com. His long attack with Lampre's Ludo Dierckxsens and Stephane Berges of AG2r Prevoyance won him the early lead in the Polka-Dot Jersey, as he was first over most of the important climbs of the day.
- Erik Zabel, Team Telekom. Even though he didn't win the stage, he took the Green Jersey and has the early lead over hard-charging Aussies Stuart O'Grady of Credit Agricole and Robbie McEwen of Lotto. He's also only 10" back of the Yellow Jersey, so look for him to take the overall lead tomorrow and hold it until the team time-trial on Stage 4. It should be a blast watching these sprinters go at it for the next week.
- The Entire Peloton. After a very difficult stage rife with hard attacks and countless crashes, every single rider is still in the race. When was the last time the entire field made it intact through the first two days of the Tour? Hats off to everyone in the peloton for hanging tough and fighting hard, including those who had a bad day and ended up ham-gazing.
- Erik Dekker, Rabobank. He's won four stages of the Tour in the last two years, but the tough man from the Netherlands broke his leg during Milan-San Remo. He's just coming back from that serious injury, and hit the pavement again early today. He finished Stage 1 in 187th out of 189, 11' 36" behind the winner. But he finished, dammit! He's not in form and he's banged up, but he's hanging tough...here's hoping he stays in there and does something special by the time the race gets to Paris.