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95th Tour de France - Stage 1 Live
By Staff
Date: 7/5/2008
95th Tour de France - Stage 1 Live

95th Tour de France - Stage 1 Live
Eight riders away on the long escape as the peloton is eating away at the gap... can they make it to Plumelec or will the sprinters have the first day and first maillot jaune...

Stage 1 Brest - Plumelec 195 km
The peloton of 180 riders left Brest a little after noon and were given the start by tour director Christian Prudhomme after a 7 km neutral parade out of Brest under sunny skies. We didn't have to wait long for the action to start as Lilian Jegou of Francaise des Jeux taking a flyer with and being joined by 7 riders in first escape. 4 kilometers later the 8 riders Lilian Jegou (Francaise des Jeux), Thomas Voeckler (BTL), the ever aggressive Stephane Auge from Cofidis, Saunier Duval's David De La Fuente, Ruben Perez (Euskatel), Bjorn Schroeder from Milram,, José Luis Arrieta (Ag2r), Lequatre (Agritubel), Bjorn Schroeder (Milram) had a minutes gap on the peloton.

Team Columbia's Kim Kirchen at the start. Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

29.5 km into the race, Schroder led over the Cat. 4 Cote de Ty-Jopic followed by Thomas Voekler and David De La Fuente taking the 3,2 and 1 points on tap for the KoM. Their time gap was eight minutes and fifteen seconds behind the sleeping peloton. Silence/Lotto and CSC Saxo Bank led the tepid chase.

On the lower part of the second climb, the Côte de Kerivarc'h at 48.5km the crazy Auge attacked again - alas, to no avail. Voeckler took the points, with Schroeder second - a reverse of the order on the opening climb of this years Tour.

62 kilometers in to the race; with their gap decreasing to the sub six-minute mark, the riders crossed the first sprint of the day at Plonevez-du-Faou. Although these will be of mere significance come Paris, the first points in the Green Jersey competition went to Geoffroy Lequatre from Ag2R, Jegou second with Ruben Perez trailing in third.

The race went rather quiet for around thirty minutes, with the gradually-awakening Peloton closing the gap down to the four-and-a-half minutes. At the top of the Col de Toullaëron (85.5km in, 4th Category), it was the lively Jegou taking the honours, French darling Voeckler in second and Bjorn ('my parents were ABBA fans') Schroeder in third. Following the climb, the first three over, along with Arrieta, split from their original breakaway companions, though a fifteen second gap they soon gained was reeled in just as quickly.

Again, the emerging protocol of climb - nothing to report on-sprint-nothing to report on continues, as the race quietly progressed onto Gourin, the location for the second Intermediate Sprint.
The points here at 90.5 kilometers were awarded as follows:
1. Geoffroy Lequatre (Ag2r) 6pts
2. Auge (Cofidis) 4pts
3. Jegou (Francaise des Jeux) 2pts

The first crash - and subsequent retirement - occurred in the feed zone. Cofidis' Herve Duclos-Lassalle touched the wheel of the rider in front of him, injuring his left wrist. The Lotto rider Johan Vansummeren also had some problems at the Feed section; this caused a nasty cut on his right leg. As unlucky as Duclos-Lassalle is, it is always better to have riders abandon early into the opening stage as opposed to those not being allowed to start. Not that we should dwell on 2006, eh...

2008 Tour mountain king Mauricio Soler before the start.
Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

1509 CEST -  84 km to go, The breakaway's gap is now 4'30". As exciting as the final ten kilometres will be today, I'm not sold on the idea of opening the race with a road stage. Conversely, many people feel that seeing small Spanish climbers losing forty seconds in Prologues is in the paint-drying category. Our leaders are working cohesively, and they are still maintaining a gap of over four minutes.

The clouds are coming in, too, and that's all there is to report. I blame Prudhomme... if Astana were here, we'd be enjoying a Contador-Leipheimer dual attack. Bring back Landis, too, as we could enjoy a Jack Daniels or two with him as we roll along towards Plumelec.

1529 CEST - Caisse d'Epargne, Credit Agricole and Rabobank have thrown a few riders up at the front to lead the chase. Valverde has a glorious looking handlebar/brake arm set on his bike, painted in an even nicer Yellow colour. With a red frame, the colours match the Spanish flag, which is cunning as, if his quest for the Maillot Jaune were to go wrong, it would look slightly foolish

70km to go - 3'48" is the gap between our leaders and the Peloton. Voeckler, who led the Tour in 2004, won this years GP Plumelec in May - the finish of that race replicates the final kilometers of this Stage. 'I hope that winning here is a good sign for the Tour de France', he said after his triumph.

The Cofidis team have confirmed that Herve Duclos-Lassalle has broken his left wrist. The twenty-eight year old has never taken part in this race, so this is hugely disappointing for him and his team. Born on Christmas Eve, clearly this was no time of goodwill for the Frenchman.

1544 CEST - 62 km to go, 3:45 the gap. The eight up front are putting in a very determined effort; but the effort looks to be matched by a combination of Rabobank, Liquigas and Caisse d'Epargne riders stringing out the peloton in a long line as the chase heats up to control the gap. The peloton spooks some cattle as they pass... it must be the sound of the almost 400 wheels spinning.

57 km to go - the gap is down to 3'12". Definitely, the peloton have started to mobilize; Rabobank, Credit Agricole and Liquigas are doing a lot of the chasing switching off the lead at the front. Today's finish in Plumelec is home to a mere 2337 (source: 1999 French Census), which is the amount of people Riccardo Ricco has upset in 2008 so far. Cavendish is closing in on that though... the Maillot Beeg Mouff is hotting up. The gap hovers at 3:15 with the octet keeping pace with the increased effort of the chase.

Crash! Jimmy Casper and Yaroslav Popovych are involved. This doesn't look as serious as Duclos-Lassalle's earlier on. With 52km to go, the chase back to the peloton shouldn't be that problematic

Final climb of the Cat. 4, Côte de Guenervé, 146.5km At the top of the final climb, Saunier Duval/Scott's David de la Fuente takes the points. Voeckler was second, followed by Schroeder. This could mean that Voeckler and Schroeder are equal in the King of the Mountains jersey, so this will be decided on count back at the stage finish. The peloton is led over the summit by a Rabobank rider 3:23 down on our eight raiders.

1604 CEST - 45.8 km to go, the gap again hovers at 3:15. Credit Agricole have done so much work at the front today; surely the finale won't suit Hushovd. He rode well in the opening stages of Paris-Nice, but I suspect other attacks will be too strong for him. A Credit Agricole rider takes a long pull on the front and the gap goes under 3 minutes as the chase starts take effect with 42 km to go the gap has gone down to 2:45.

1612 CEST - 40km to go - 2'25 gap, Final sprint of the day in Remungol (157km), Lequartre is leading out the sprint, Perez follows behind him, Jegou takes the two points for third. So far, Lequartre has eighteen points in the Green Jersey classification - obviously with thirty-five points on offer at the finish he is unlikely to wear this jersey tomorrow.

Damn hilly course we don't expect any of the eight to be first into Plumelec a long day on the attack for the eight and nothing up but a brutal up and down to the finish definitely not, the gap is decreasing rather quickly. I predict the race will be all together within the next fifteen kilometres, then it will be up to the sprinters teams to control the front from escape attempts.

1619 CEST - Gap 1:25, The breakaway group is starting to fragment. Auge (Cofidis) attacked first, Schroeder is struggling at the back. He is going to rejoin, although I can't see him lasting long - Now David de la Fuente attacks, no-one wants to respond. The Saunier Duval rider has gained around 50m, Auge now goes, attempting to close the gap. This brief flurry of excitement, as de la Fuente is caught by Jegou, will all be in vain - a fast moving Peloton is rapidly closing in on them.

33km to go - The clouds above the riders are turning rather dark, although the sun is still shining at the finish in Plumelec. Two riders are clear, a group of six trail by a ten seconds, then the Peloton is around 1'25 back. Barloworld are making their way up the pack, at least three of their riders can be seen at the head of the Peloton. Gerolsteiner are pulling, a couple of Lotto riders are in their wheels.

Quick-Step, still reeling from Boonen's antics with the wrong type of white line, are nowhere to be seen. A lot of pressure will be on Gert Steegmans, who will be their leader in Tornado Tom's absence. Today may not suit him, but he has won stages in this race, as well as the Paris - Nice this year. Team Colombia's jersey looks slightly similar to a Discovery kit circa 2006, complete with horizontal yellow stripes on their sleeves. I wonder how South Americans pronounce 'LiveStrong'...

Barloworld will want to deliver Robbie Hunter to the finish as he wants to win the yellow jersey as a prize for his wife and new daughter Mandy who was born Thursday. Good Luck on your mission Robbie. Our two leaders are still working well with each other, the trailing six have given up and are just thirty seconds away from the Peloton.

1633 CEST - Nonetheless, with 28km to go, Jegou (FDJ) and de la Fuente (Saunier Duval) will need more than the fifty-eight seconds that they currently have for a gap to take the honours at the finish. The six 'chasers' have now been caught. Caisse d'Epargne are leading the pack. Will Valverde show his strength today, I wonder?

25km to go - Jegou/de la Fuente have a 1'26" gap on the Peloton. The terrain, so far, is still fairly flat. It is the undulations of the final five kilometres that will decide the finish. There is a tight bridge that comes within the final three kilometres, which will be important. The salient part comes in the final 700 meters, where the road kicks up until the finish. The peloton is spread out across the two lanes of the road with two Gerolsteiner riders leading.

CRASH, Florenco and Goubert have gone down, looks like they touched each other wheels. Florenco, the Bouygues rider, needs a new rear wheel. This is typical as the pace increases in the pack. At least he didn't do what Bradley Wiggins did in last years Tour, when he threw a rather expensive Mavic wheel into a roadside mound.

20 km to go, the gap goes up to 1:35. It's cat & mouse time as the peloton will time their catch for the final 7 to ten km. The gap is still remaining around the one-and-a-half minute mark. Things don't look so ominous for our two leaders so far. I suspect the distance left in the stage will be their downfall. A sighting of Quick Step leading the Peloton has been reported. These, I stress, are unconfirmed reports...

1645 CEST 17 km to go, 1:05 the gap. A mobilized peloton means one thing - breakway groups getting reeled in... the gap is now under a minute. Even so, the pack is bunched together, and their efforts look fairly leisurely. With no prize for kilometers in an attack as in the Trofeo Fuga in the Giro and no time bonuses at sprints/finishes too the duo may have more incentive soon to sit up.

Lotto are now doing a lot of work at the front. Johan Van Summeren is pulling hard - no-one seems to have mentioned McEwen as a tip for the stage. Count him out at your peril, I suggest.

11km to go - the gap is now just 18 seconds. The catch will occur somewhere around 9 and 10km to go from the finish. True optimists the duo on the front continue to work to stay away.

Crash! Looks like Soler has gone down. The 2007 King of the Mountains winner has gone down. He is clutching his wrist which has caused him problems in the recent Giro. This will be a disaster for Barloworld. Meanwhile their sprinter Hunter is still near the head of the peloton. Soler has remounted, though I can't see him chasing hard I suspect.

The chase is about to take place - 7.8km from the finish. Behind them, the Peloton are accelerating. Jegou, the local boy, has spent all day out front, but the fairytale doesn't come true. On a straightaway the peloton have our brave duo in sight... Soler nearly crashed at a tight corner on his way back to the pack. He has two teammates waiting for him, that was a close shave.

The duo are swept up by the peloton as it settles in for the finish. It appears the peloton has split into two; the pace and the crash a few kilometers back has caused this. The main group is still rather large, I suspect the GC guys are all in this part of the Peloton.

1700 CEST 5 km to go - Colombia, Liquigas and Lotto are on the front. Five Team Colombia riders are pushing hard - Kim Kirchen has been mentioned for both today's stage and the GC, and Cavendish could certainly be prominent today. These roads are very narrow, this could be a factor.

2 km to go, This is where the route comes alive. The pack go over the narrow bridge, no problems at the front. Four Colombia riders still lead, Zabel is in 5th wheel. Steegmans is there too. Agritubel rider. Roman Feillu perhaps? Schumacher goes! He's caught Feillu

1 km to go!! No response yet from behind. Here come the peloton. Cancellara is there. Valverde too. Schumacher is digging deep... Kirchen goes! Kirchen, the Fleche Wallone winner looks good. Valverde has  attacked too

150 meters Valverde passes Kirchen. Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

Valverde has got him!

200 meters to go Valverde leads!


Vittoria Alejandro Valverde!! Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

2. Gilbert. What a closing final kilometre! Jerome Pineau was third. Kirchen looked so good with 300 metres to go, he caught Schumacher easily and seemed destined to take the stage.

Alejandro Valverde the Spanish road champion leads the Tour for the first time in his career, though he has won a stage in the race before. Soler comes in 3'08 behind Valverde.

Stage 1 Results (provisional)
1. Valverde
2. Gilbert
3. Pineau
4. Kirchen
5. Ricco
6. Evans
7. Frank Schleck
8. Pozzato
9. Friere
10. Perreiro
Complete Official Results and Photos

For what was a monotonous stage until the final 10km, the run into Plumelec was thrilling... When have the GC guys shown their hand so early on in the Tour? One would expect, and it was predicted that the sprinters would have their way today, needless to say its quite a surprise to see most of the favorites in the top ten.

Valverde talking to the press - 'I'm extremely happy to have won the stage and to take the Jersey. I felt very strong, I've got to thank the team, that's very important.' 'I'm in good form, it's an important victory for me today. It's important, too, to have my eyes on the Podium in Paris, I will try and keep the jersey.'

A bold statement and challenge by Valverde - to try and maintain the lead from start to finish... Jacques Anquetil accomplished the feat in 1961 and I think one other rider, we'll try to find that. Anquetil took the maillot jaune in the opening time trial, and then stayed with his rivals as they attacked in the Alps and Pyrenees; each time trial he added to his gap to dominate the race for 21 days. Leading from start to finish didn't do anything for Monsieur Jacques popularity. Instead of embracing his success, the press castigated him for acting like a cold and calculating accountant at the race to maintain his lead resulting in a boring and passionless tour.

A few drops of rain fall on the podium as Alejandro accepts his flowers and kisses for the stage win. He returns again for the maillot jaune and steps off the top step smiling and laughing with joy. A quick handshake with the assembled dignitaries and he is back for the maillot vert of point leader.

Thomas Voeckler takes the KOM jersey, as he finished ahead of Bjorn Schroeder in Plumelec.

Thanks for joining us for the first stage of the 95th tour. Join us for Stage 2 Auray - Saint Brieuc, 165km. Preview of the stage here.

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