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95th Tour de France - Stage 1 Comment
By Andy McGrath
Date: 7/6/2008
95th Tour de France - Stage 1 Comment

Words and comment after the Tour's opening stage from the likes of Valverde, Schröder, Cunego, Ricco and directeur sportifs.

“All that matters is to savour this yellow jersey” says Valverde
“I already have a lot of chance” declared Alejandro Valverde after having donned the yellow jersey. “It’s only the first stage and I have already achieved my two objectives: to win a stage and to wear the maillot jaune. I thank all my team-mates for the work they put in all day long, and in particular [Jose] Ivan Gutierrez for his fabulous work which allowed me to emerge in the front of the peloton. I hadn’t seen the finale but I attacked with 300 metres to go as I was feeling very good and I thought it the ideal moment to pull away.”

The reigning Spanish champion continued: “I want to dedicate this victory, in particular, to all the supporters who really love cycling and who follow us all year round. It’s clear that taking the maillot jaune on the first day represents a big responsibility for the team and we will see what we will do in the course of the coming days. But today, all that matters to me is to savour this yellow jersey on my shoulders.”

Close but no cigar for Kirchen
Despite narrowly missing out on the first yellow jersey of the race, Team Columbia were still very pleased with their riders’ showings. Directeur sportif and former Tour rider Rolf Aldag commented: “The guys did everything we planned today. In the last five kilometers of the race they gave everything and did a perfect job to lead out Kirchen for the final uphill climb. What is really great for us is that Kim was right up there and really confident and ready to give it a go today. The attitude and motivation is great in the team and that's a good sign for the rest of the Tour."

Great start to the Tour for Bouygues Telecom
Possibly the day’s biggest surprise was Bouygues Telecom rider Jerome Pineau, who rode superbly to a strong third-place finish. “He finished among the potential Tour de France winners. He did a very nice and strong sprint. He told us how he was feeling 20 kilometres out, and was not mistaken,” Philippe Mauduit said.

 Thomas Voeckler © Daily Peloton 

For a squad with such healthy Breton roots, it was a fine day’s work, as Thomas Voeckler also took the first King of the Mountains jersey of this year’s race. However, Xavier Florencio was involved in a nasty crash within the last 30 kilometres, and has road rash down his left leg.

No luck for polka-dot chaser Schröder
Milram were represented in the race's first break by Bjorn Schröder. Often employed as a leadout man for the likes of Petacchi and Zabel, the German had the opportunity to be a little bit more selfish on the road to Plumelec. Clashing with Thomas Voeckler for maillot a pois points, the pair both finished on eight points. However, by dint of finishing ahead of him on the last climb of the day, Voeckler dons the jersey today.

Schröder asserted: “It was incredibly tiring today. When the peloton caught us, I was completely wasted. It was a very nervous beginning and I’m happy that I wasn’t involved in one of the many crashes within the bunch. Of course it’s a shame that I missed the Mountains Jersey that closely. Voeckler crossed the line only a few spots ahead of me.”

White jersey for Ricco after de la Fuente's day in front
Saunier Duval were in the thick of the action too; David de la Fuente made the eight-man break, and then got away with Lilian Jegou late on as the escape began to play cat-and-mouse games. The attacking Spaniard could not take the first polka-dot jersey of the race, but was still pleased with the day's events: "Today, I was able to show my style, always on the attack. I wanted to be among the escapees and get the polka dot jersey. I couldn´t make it, though, because the initial kilometres were not that easy. Only on the final pass I felt really good, but it was too late to get the "maillot". The breakaway was good, because it featured eight riders, which meant their teams wouldn´t pull the peloton behind, but I believe the other riders on the lead were wrong when they tried to increase the gap to the peloton. They should have "played" with the bunch and push only in the final part of the stage. Of course, I´ll keep trying."

Meanwhile, Ricardo Ricco showed few signs of fatigue in taking a fine fifth-place at the top of the hill finish in Plumelec. While this result meant that the outspoken youngster donned the maillot blanc as best young rider, Ricco clearly has bigger fish to fry in the form of a Tour stage win: "It was a pity. My legs were very good right to the finish, but the fastmen pushed hard on the last 500 metres and blocked the narrow road uphill. I didn´t give up, but Valverde attacked with 200 metres to go, and I couldn´t catch him. Today´s race was my second after the Giro, and I felt OK. I think I´m in good shape. I´m already thinking about the mountaintop finish in stage six. I´ll go ahead with my plan, that is, taking a stage win."

The Schleck brothers stay up there and out of trouble
The best finisher for Team CSC-Saxo Bank was Franck Schleck, who finished seventh. However, it could have been even better for the Luxembourger, as directeur sportif Kim Andersen noted: "Frank actually got bumped in the sprint because one guy swayed in front of him, so he had to take his foot out of the pedal in order to avoid crashing. So he could've gotten an even better result had it not been for that particular incident, but it's fantastic that he's on form though." The team also had three other men inside the top twenty: Sastre (14th), Cancellara (16th) and A. Schleck (17th), all at seven seconds.

Back at the Tour de France after last year's controversial events, Bjarne Rijs also had some words to say: "We had a difficult and nervous start today. There were a lot of dangerous situations out there and a very tough finish so we should be thankful that we got through without any serious mishaps. Fränk was in a minor crash along the way but he wasn't hurt."

No crashes or injuries for Tour virgins Garmin
The Tour's opening stage also signifed Garmin's first participation in the race. Blessed with the best draw in the team car lottery, they were fortunate to not suffer any injuries. David Millar was the team's best finisher, in 11th place. DS Matt White commented: “With the lucky draw of car number one, I certainly had a great view of the action today! And I was very impressed with the team’s performance. Today’s stage was a nervous affair with gale force winds and narrow roads. In the end, we avoided all crashes and have our GC and TT specialists in a very handy position with David Millar within striking distance and Christian and Trent loosing minimal time.”

Lampre formidable duo Cunego and Ballan © Daily Peloton

Solid start for Lampre and Cunego
Echoing the comments of other directeur sportifs about the difficulty and nervous riding of the stage, Giuseppe Saronni said: "Like in previous years, the Tour has started with a very tricky stage, in which unfortunately Cunego lost a few seconds overall. The wind made the race all the more nervous, which can count in a nervous finale like today's. The Tour is long and Cunego's condition will improve."

Lampre leader Cunego was annoyed at losing seven seconds to winner Valverde: "The finale was hectic, they were gaps created and it wasn't easy staying in the front positions. It would have been better to not have lost these seconds, however they are things that can matter in an inaugural stage where everyone is going for the yellow jersey. A small consolation is the fact that other riders have lost a few seconds."

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