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93rd Tour de France - Stage 1 Live Coverage
By Staff
Date: 7/2/2006
93rd Tour de France - Stage 1 Live Coverage

93rd Tour de France - Stage 1 Live Coverage

Commentary by Locutus

The first road stage of the Tour will probably be a day for the sprinters. Like the Prologue, the 184.5 km course starts and finishes in the city of Strasbourg. The route is basically a long, flat counter-clockwise loop through the countryside. Expect a major bunch of early attacks as opportunists try to get off the front and spoil the day for the sprinters. While the attackers will be wanting a stage win, that will be unlikely to happen on such a flat course. The big prize that one enterprising attacker will take home is the Polka-Dot Jersey of the mountains competition: there is one lonely, small little Cat 4 climb that comes at about 100 km into the stage, and the man who wins that climb will take the lead in the mountains competition.

Some sprinters may go for the intermediate sprints to pick up points and time bonuses for the Green and Yellow Jerseys (respectively), but the big sprinters will likely save their legs for the finish. Look out for Robbie "Napoleon" McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto), "T-Bone" Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Erik "Big E-Z" Zabel (Team Milram), and Yellow Jersey wearer Thor "Thunder God" Hushovd (Credit Agricole) to cross swords for the first time at the finish line. Other sprinters to keep an eye on are Oscar "The Grouch" Freire (Rabobank), Daniele Bennati (Lampre), Isaac Galvez (Caisse d'Epargne), and Samuel "Demolition" Dumoulin (AG2r-Prevoyance). With this many outstanding sprinters gunning for glory, the sprints in this Tour could turn out to be the most entertaining aspect of the race.

Here is the poem of the day, from Dancing on the Pedals: The Found Poetry of Phil Liggett, the Voice of Cycling by Doug Donaldson and Phil Liggett:

A bunch sprint!
This is how to do it
when you want to win.
Stage 5, 2000

1547 CEST - There are seven men off the front in the break of the day: Benoit Vaugrenard (Francaise des Jeux), Stephane Auge (Cofidis), Matthieu Sprick and Walter Beneteau (Bouygues Telecom), Nicolas Portal (Caisse d'Epargne), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner). You can bet that Wegmann, who won the King of the Mountains Jersey in the Giro d'Italia a few years back, will be going for the points on the only climb of the day.

The lead for the seven escapees was as large as 5' 00", but Credit Agricole has five men on the front of the peloton keeping things in check. The gap is down to 4' 35", and Hushovd's boys are making sure that this break will get chased down later and pose no threat to the Yellow Jersey. Vaugrenard won the first intermediate sprint, Beneteau was 2nd, Etxebarria was 3rd. Not surprisingly, five of the seven men in this break are French. The French have made a living going on long attacks like this in recent years. They'd like to step up and take more of a run at the final podium, but that is unlikely again this year. Still, it's great to see so many French riders animating their home race. Maybe they're inspired by that surprising World Cup victory of France over Brazil yesterday.

1558 CEST - You know, Vaugrenard started the day only 19" behind Hushovd on GC. The fact that he got that first sprint means he picked up a 6" time bonus. If he picks up the next two sprints and places in the top three in the finish, he could take the Yellow Jersey. Not likely, but possible. The peloton is looking comfortably bunched up, not pushing too hard yet. There is still over 100 km to race, so this breakaway isn't making a huge dent on the peloton.

The peloton is very bunched up as they roll around some road furniture. They'll see a lot of that today. The men in the break are working very well together. But without Davitamon-Lotto and Quick Step, the teams of Robbie McEwen and Tom Boonen, present in the break, those two teams will be joining the chase before too long. That will spell the doom of this break.

1613 CEST - The gap is 4' 22" with less than 100 km left. Hincapie is prominent with his Discovery Channel boys near the front of the peloton. It must be strange for George being the guy who is protected by other riders like this: he did this job for Armstrong for so long in this race. But now George is the protected rider, keeping his nose out of the wind. I wonder if he'll feel tempted to and poke his nose into the wind now and then, for old time's sake. Phonak also has a few men around Floyd Landis keeping him near the front and out of trouble. Landis had a cut tire yesterday before his time trial start: that is why he was 6" late for his start time. He was getting a tire change, which is a bit of a pain with time trial bikes.

The seven leaders are going to get to that only climb of the day pretty soon. This is the big prize of the day for them: the King of the Mountains Jersey. But for now, the seven men in the break are getting their feed bags and munching away on a quick lunch.

Now the Peloton is doing that tricky scrum though the feed zone, men dodging all over to pick up their feed bags. The pace has obviously dropped a lot while the men take on the bags.

Credit Agricole has four men on the front. They are followed by a Caisse d'Epargne man, who won't help in the chsae because he has a teammate up the road.

1631 CEST - Thor is looking good with his Yellow Jersey near the front of the pack, behind his boys. He plans on keeping the Yellow longer than one stage like he did last time he had it.

Commentary by Locutus today, We have a special guest checking in from David Zabriskie's home town Salt Lake city: Dave Shields author of the very popular cycling novels  The Race and the sequel The Tour .
Good Morning Dave, thanks for joining us.

Hey Vaughn, Hey Locutus. 50 mph now! wow that is an incredible crowd for a Cat 4 climb.

 Here comes the sprint up the only climb of the day. Wegmann is really going for it... there were three men after him. At the back of the peloton, Ekimov has a mechanical. He gets a wheel change and a push from Discovery Channel director Johan Bruyneel.

1637 CEST - Wegmann won that sprint, so he'll be in Polka-Dots tomorrow. Ekimov has chased back to the peloton.

DP: So Dave, I can't remember... were you a racer?
Dave: Just an amateur. I won a couple of small triathlons.

The gap is 4' 38" for the break. The peloton crests the climb now. They are still all together. The climb wasn't enough to shed anybody off the back. Quick Step has now contributed a rider to the chase.

DP: How many trips did you take to the tour for research?
Dave: I traveled to France in 2003 and in 2005.

1650 CEST - 72 km left. The gap is down to 4' 00" with Quick Step, Davitamon-Lotto, and Milram contributing a rider to the chase. This means that Boonen, McEwen, and Zabel are all expecting to go for the sprint at the end.

DP: Dave any thoughts about Black Friday and the decision to eliminate three of the top contenders?
Dave: Black Friday is an apt description. I hope the evidence is bullet proof because I'd hate to see these guys lose such an opportunity on rumors. If the blood in the bags is a DNA match I think it's a pretty cut and dried case.

DP: What's amazing to me is that your novels plots have some interesting parallels to the real race and events...
Dave:It's been a surprise to me, too.  I reread some parts about the doping scandal yesterday and the parallels were even closer than I recalled. Obviously, there are differences, too. There are some nice sized mountains in the background today. I wish they'd surprise these guys with a real leg stretching climb on stage one. DP: So what parallels were most striking to you?
Dave: When the scandal initially breaks the first word is of 20 cyclists involved. Early reports regarding Puerto were similar. Also, at one point the main character referred to pasta as "a fix". In Operation Puerto we've heard a couple of doping references that have used pasta as code words.

1700 CEST - 65 km left. The gap is still around 4' 00". Credit Agricole, Quick Step, Davitamon-Lotto, and Milram are keeping this break in check. They haven't started to really chase hard yet... it is too soon.

Dave: To clarify, when Ben Barnes asked for "a fix," a reporter overheard him and used it as a doping scoop.
DP: Right Dave, and I recall some reference to "Buffalo Spaghetti" as a code in one of the phone taps.
Dave: That's right. It struck me as odd that pasta kept coming up. It doesn't usually seem like such a fiendish
DP: But Ben Barnes your fictional character was really only asking for a favorite meal not drugs right?
Dave: That's correct. He was talking to his old friend who had shown up unexpectedly, and used what had become a familiar term.

60 km left. The gap has fallen to 3' 45". The peloton has upped the pace a bit, or the break is starting to tire. Either way, the gap is falling steadily at this point. Thor Hushovd is looking relaxed in Yellow near the front. The peloton is strung out more now.

Dave: It's tough to talk about some of the similarities without giving things away. I hope that the scandal results in positive changes in the real world.
DP: Yeah I would hate to ruin a great experience if we gave away the plot to people who haven't read the book

There are eight men at the front of the peloton leading the chase of the seven men in the break. There are four Credit Agricole men, two Quick Step men, one Milram man, and one Davitamon man ahead of Hushovd leading the chase. The gap is down to 3' 20". Yep, the peloton has made up its mind to hit the gas.

Dave: Yeah. People always tell me how surprised they were by the ending, so I don't want to ruin that.
DP: Yeah, never could have predicted how the plot worked out.
Dave: The funny thing is, the ending took me totally by surprise, too. I found myself writing as fast as I could, and when I finished I knew that's how it had to be, even though it was nothing like my pre-conception.
DP: Interesting...
Dave: I love watching stages like these. You'd be surprised how often a minor event springs to mind as I'm writing and turns into an important point for my fiction.
DP: I liked that you covered the doping scandal from all the possible viewpoints; innocent and guilty.
Dave: Yes. My primary goal was to show things from the athlete's perspective. I think most spectators are mostly oblivious to the pressures. I believe that as people come to understand where the influences are coming from, and who is responsible other than the cyclists, that we'll make progress in the fight against doping.

Well, Thomas Voeckler of Bouygues Telecom certainly has lots of fans out on the side of the road today. He's from this region of France, which is on the border with Germany. Two men with a big Voeckler sign and two big mugs of beer were singing some kind of song as the peloton flew by.

52 km left. Team Milram and Davitamon-Lotto have put more men in the chase. The gap is down to 2' 35".

Dave: I often hear people asking, "Why not make everything legal?" I believe that would be a big mistake.
DP: Yeah me too; that doesn't solve anything.
Dave: Aron Ralston, the New York Times bestselling author of Between a Rock and a Hard Place wrote me the other day. He's the guy who cut off his arm to escape from beneath a boulder.
DP: An amazing survival story!

Dave: He's an amazing guy. He loved the books, and I thought he made some eloquent points about how important it was that we are able to believe in the accomplishments we see.

If Boonen does win today , I want Hushovd to get 2nd and keep the Yellow Jersey. Boonen's World Champion Jersey is just too cool... it would be sad not to see it on the road of the Tour.

Dave: That's a great point. Cmon, Thor!
DP: What do you think will happen with the GC, Dave?
Dave: I thought Leipheimer and Landis were great picks to fight out the final podium place before, so obviously they are now good choices for the win.

Well, here comes a sprint in the break for the intermediate points. Beneteau looks to have won it with a surprise attack.

Dave: I got a few chances to talk to Floyd recently, and I really felt like his head was in the right place. Levi once told me that "The Race" read like the story of his life. I can't help dreaming what a quote like that might be worth if he won the Tour, so I'm cheering for him with a bit of an ulterior motive

45 km left. The gap is at 2' 15". The peloton has brought the gap down, so it will just keep things like this for a while. The peloton can jump the break whenever they want now.

DP: That's a nice quote to get
Dave: It's not that I plan to get filthy rich writing novels, but I certainly hope that I can earn enough to keep writing them. I have plotted out my next book and I desperately want to write it, but my wife keeps making a big deal about putting food on the table.
DP: Geez, what a wet blanket! (Just kidding).
Dave: She's obsessed with feeding the kids for some reason.
DP: Filthy rich sounds good to me
Dave: Yeah, I guess I could live with that, It will take a major break for a cycling novel to really take off in the mainstream, though. We've had talks with movie producers, but no deal yet.

So looks like they will bring the escape back. What do you think guys?

Dave: Yep. It looks like those guys are toast, and worse, it looks like they know it.

Yeah, the peloton has fattened up: the gap is down to about 1' 30", and the peloton has slowed the chase.

Well, the seven leaders cross the Rhine River. Lots of history here, with crossings across this river between France and Germany.

DP: Saul Raisin has joined us this morning. Hi Saul Good morning.
Saul: I want to write a book.. "Raisin Hell and Back."
DP: How are you?
Saul: I did 2hrs on the trainer this morning.. I am getting strong again.
DP: Are you in Atlanta?
Saul: I'm home again.
DP: Glad to hear it. They usually don't get OLN in hospital rehab kind of places.

37 km left. 1' 48" is the gap.

Saul: Thor is raisin hell
DP: Yeah! Have you had any contact with the team since yesterday?
Saul: Yes, I have talked to them all
DP: Whoops, Saul had to leave to handle a phone call. Great to hear Saul is making such fast progress. Two hours on the trainer is big progress. We hope to have Saul join us again soon. If you would like to catch up with Saul's progress as he recovers or get one of the "Raisin Hell" bracelets like Thor and the Credit Agricole team are wearing we have some links here. I'm seeing great things for Saul in the future - Go Saul!!

The seven men off the front are looking tired, head down, knowing it is only a matter of time.

A couple of teens on a scooter drive on a frontage road alongside the peloton. They try to get a picture of the pack. This is on the German side of the border, but teenagers on scooters are a plague in France. My first day riding there, I had some chuck fruit at me and speed off, little jerks.

29 km left. The gap is 1' 23". In the peloton, The Big Hink, George Hincapie, is looking good. He's wearing the Green Jersey (because Thor, who leads in the Green Jersey competition, is wearing Yellow... George gets to wear it because he's 2nd in that competition). Lampre has now added a man to the front of the peloton to help chase. They must think that Daniele Bennati has a shot at the stage win. He has certainly been sprinting well this season.

1755 CEST - The peloton rolls through a tight corner carrying a fair amount of speed. The gap is down to 1' 14" with 25 km left.

Dave: Speaking of inspirational people, I recently got an e-mail from Victor Frankl's daughter who is probably at the race today. Her father, now deceased, wrote a book that's played a huge role in my life. It's called "Man's Search for Meaning," and I got permission to use some excerpts in "The Tour." She wrote me because she'd read "The Tour" and wanted me to know how honored her father would have been by the way I used his material.
DP: Wow, that's a nice letter to get.
Dave: It blew me away to hear such a positive reaction from her.

1800 CEST - The gap is now under a minute. Well, it looks like they will catch the break soon. This will lead to some counterattacks for sure.

20 km left. Etxebarria has stuffed his shirt full of bottles. Clearly, he is thinking about dropping back to the peloton from the break and giving his teammates some water. Oh, wait. Funny sight this: Etxebarria actually pulls through in the break with a shirt full of water bottles. That will be a half-hearted pull. Auge, Sprick, Wegmann, Beneteau, Vaugrenard, Portal, and Etxebarria have about 30" on the peloton now. CSC has moved to the front of the peloton for some reason.

Dave: The beast has timed it right again. They're just going to leave their prey dangling out there for a while. It's amazing how often they get the timing right. O'grady must be feeling good.

Well, CSC was just getting into position near the front for O'Grady, but the work is still being done by Davitamon-Lotto, Milram, and Credit Agricole.

17 km left. The peloton has the break in their sights. The men in the break are looking over their shoulder and muttering curses.

Dave: Look at those motorcycles pour out of the gap. Really bad sign for the guys at the frong.

Gerolsteiner is riding in the front of the peloton for Leipheimer, to keep him safe. Well, someone in the break attacks: it is Beneteau, which is not a surprise.

Dave: Man, I love gritty efforts like that. He's going to give it all he's got.

The other men in the break have sat up to wait for the peloton.

Dave: He looks like the only man who knows that he doesn't have a prayer.

Beneteau is in his time trialing position driving it hard. He's still got a 25" gap over the peloton with 13 km left. So Wegmann and Portal have sat up and been caught. Only Beneteau is still away.  Well, here comes the fast, furious, and dangerous final kilometers of the race. Beneteau has pushed his lead up to 30" though. He's giving it a great try for sure!

Dave: Beneteau is dragging his tongue. Looks like it could increase his wind resistance. Put that thing away! Aha. It's his secret weapon! A turbo-tongue.

11.5 km left. Now they are saying the gap is up to 35". The gap is going the wrong way for the peloton. Maybe Beneteau has an aerodynamic tongue like Christophe Moreau.

Beneteau wins the final intermediate sprint, and Hincapie takes third from the peloton!! Hincapie just took yellow! Whoa, that puts Hincapie 1" up on Hushovd!

 Hincapie took 3rd, and a Credit Agricole rider defending took 2nd in that sprint. Beneteau has been caught!

Dave: Wow! Now the question is, can he defend it at the line? I've never seen anybody sprint so hard in an effort to get out of the green jersey.

So will Hincapie contest the bunch sprint at the end? He might... he used to in the days before Lance Armstrong started winning the Tour.

6.5 km left. Quick Step and Lampre are stepping up the pace at the front of the pack. If Boonen wins the stage, he takes Yellow. 

Dave: He's going to have to mix it up in the sprint if he wants to hang on to yellow. This is going to get really interesting.

But if men like McEwen and Bennati take the top spots, Hincapie will be in Yellow by the end of the day.  Or maybe George will get into the top spots himself, yeah. That would be cool.

5 km left. The peloton is at full speed, flying through some corners in the city of Strasbourg. Milram and Liquigas have some guys at the front.

Dave: Yeah. I don't see Thor at the moment, but he's going to be super motivated to get into one of those first three places now.

 Hushovd is attentive near the front, but you can see all the sprinters here lurking: McEwen, Bennati, Boonen, Zabel, Valverde is there in his White Jersey of ProTour leader. So Valverde is also going to go for the Yellow jersey it looks like... he's only 5" off the Yellow. DiLuca has been dropped by the peloton.

3km left. Rabobank working for Freire on the front, taking over the pacemaking. Wow, this is chaotic... guys are everywhere, there is no organization that lasts for long.

Dave: First sprint of the Tour. Big nerves now!

2 km left. Liquigas has two men on the front for now... Hincapie and Hushovd are in good position. Hincapie is in about tenth. Backstedt of Liquigas is in good position too... his men are leading out. Zabel is there, Freire is there... final kilometer.

Here comes Credit Agricole and Hushovd for the leadout, and there is McEwen 3rd wheel. Here comes Boonen! Boonen goes to the front too soon! Here comes Casper and Zabel strong up the middle of the road.  Here comes Boonen! But he fades... Casper may have won it! Sort of a slo-mo leadup and sprint. Wow!

McEwen was close, as was Zabel. Boonen went to the front way, way too soon. That was a really unusual sprint. All the big dogs got their heads in the wind early. Boonen was swept away, he misjudged it completely. OH NO!! Hushovd crashed!

We didn't see where it happened! this is horrible! It looks like Hushovd crashed after the finish line. Hushovd was up along the barriers, and he crashed after the line and messed up his right arm very badly.

He sat up before the line, then crashed shortly afterward. Strange. Hushovd was up across the finish line... we can't see where he crashed, but he did.

His right arm is indeed quite bloody. It looks like he hit his right shoulder and arm when he went down. Well, we really really hope this isn't as bad as it looks. You can see that he was rolling along relaxed. The crash happened well after the line.

Hushovd is awake and knows what's going on. It looks like he actually has a severe cut on his right arm. The doctors are putting pressure on it to stop the bleeding. This will require stitches, but that will not necessarily keep him out of the race tomorrow.

Dave: Thor never crashed! He got cut by one of those plastic hands someone was whipping around out there!

Oh, Hushovd got hit by a spectator as he was going up the barriers... that looks like that is where he got the injury. Sketchy. The good news is that he finished.

Dave: The good news is, the injury is probably just a cut. Nothing that could stop him from getting to the line tomorrow.

Well, as Thor crossed the line you could see the blood coming down his arm. So no crash for Hushovd, just a cut from something being waved by a spectator. You know, Hincapie might be the Yellow Jersey by virtue of his sprint bonus. What a brilliant move by Hincapie!

Hincapie in Yellow!

Hincapie didn't contest the field sprint... he just kept out of trouble and hoped that his sprint bonus would be enough. George is happy indeed. Hushovd is 2" down in 2nd on GC.

Dave: Those hands (and also the yellow musette bag that took Lance down on Luz) are thrown out to the crowd each day from the publicity caravan, or junk train. Whatever you want to call it.

Hushovd will have the night to get that cut treated and taken care of.

Dave: What a day for Hincapie! 

And a surprise victory by Jimmy Casper ahead of the best sprinters in the world.

Dave: Hopefully the cut isn't too deep. Muscle damage is a possibility. That would be extremely unfortunate. Thor hit that plastic hand, then ramped his sprint up a second time. That was one of the oddest sprints I've ever seen, though. They slowed way down when all the favorites suddenly felt the wind in their faces way too early.

George Hincapie steps up to take the Yellow Jersey on the podium. He's satisfied with this, after his brilliant Prologue and nicking that time bonus today. I bet Lance is jumping up and down on his couch at home like Tom Cruise on Oprah, screaming, "Go George!! Go George!! I know you could do it buddy!!"

Yeah, Dave, it seems like everybody misjudged that sprint. All the leadout men burned out too soon, and left the sprinters themselves in a lurch looking at each other.

Dave: It's got to be an incredible moment from Hincapie's perspective. Putting on his own version of a jersey he's worked so hard to gain for someone else has got to feel fantastic.  I've never seen such a complete misjudgment of the finish in a pro race. It might be the result of no real trains this year. It could take a couple of sprints before they figure out how things need to shake out without Ale Jet or Cippo.

Stage 2 Top five:
1. Jimmy Casper (Cofidis)
2. Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto)
3. Erik Zabel (Team Milram)
4. Daniele Bennati (Lampre)
5. Luca Paolini (Liquigas).

Dave: The tour never ceases to amaze. That was a really fun finish to watch. I just hope Thor is okay.

The climbs near the finish the next two days will throw the trains off as well... it may take a week to get the sprints sorted properly with the lead outs. That's great news from a viewer's perspective. Confusion at the finish means adrenaline on the couch.

Here is the Top Five on GC:
1. George Hincapie (Discovery Channel)
2. Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) @ 2"
3. David Zabriskie (CSC) @ 6"

4. Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) @ 6"
5. Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) @ 6".

Dave: Thor might have grabbed yellow back if not for his collision with that plastic hand. His position was pretty good given the bizarre nature of that sprint.   If I recall correctly, those hands bear Credit Agricole's name, so Thor's going to have to have a talk with someone in the promo department.

The Sprint:
Boonen started the sprint up the right-hand barriers, but realized that it was too soon. So then he sat up and looked over his left shoulder. Boonen had McEwen on his wheel, and Hushovd was behind McEwen. Zabel and Bennati were lurking behind McEwen too, as was Fred Rodriguez of Davitamon. Then Boonen went again. Meanwhile, Casper jumped around on the left and started to go. Boonen was washed away while Casper flew to the line.  People jumped on Casper's wheel and tried to come around, but couldn't manage it! Great win for Casper. Hushovd tried to squeek through up the right-hand barriers around Boonen, and was going okay until he got clipped by that big green hand the fan was waving.

Thanks to Dave Shields and Saul Raisin for joining us today. Remember to support Saul and get a Raisin Hell bracelet. Keep on getting healthy Saul! Dave Shields books are available to order by clicking on the ad on the top right of this page.

So tune in later today for photos and full official results of the stage. Also, be sure to come back tomorrow for what is sure to be another exciting and surprising stage!



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