Tour de France 2010, Stage 1: Crash city!

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The 2010 edition of the Tour de France got off to a crash-ridden (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) start with more pileups than we can remember in a major Grand Tour stage.

Not only were there a lot — five altogether — a couple were highly unusual. In one case a dog, it looked like maybe a setter, ran out into the peloton. Giro d’Italia winner Ivan Basso went down in that one. There were also a couple of corner crashes and some near-misses on hairpins as well.

But the worst was saved for the last, and it set the table for the kind of unpredictability that made this year’s Giro so entertaining to watch. Just a minute or so from the finish line a huge tumble took out Mark Cavendish, the favorite to win the sprint finish — suddenly propelling Wenatchee’s Tyler Farrar into a potential win.

Farrar, as he later pointed out, was perfectly positioned, too — near but not at the front, ready to be slingshot into the fore by a lineup of teammates. Then disaster took him out too. Another rider’s front wheel touched Farrar’s rear wheel and caught its spokes in Tyler’s rear derailleur, tearing off the shifter. The rider went tumbling off, leaving Farrar towing his bike for several yards.

Italian Alessandro Pettachi, suspended in 2008 for overuse of asthma medicine in a case not considered doping, won the sprint in a finish that was hardly the gladiator faceoff expected between Cavendish and Farrar. Both of those riders handled their disappointment with shrug-of-the-shoulders aplomb. “These things happen in bike racing,” Farrar told the Versus Channel (34 on Seattle Comcast), which by the way is providing peerless coverage of this year’s Tour.

Because of the late crashes, everyone was given the same time, leaving overall standings unaffected and Fabian “Spartacus” Cancellara in the yellow jersey. Tomorrow’s stage 2 may result in a bit of a shakeup, containing the Tour’s first climbs.

Full report from VeloNews.

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