Saturday, 29 June 2013

In True Tour de France Fashion...

It goes hand in hand with the Tour that the first week will see more than it's fair share of crashes as riders try to find their rhythm and jostle for position in the quick sprint finishes but today's stage one had all of that and more crammed into the final 10km meaning a few riders found themselves at the mercy of the French hospitals whilst Mark Cavendish missed out yet again on that all illusive yellow jersey...

It's Tour time and with that comes three weeks of excruciating excitement (we hope), drama and suffering but none of the riders were hoping for a final 10km that marred the opening day of the 100th edition of Le Tour.  

With feet up on sofa's, cups of tea in hand, stage guides and profiles at the ready it's finally time to settle into the best three weeks action of the year (for many cycling fans anyway) and today meant far from the pan-flat simple sprint finish in which Mark Cavendish finally pulled the yellow jersey on to his back we instead got some early excitement, and extraordinary crash and a devilish mishap with the Orica GreenEdge team bus. The yellow jersey wasn't to be for Mark Cavendish though not through want of trying as he was almost a clear favourite for the day with Chris Prudhomme pretty much earmarking this stage as a certain yellow for Cavendish but it was Marcel Kittel who now leads the race if only for a day.  

Where as Cavendish was caught behind a spectacular crash along with many others and possibly caused by old adversary Andre Greipel, Kittel managed to skip clear of trouble and sprint to victory ahead of other formidable sprinters such as, er, David Millar. It's a bit of a coup for first year WorldTour team Argos Shimano and a great accolade for the young German Sprinter regardless of how he achieved this particular success.  

Crash aside for a moment - the riders bearing down on the finish were unaware of the extraordinary events at the final inches of tarmac as the Orica GreenEdge bus crashed into the finishing gantry and became wedged throwing race organisers into mass panic eventually deciding to bring the finish forward to the 3km to go banner only for the bus to unwedge itself and organisers frantically moved the finish back to its original location. Marcel Kittel crossed the finish none the wiser insisting he had heard nothing of the intended move of the finish or the incident with the bus - he might have been more awares if he had found himself wedged in the side panel of the bus, which was what the organisers had feared the most - a bunch of riders heading helmet-first into the side of the wedged bus at 65kmph.  

Back to the crash though and before it even happened things were becoming a little nervy in the bunch with Johnny Hoogerland (He doesn't have much luck at the Tour does he?) wrapping himself  around an advertising board, leaving him to get his elbow stitched up by the team doctor on the move (have a ever mentioned what hard bastards pro-cyclists are?) until with around 12km to go a dozen riders found themselves on the deck including Ryder Hesjedal who managed to spring back up and catch up with the riders ahead. Further down the road It looked as though Andre Greipel and Sylvain Chavanel had a touch of wheels splattering riders across the road. Greipel and Sagan both hit deck while Cavendish was caught behind and missed the chance for the yellow jersey. Others who hit the tarmac included Alberto Contador who appeared to have broken something but has since said he's sore but has no broken bones while Tony Martin wasn't so lucky and it looks like he's picked up a collarbone fracture. Teejay Van Garderen and Philippe Gilbert also found themselves on the ground but were unhurt and Geraint Thomas was taken to hospital but his exact status is still unknown. 

Mark Cavendish said: “What caused the problems was changing the finish. We heard on the radio with literally 5 kilometers to go that the sprint was in 2 kilometers, and then 1 kilometer later they were like ‘No, it’s at the original finish.’ It’s just carnage.”  

It was a pretty shambolic ending to the days racing and race organisers along with the Orica bus driver may feel a little embarrassed tonight but officials have said that nobody will lose out as everyone will be given the same finishing time and if for a few bruises and scratches it looks as though the GC guys got away unaffected. Viva le Tour!

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