TDF 2012 Stage 1: Break Skirts the Ardennes to Peloton Finish

Sagan Wins Stage 1: Cancellara Still in Yellow

Peter Sagan wins stage 1, TDF 2012 (SOURCE: ASO)

By Jen Benepe, July 1, 2012

A 22-year-old rookie Peter Sagan racing his first Tour de France challenged the Swiss time trial champion to the line in Saraing, Belgium, clinching his first stage win at the big race.

It was strong showing for the Slovak who also beat yesterday’s best young rider Edvald Boasson Hagen to the line.

Cancellara added oomph to his Yellow Jersey by increasing his lead over the peloton just slightly, and securing more seconds in the general classification against attacks tomorrow when the race travels from Vise to Tournai over mostly flat roads.

Sagan, a racer for Team Liquigas-Cannondale, started the Tour with great expectations, having won 13 races so far this year, including 5 of the 8 stages of the Tour of California.

He made history today because he was the second Tour debutante to take the first stage.  Fabio Baldato of Italy won the first stage 17 years ago, according to Infostrada. David Zabriskie of the United States won the prologue time-trial in his first Tour in 2005, but it wasn’t a stage.

An early break at the start of this hilly course from Liege, Belgium to Seraing, skirting the Ardennes region provided an advantage for six riders.

One rider from that break, Michael Morkov of Team SaxoBank-Tinkoff racked up points to secure the Polka Dot

Sylvain Chavanel took an early flyer near the finish, but he was eclipsed by Cancellara, Sagan and Boasson Hagen

jersey by making it first over almost all but one of the mid-course category 4 climbs in the 198 km stage, with the exception of the finish climb.

Team RadioShack Nissan made sure they kept their lead rider Fabian Cancellara at a respectable distance from the leaders, and narrowed the peloton’s mid-race gap of 4:49 minutes down to less than 3 minutes about 50 km from the finish.

Bradley Wiggins’ Sky Team was easy to track in the crowd because this year the race organizers, the Amaury Sports Organization, decided that the team with the most points should all wear yellow helmets.

The climbs on the undulating course never got steeper than a 6.4 percent grade, making it ideal for the break leaders to rack up points towards the Polka Dot (climber’s) jersey.

Almost one kilometer from the start the early break consisted of Yohan Gene (Europcar), Pablo Urtasun Perez (EUS), Mazime Bouet (ALM), Nicolas Edet (COF), Anthony Delaplace (SAU) and Michael Morkov (STB). At 4 km from the start  they were 20 seconds ahead of the pack.

In the break, Michael Morkov had the most to gain having placed 51st in the time trial at Liege the day before, 24 seconds behind Cancellara.

Behind them the RadioShack Nissan Team rode off the front to keep Cancellara in the Maillot Jaune.

Only at the Tour, at 24 km the leaders were caught behind a train stop and had to wait for it to pass, which caught them for 45 seconds. But because the stop was on level ground, the rules of the Tour did not allow for the chasing Peloton to be delayed for a similar period of time.

At 94 km from the start, the six riders in the break were almost 4 minutes ahead of the peloton. At three climbs, the Cote de Cokaifagne, at 42 km from the start, Cote de Francorchamps at 49 km, and the Cote de Limieux, at 94 km, the break riders racked up climbing points.

Markov breached the top at the average 5.1 percent grade Cokaifagne, and Urtusan Perez was first at Francorchamps, a 6.4 grade.

At Limieux, a 5.1 percent grade was too much for Edet’s legs, who after an early break from the front, was chased and passed at the top by Markov. That put the Danish track rider–making his first race at the Tour this year– in first place for the Polka Dot classification.

In the Race Director, Christian Prudhomme’s car following the race was Eddy Merckx, an honor he obtained, well because he’s Eddie Merckx, but also because he hails from Belgium. The race director is just one of hundreds of vehicles that follow the riders during every stage, a custom that is both exciting and dreary all at once because of the relatively slow speed, the hours spent in the car, and the lack of stops.

Stage 1, TDF 2012, Liege to Saraing, Belgium (Courtesy ASO)

At 116.5 km from the start, and 81.5 km from the finish, the main field sprinted for intermediate sprint points. Though the six-man break had already come through, the top 15 riders at the sprint are accorded points.

As he began powering up his famous Manx Missle, it looked as though Mark Cavendish might be able to catch Matt Goss, his previous team mate, but he was only able to come in second at the line.

And there went the theory that the Cav’ wasn’t going to be looking for the sprinter’s Green Jersey in this year’s Tour.

But in the end it was newcomer Peter Sagan who took the Green Jersey as he sailed over the line in first place.

Mark Renshaw, another previous teammate came in third, and Andre Greipel who defected from the HTC Columbia Team in 2010, came in fourth.

Boasson-Hagen who was among the top 15 at today’s intermediate sprint picked up points today and yesterday at the prologue because the first 15 riders in the Prologue also picked up Green jersey points.

At 94 km from the start, the distance between the lead group and the peloton had shrunk to 2 minutes and 55 seconds.

In the fourth climb up the 4.2 percent grade Cote de Barvaux, Markov and Urtasun sprinted for the line, with Markov besting him over the line, capturing the Polka Dot jersey for the stage.

Several small crashes  marred the peloton at the beginning of the stage, giving German National champion Tony Martin a painful wrist and road rash.

After reaching the 139 Km mark there were two more crashes in the peloton, one including Euskatel rider Leon Luis Sanchez. The third crash took out Maxime Monfort who resumed the race with minor injuries.

At 8.9 Km to go the Lotto-Belisol Team headed the front of the peloton as they eclipsed the break, spitting the break riders out the back of the group’s tail.

A climb up to the finish in Seraing practically guaranteed a challenge for the sprinters looking for more points.

Cadel Evans stayed near the front at 1.9 km from the finish, with Peter Sagan, the new boy-wonder also up front.

Sylvain Chavanel took a flyer off the front at 1.8 km, followed by Cadel Evans, and trailed by Juergen Van den Broeck

Then Cancellara attacked at less than a mile from the finish and took the lead, with Peter Sagan on his wheel, and Boasson Haggen third behind them. Sagan refused to come through, with Cancellara staying up front.

As they approached the line, the peloton behind them begain to heat up, and Sagan began his sprint, besting Cancellara to the line, followed by Edvald Boasson Hagen and then from the field, Phillipe Gilbert.

General Classification Standings After Stage 1: (SOURCE: ASO)

rank rider rider No. team times gap
2. GBRWIGGINS Bradley 101 SKY PROCYCLING 05h 05′ 39” + 00′ 07”
3. FRACHAVANEL Sylvain 192 OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 05h 05′ 39” + 00′ 07”
4. USAVAN GARDEREN Tejay 9 BMC RACING TEAM 05h 05′ 42” + 00′ 10”
5. NORBOASSON HAGEN Edvald 102 SKY PROCYCLING 05h 05′ 43” + 00′ 11”
6. RUSMENCHOV Denis 131 KATUSHA TEAM 05h 05′ 45” + 00′ 13”
7. BELGILBERT Philippe 4 BMC RACING TEAM 05h 05′ 45” + 00′ 13”
8. AUSEVANS Cadel 1 BMC RACING TEAM 05h 05′ 49” + 00′ 17”
9. ITANIBALI Vincenzo 51 LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 05h 05′ 50” + 00′ 18”
10. CANHESJEDAL Ryder 61 GARMIN-SHARP-BARRACUDA 05h 05′ 50” + 00′ 18”
11. GERKLÖDEN Andréas 15 RADIOSHACK-NISSAN 05h 05′ 51” + 00′ 19”
12. NEDMOLLEMA Bauke 153 RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM 05h 05′ 53” + 00′ 21”
13. BELMONFORT Maxime 16 RADIOSHACK-NISSAN 05h 05′ 54” + 00′ 22”
14. SLOBRAJKOVIC Janez 181 ASTANA PRO TEAM 05h 05′ 54” + 00′ 22”
15. USAVANDE VELDE Christian 68 GARMIN-SHARP-BARRACUDA 05h 05′ 54” + 00′ 22”
16. ESTTAARAMAE Rein 81 COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE 05h 05′ 54” + 00′ 22”
17. FRAPERAUD Jean-Christophe 71 AG2R LA MONDIALE 05h 05′ 55” + 00′ 23”
18. GERMARTIN Tony 196 OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 05h 05′ 55” + 00′ 23”
19. ITAMARCATO Marco 125 VACANSOLEIL-DCM 05h 05′ 55” + 00′ 23”
20. RUSGUSEV Vladimir 134 KATUSHA TEAM 05h 05′ 56” + 00′ 24”
21. ESPZUBELDIA Haimar 19 RADIOSHACK-NISSAN 05h 05′ 56” + 00′ 24”
22. NEDPOELS Wouter 126 VACANSOLEIL-DCM 05h 05′ 56” + 00′ 24”
23. SVKSAGAN Peter 57 LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 05h 05′ 56” + 00′ 24”
24. IRLMARTIN Daniel 65 GARMIN-SHARP-BARRACUDA 05h 05′ 56” + 00′ 24”
25. IRLROCHE Nicolas 79 AG2R LA MONDIALE 05h 05′ 57” + 00′ 25”
26. AUSROGERS Michael 108 SKY PROCYCLING 05h 05′ 57” + 00′ 25”
27. NEDWEENING Pieter 209 ORICA GREENEDGE 05h 05′ 57” + 00′ 25”
28. BLRSIVTSOV Kanstantsin 109 SKY PROCYCLING 05h 05′ 57” + 00′ 25”


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