Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre-Farnese Vini outsprinted Mark Renshaw of HTC-Columbia and Thor Hushovd of Cervelo TestTeam to take the win as a series of crashes inside the closing couple of kilometres wreaked chaos on Stage 1 of the Tour de France in Brussels this afternoon.
The first of those chutes, which took place on the right hand bend leading into the finishing straight, happened as Mark Cavendish struggled to keep his line and drifted across the to the outside, the HTC-Columbia sprinter hitting the tarmac along with riders including Rabobank’s Oscar Freire and Cervelo TestTeam’s Jeremy Hunt.
Moments later, below the flamme rouge that marks the start of the final kilometre, just as the remaining sprinters were setting themselves up to fight for the line, another massive crash around 20 riders back resulted in the entire road being blocked.
The yellow jersey, Fabian Cancellara was one of the riders caught up in the chaos, although with the crashes happening inside the last 3km of the 223.5km stage, all those riding in the peloton when they took place will receive the same time, meaning that the Team Saxo Bank rider retains the overall lead.
Earlier, it had looked good for Cavendish as the race entered its closing 10km as HTC-Columbia’s train hit the front of the peloton, reeling in Maarten Wynants of Quick Step, the sole survivor of a three-man break that got away at the start of the stage, and Alexandr Pliuschin of Katusha, who had bridged the gap from the main field to join the Belgian with 25km to go.
With today’s stage taking the race from Holland into Belgium, it was little surprise that Rabobank’s Lars Boom went on the attack the moment the commissaire’s flag dropped, and Wynants of Quick Step and Euskaltel's Alan Perez managed to go with him, the trio sharing the points between them in the three intermediate sprints until Wynants was left on his own with around 30km to go.
While Holland’s traffic-calming road furniture didn’t result in the same havoc on the race as it had done in the early stages of this year’s Giro d’Italia, a Dutch dog caused a chute as it got away from its owner and brought down green jersey wearer David Millar of Garmin-Transitions and Liquigas-Doimo’s Ivan Basso.
The stage was ridden in glorious sunshine, a contrast to the rain that greeted yesterday’s Prologue in Rotterdam, and despite the wind and a zig-zagging course along the North Sea coast as the race headed towards the Belgian border, the peloton held together, with the weather also bringing out huge crowds in Antwerp en route to the Belgian capital.
Tour de France Stage 1, Rotterdam-Brussels (224.5km)
1 PETACCHI Alessandro LAMPRE-FARNESE 5h 09' 38"
2 RENSHAW Mark TEAM HTC-COLUMBIA "
3 HUSHOVD Thor CERVELO TEST TEAM "
4 MC EWEN Robbie KATUSHA TEAM "
5 LADAGNOUS Matthieu FDJ "
6 OSS Daniel LIQUIGAS-DOIMO "
7 ROJAS Jose Joaquin CAISSE D’EPARGNE "
8 KNEES Christian TEAM MILRAM "
9 PEREZ MORENO Ruben EUSKALTEL-EUSKADI "
10 ROELANDTS Jürgen OMEGA PHARMA-LOTTO "
11 TURGOT Sébastien BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM "
12 GERDEMANN Linus TEAM MILRAM "
13 EL FARES Julien COFIDIS "
14 ROBERTS Luke TEAM MILRAM "
15 THOMAS Geraint SKY PRO CYCLING "
16 SIVTSOV Kanstantsin TEAM HTC-COLUMBIA "
17 CHAVANEL Sylvain QUICK STEP "
18 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald SKY PRO CYCLING "
19 BARREDO Carlos QUICK STEP "
20 BARRY Michaël SKY PRO CYCLING "
Tour de France General Classification after Stage 1
1 CANCELLARA Fabian TEAM SAXO BANK 5h 19' 38"
2 MARTIN Tony HTC-COLUMBIA + 00' 10"
3 MILLAR David GARMIN-TRANSITIONS + 00' 20"
4 ARMSTRONG Lance TEAM RADIOSHACK + 00' 22"
5 THOMAS Geraint SKY PRO CYCLING + 00' 23"
6 CONTADOR Alberto ASTANA + 00' 27"
7 FARRAR Tyler GARMIN-TRANSITIONS + 00' 28"
8 LEIPHEIMER Levi TEAM RADIOSHACK + 00' 28"
9 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald SKY PRO CYCLING + 00' 32"
10 GERDEMANN Linus TEAM MILRAM + 00' 35"
11 BOOKWALTER Brent BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 35"
12 MALORI Adriano LAMPRE - FARNESE + 00' 35"
13 BRAJKOVIC Janez TEAM RADIOSHACK + 00' 35"
14 ROGERS Michael HTC-COLUMBIA + 00' 35"
15 PLAZA MOLINA Ruben CAISSE D’EPARGNE + 00' 36"
16 TERPSTRA Niki TEAM MILRAM + 00' 36"
17 KLÖDEN Andréas TEAM RADIOSHACK + 00' 36"
18 KIRYIENKA Vasil CAISSE D’EPARGNE + 00' 38"
19 VINOKOUROV Alexandre ASTANA + 00' 38"
20 KREUZIGER Roman LIQUIGAS-DOIMO + 00' 38"
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.