The Tour de France has begun….

The 2010 Tour de France began July 3rd in Rotterdam, Netherlands.. and will continue through Belgium.. and then into France for the majority of the race, until July 25th. The Tour de France is THE best and toughest bike race in the world. It is three weeks of pain and torture, but that’s what is so fabulous about it! 😉

The first day of the Tour de France was the Prologue in Rotterdam. Short and sweet, with the cyclists only approximately 10 minutes (for the stage winner Fabian Cancellara) and upwards of 16 minutes for the 197th cyclist to pass the finish line. The route was only 8.9 km, but there was rain that came through hard and fast, which slicked up the roads and resulted in two riders crashing completely out of the race. One rider even broke his jaw and shoulder blade when he smashed his face into the wet pavement.

The second day of the Tour de France saw Stage One – Rotterdam Bruxelles. There were no climbs on this day in the low-lands of Holland and Belgium. The intermediate sprints were in Zeeland Neeltje Jans (at 73km), Putte, Belgium (149.5km) and Ekeren (158.5km). This stage was 223.5 km and it saw carnage in the final kilometers. It was first chance for the sprinters to weave their magic. But just as they started to prime themselves for the rush to the line, crashes became the order of the finale. The first, on the last turn of the stage, took out Cavendish (THR) and Freire (RAB). Then Garmin was in command of the peloton in the final straight but with about 800m to go, another accident halted the progress of all but about 40 riders. Alessandro Petacchi started his sprint with 200m to go and was trailed in by Renshaw and Hushovd. It is the Italian’s fifth stage win in the Tour de France, following his collection of four in the 2003 race. It’s his first appearance in the Tour since 2004. Cancellara was caught up in the last major crash but as it happened within the final three kilometers he didn’t lose time and was to continue wearing the yellow jersey in stage two.

Today was the third day of racing. Stage Two – Bruxelles Spa. This stage was 201 km. There were three intermediate sprints – in Perwez (39.5km), Seny (112km) and Coo (177km) – and six climbs. The first points for the polka-dot jersey were awarded atop the côte de France (98km), Filot (128.5km), Werbomont (136km), Aisomont (161.5km), col de Stockeu (167.5km) and the col du Rosier (189km). Sylvain Chavanel (who had cracked his skull in a crash in the Belgian Ardennes on 25 April 2010) who first failed after attacking at the 10km mark, lured seven others to join him in a lead-out group at about the 17 km mark. And this is where he stayed for the rest of the race – out front. And for the last part he was even alone.

The race was plagued with crashes today which resulted in chaos, that allowed Chavanel to ultimatelty win the stage and also the yellow jersey.  The beginning of the scene of chaos: a following camera motorcycling crashed into the Italian Gavazzi (who was fourth over the second last summit and, as he tried to catch the leaders, he crashed). As the peloton arrived, several riders crashed while trying to avoid the bodies and bikes lying on the road. Riders involved in accidents included Andy and Frank Schleck (SAX), Contador (AST) and Armstrong (RSH) were also involved. The peloton split into three distinct groups: one containing Cancellara and Evans (amongst 33 other riders), Armstrong and Contador (in a similar sized group), and the Schleck brothers in the third peloton. At the foot of the final climb Chavanel was on his own: he led Monfort (THR) by 47”, Cancellara’s group by 1’40”, the Contador/Armstrong group by 2’35”; and the Schleck peloton by 3’40”. There was a moment of truce in Cancellara’s group as he tried to calm the situation out of respect for the fallen riders. It lasted a couple of kilometers before Cervelo sent riders to the front of the yellow jersey’s group. They set a furious tempo as they pursued Chavanel. Eventually, between the Stockeu and Rosier climbs, the three pelotons merged.

Chavanel turned into the only man racing for a result in the stage. After a brief consultation with the race jury’s car, Cancellara moved to the front of the peloton and arranged a display of solidarity on a day of most intriguing racing. The Frenchman took over the lead of the general classification. The rest of the peloton rolled across the line, 3’56” behind the stage winner. Even though the other riders eased their efforts, it was only in the final kilometer that they settled on a tranquil pace.Chavanel will wear the yellow jersey in stage three. He leads Cancellara by 2’57″.

Holy Drama!

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