Stage 1 of the Tour de France last night, one of my ear-marked stages for a long night on the couch. It was 'doubly long' for me - earlier, I was at Suncorp Stadium with my Dad and 45,000 of my closest friends to watch the Queensland Reds defeat the Auckland Blues in the Super 15 rugby union semi-final. So I hit the couch still buzzing from the great football game...
I knew it would be an interesting first stage his year, both because it was a road-racing stage instead of the usual short ITT prologue, plus the finish of the race (short & steep) promised a difficult finale for the riders. However, a few timely (or untimely, depending how you see it) crashes meant there were a few significant time gaps at the end.
Winners from stage 1:
- Philippe Gilbert (see pic above), who brought his one-day classics form into the Tour. He is almost unbeatable in these races at the moment.
- Cadel Evans (see pic below), who won a mental battle today in many ways. Put over a minute into Contador, plus had the legs at the end to finish strongly, showing the rest of the field he was a force to be reckoned with. Great to see him on the right side of luck for a change with the crashes...
- Tyler Farrar, who's mid-stage sprint win over Cavendish was overwhelming. It'll give him a tonne of confidence for the flat stages to come.
Losers from Stage 1:
- Alberto Contador, who dropped about 1min 15sec from most of the leading overall contenders. Significantly, one of those is co-favourite Andy Schleck. This will have to drastically alter Contador's race strategy, meaning any defensive tactics will be out the window. He must attack now to make up the big time loss.
- Mark Cavendish, who got totally worked over by Tyler Farrar in the mid-stage sprint. He'll be looking for revenge sometime soon!!
- Samuel Sanchez / Tom Danielson / Ryder Hesjedal / Christian Vandevelde / John Gadret. All riders who would have been hoping to be the "best of the rest" and place highly overall this Tour, and who have now given up a bunch of time on the very first day. A big knock mentally for these guys...
So an exciting and dramatic start to the Tour - let's hope that's a great sign for the rest to come!!