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93rd Tour de France - ProT

France, July 1-23, 2006

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Stage 1 - Sunday, July 2: Strasbourg - Strasbourg, 184.5 km

Live Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Anthony Tan, Tim Maloney, and Brecht Decaluwé

Live report

Live coverage starts: 13:00 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:00 CEST

Ready to start
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

11:58 CEST   
Sunday's Stage 1 flat sprinters' stage starts and finishes in Strasbourg, with a 30km incursion into Germany midway through the stage. It will be a tight, tense day with plenty of crashes and a big battle between Boonen's Quick.Step, McEwen's Davitamon-Lotto and Zabel's Milram teams to win the first en ligne stage at Le Tour 2006.

13:06 CEST   
Today's first stage starts in Strasbourg's Place de la Cathédrale, with a few kilometres of neutral riding before the race kicks off on the outskirts of town and heads west. There is just one categorised climb today, the Cat. 4 Côte de Heiligenstein after 101.5 km, and the winner of that will wear the first polkadot jersey of the Tour. There are also intermediate sprints, at Saverne (km 53), Plobsheim (km 137) and Kehl (km 175.5). Plenty available in what is expected to be a sprinters' stage.

The weather today is rather nice: It's about 30 degrees, with beautiful clear blue skies, with no clouds. There's a slight wind from the southwest blowing up the Rhine valley that will be a headwind for the riders as they're heading south. But when they turn around and head north into the last 50 km, they'll have a tailwind. There will be some fast racing at the end.

13:17 CEST    2km/182.5km to go
After riding 7.2 km at a relaxed pace, the flag drops and the race is on!

Discovery Channel team manager Johan Bruyneel told Cyclingnews this morning, "It will start off nervous like it always does. Hopefully there are not too many crashes. A lot of teams want a bunch sprint, so obviously that's going to be part of the tactics for today. Guys like Boonen, McEwen, Hushovd, Bennati, O'Grady - those teams are going to want to keep it together."

13:25 CEST    7km/177.5km to go
The French commence the hostilities in the 2006 Tour, with Stephane Auge (Cofidis), Matthieu Sprick (Bouygues Telecom) and Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux) making the first breakaway after 3 km.

13:30 CEST    12km/172.5km to go
Another Frenchman, Nicolas Portal (Caisse d'Epargne), has joined the three leaders out front, and the group has a 150m lead on the bunch.

13:35 CEST    16km/168.5km to go
The four leaders now have 1'05 on the bunch, but are about to be joined by three more: Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel) and Walter Beneteau (Bouygues Telecom), who are just 12 seconds behind the leading break. Looks like the break of the day is being established.

13:38 CEST   
For those of you who follow our rider diaries, we have something a bit special this year: Levi Leipheimer's video diary. To watch it, click on this link.

13:42 CEST    20km/164.5km to go
The break has swelled to seven riders now, with the junction being made at the 13 km mark. The leaders again: Stephane Auge (Cofidis), Matthieu Sprick (Bouygues Telecom), Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux), Nicolas Portal (Caisse d'Epargne), Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel) and Walter Beneteau (Bouygues Telecom). Vaugrenard is the best placed on GC, lying in 31st at 19 seconds behind Hushovd.

Quite a few of the others in the break finished in the bottom 10 yesterday, not that it's that important in a prologue.

13:45 CEST    22km/162.5km to go
The leaders have over three minutes now on the bunch, where Mighty Thor's Credit Agricole boys have assumed the position on the front.

13:51 CEST    25km/159.5km to go
As the advantage continues to build over the four minute mark, things start to settle down in the peloton. The successful break was initiated after only 3 km, which is a bit rare for the Tour de France. Usually it takes 50 km of attacking before the bunch relents and lets a group go. But this is a different Tour, of course.

13:59 CEST   
In this Franco-German area of France (and indeed we cross into Germany for a bit), there are a few similarities among the names of the towns that we visit en route. e.g.


Hands up (no, not you in front) who can guess the recurring theme. First one to the buzzer wins...1 million dollars. Hang on, wrong competition. [searches prize vault]. OK, how about a tube map of London?

14:07 CEST    35km/149.5km to go
As we wait for our readers to try and answer the braintwister posted above, we'll give you an update on the race.

The last time check was at km 26, with the seven man break holding a 4'30 lead over the peloton.

One man who is going to have some work to do today is Davitamon-Lotto's Fred Rodriguez, who will try to get his man Robbie McEwen up the front when it counts. "Yesterday I took it kinda easy in the prologue," Rodriguez told Cyclingnews at the start. "Today my job is to make sure that Robbie is in the right position to win the stage. I'm looking forward to it."

14:15 CEST    41km/143.5km to go
The leaders have covered 41 km now, and are 10 km from the first sprint in Saverne, still holding 4'30 over the Credit Agricole-led peloton. Hushovd's boys aren't going to let the front seven get too far ahead.

14:20 CEST    45.5km/139km to go
The break rolls along in the sunshine with 4'15 over the bunch. There are two Bouygues riders in the break: Matthieu Sprick and Walter Beneteau, and also five Frenchman out of seven in front. And there's a French team chasing: Credit Agricole.

14:28 CEST    52km/132.5km to go
The break comes up to the sprint in Saverne and there is a bit of a fight for the points and bonus seconds. It's slightly uphill, and the break gets a big cheer from the crowds that line the roads. Vaugrenard attacks with about 200m to go and wins it easily. 6 seconds now, which puts him at 13 seconds behind Hushovd on GC. Etxebarria looked like he got second, but we'll confirm that in a tic.

14:29 CEST   
Second was Beneteau in fact, then Etxebarria.

14:36 CEST   
Oscar Freire is an outsider for the win in today's stage, but he has a chance. "We will see how the race unfolds and I guess I will find my way," he told Cyclingnews at the start. "The stages of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow are more interesting for me, because the finish should fit my capabilities even more." The former world champion also explained that the construction of the teams affects his chances: "Boonen and Hushovd have a team that is built up around them. The teammates work only for them and that means they can prepare the sprint just like they want it to unfold."

14:37 CEST    60.5km/124km to go
Portal has some problems with his bike and gets some assistance. He gives the signal to his team car and gets a new bike.

14:40 CEST    62.5km/122km to go
Portal chases back on through the mini-caravan behind the break, and rejoins his six companions.

The leaders again: Stephane Auge (Cofidis), Matthieu Sprick and Walter Beneteau (Bouygues Telecom), Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux), Nicolas Portal (Caisse d'Epargne), Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel). Vaugrenard is the best placed on GC, sitting (now) at 13 seconds behind Hushovd. If he can win another sprint (or better, two), he'll get very close. It's six seconds per intermediate sprint and 20 seconds for the win.

14:44 CEST    63.5km/121km to go
The terrain gets a little lumpier now, and everyone is feeling the heat as the Credit Agricole boys continue to lead the bunch in pursuit of the break. The gap has stayed steady, and is now 4'35.

14:45 CEST   
Here's an interesting stat: Unai Etxebarria has done the most work in the break, spending 20 percent of the time in front. Stephane Auge has done the least, spending only 10 percent.

14:52 CEST   
The bunch races by a handful of fans supporting Thomas Voeckler, as Credit Agricole's men continue to lead.

Isaac Galvez (Caisse d'Eparnge) is another outsider for a bunch sprint. "Our leader is Valverde and all my teammates work for him, except for me," he told Cyclingnews. "I need to find my way alone in the sprint." The Spanish rider would like to see some mates working for him, but he played it down. "It's very difficult but...c'est la vie, non!"

14:54 CEST    69.5km/115km to go
The break races through Marlenheim. Does anyone know the answer to that question posed previously? The answer isn't that all the towns have Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises, although that was a good guess.

Clearly not many people are enthused about winning a free London tube map.

14:56 CEST   
A couple of tourists keep pace with the break for a while on the bike path next to the main road. But not for long.

Saunier Duval and Liquigas are marshalling the all-important rear zone of the peloton.

14:59 CEST    73.5km/111km to go
Another couple of tourists - on a tandem - wave to the break as it makes its way through the flat farmland in the hot sun.

Discovery Channel is wearing fluoro back numbers, because they are leading the teams GC.

15:05 CEST    78km/106.5km to go
The bunch makes a right hand turn in front of a hundred people standing on the corner. Floyd Landis (Phonak) has moved up right behind the Credit Agricole train, keeping an eye on things. The last time check was 4'10, down from a max of 5'00.

15:15 CEST    86.5km/98km to go
The average speed after one hour is 44 km/h, which is to be expected on a stage like this. Actually, if you go back to previous Tours, the average speed in the first hour is typically 50 km/h. Not that that's anything outrageous, but doing it day after day after day is another matter.

Let us say that eliminating doping will have a negative affect on the speed (as one consequence). From a spectator's point of view, does this actually matter? I'd argue no, because you can't really tell how fast the riders are going unless you measure it. But it could have an affect on the average intoxication level of a roadside fan, because they will have to wait longer for the riders to get to where they have set up the campervan, the esky full of beer, and the table. And in that time, they will have consumed more of the beer, presuming they brought enough.

So is the anti-doping fight being funded by alcoholic beverage companies? There are wackier theories out there...

15:17 CEST    87.5km/97km to go
Anthony Charteau leads the bunch, doing a lot of work for his captain Thor Hushovd.

Meanwhile, the break rolls along at a nice tempo, past Mont Ste Odile. The average speed after two hours is consistent at 43.9 km/h.

15:20 CEST   
Ok, the answer to the trivia question is not that all the towns have "heim" in them. That would be too obvious, and yes, I do have an answer in mind. But it's clear that our readers really want this tube map. I'll even sign it.

15:23 CEST    92.5km/92km to go
The riders are still heading south, on gently undulating roads. The bunch has the gap pegged at 4'37 as Florent Brard (Caisse d'Epargne) moves up near the front and chats to a teammate. Hushovd sits about 20-30 wheels back. Phonak is actually in the second "rank" of the peloton, looking after Floyd.

15:29 CEST    96.5km/88km to go
Gert Steegmans is a decent sprinter, but in this Tour de France, the young Belgian will work for the big favourite, Australian Robbie McEwen. "We will try to arrange a bunch sprint," he told Cyclingnews. "There are many teams who have the same goal, so that should work out fine."

What is his task in the sprint? "I need to deliver Robbie in a good position in the last kilometre. There, Fred (Rodriguez) will take over."

15:30 CEST    101km/83.5km to go
The leaders are almost on the first climb of the day, the Cat. 4 Côte de Heiligenstein. This mighty ascent averages a leg-snapping 4% for an agonising 1.8 km (permit me a little licence here).

15:33 CEST   
From Andrew E, who answered our question thusly: "The tour is heading thru an anti-gravity field....cows float. Heim theory is a term used to describe a non-mainstream theory of gravitation and particle physics, proposed by Burkhard Heim."

It's not that complex, but I like the theory.

15:36 CEST    102km/82.5km to go
The leaders are on the climb now, riding through big crowds of fans waving green PMU hands. Wegmann hits out early, but Etxebarria marks him. Wegmann gets it easy from Sprick and Etxebarria.

In the bunch, Slava Ekimov has to get a bike change, but he's quickly under way after a push by Bruyneel.

15:38 CEST    104.5km/80km to go
Portal keeps the pressure on over the top, but Wegmann sits up and allows the dropped riders to rejoin the break. All seven together now, with 4'35 on the bunch.

15:39 CEST   
A couple of readers have written in with the answer to the trivia question as being, "They're all German names." Well, that's nearly as lame as the answer I have in mind, but it's not the one.

15:43 CEST    108.5km/76km to go
Aha - a change. Wilfried Cretskens (Quick.Step) gets to the front of the bunch to help out the tiring Credit Agricole boys.

15:46 CEST   
"How about that if you pronounce the entire list backwards it summons the shade of Goethe?" writes Christopher Rowe. I like that one! Let me test that theory [tries to turn potpal dnuora]. Ouch, that hurt. Oh look: 'Begone, shade of Goethe!'

But it wasn't the answer to the trivia question.

15:48 CEST    112.5km/72km to go
The breakaways enjoy a little shade now as they race along 4'08 ahead of the peloton. It's still a bit of a headwind, and it seems Liquigas have got the upper hand in numbers at the rear of the peloton.

15:50 CEST    113.5km/71km to go
The competition will close with 40 km to go. If no-one has guessed the (admittedly lame) answer by then, I'll save the signed London tube map for another trivia question.

Portal takes a turn in front, then Beneteau, Auge and Wegmann. All the breakaways are cooperating very well, trying to keep their gap over the bunch for as long as possible. It's a big ask, as now a Milram rider has joined the Credit Agricole train.

15:53 CEST    114.5km/70km to go
It's nothing to do with 'heim' meaning home either. Well it does mean that in German, but it's not the answer I desire.

CSC has moved up in the bunch too. Despite losing Basso, they still have Sastre and Schleck for the GC, O'Grady for the sprints, Voigt for the breakaways, and Zabriskie for the time trials. It's not a bad team.

15:56 CEST    116.5km/68km to go
The gap falls to 3'55 as now Davitamon, Quick.Step, Milram and Credit Agricole have joined the chase. The bunch rides along another tree-lined road, past clumps of spectators trying to keep hydrated.

The breakaways ride over a bridge and enter Sand, where another large crowd has come out to watch the Tour. It's still popular, never fear.

15:58 CEST   
Erik Dekker is often a rider for an early break, but at the start, he told us that wasn't his plan. "I ain't going to attack! I need to stay with Menchov," the Dutchman said. For a natural born attacker, that's hard to accept, but he will probably take his chances later on. "Let's see what today brings, things can change. I'm feeling very fit for the moment, but from now on it will gradually decrease."

16:01 CEST    121.5km/63km to go
Sprick rolls through for a turn, as Etxebarria signals for his team car. Auge comes through next, trying but failing to improve his ratio of time spent at the front (still 10 percent). It's still 4'00 to the bunch, which hasn't started riding hard yet.

16:03 CEST    162.5km/22km to go
Yes, all the towns noted above will see the Tour come past today. But that is not the answer to the trivia question, which seems to have stumped a few people. Only another 22 km to get it!

16:05 CEST   
Philippe Gilbert is fast at the finish, but he explained to Cyclingnews that he would work for someone else: "There are guys in the team who are more specialised in sprints then me; so we're going to work for Eisel."

Will we see an FDJ train in the sprint? "No, there are teams who are stronger than us so we're try to deliver Eisel to the right spot. I'm going to ride just before or after him."

16:08 CEST    126.5km/58km to go
I failed to mention Bobby Julich above in the CSC list. Although he did place third in the 1998 Tour, he is probably going to ride support for someone like Sastre or Schleck this time, and maybe go for it in the time trials.

16:10 CEST    127.5km/57km to go
Charteau and Cretskens are leading the peloton, now 3'36 behind the break of seven. The bunch is riding through Obenheim while the break is through Gerstheim. Yes, they have 'heim' in them and yes, this area of France was part of Germany at one time, but no, you don't win a signed London tube map with those answers.

16:13 CEST    129.5km/55km to go
The break should make it to the next sprint at Plobsheim with a fair bit of its lead intact. It's only 8 km hence, and Vaugrenard will be looking to build on his time bonuses to move up on GC. He's in a virtual 15th at the moment.

16:14 CEST   
Vansevenant moves to the front of the peloton with Vasseur, Vansummeren and a largish Milram rider.

16:16 CEST    131.5km/53km to go
It's the 198cm tall figure of Johan Vansummeren leading the bunch at the moment, followed by Ralf Grabsch (Milram). Cedric Vasseur (Quick.Step) rolls through for his turn, then a Credit Agricole rider. Boonen moves up alongside Hushovd. Last position in the peloton is being held by Maxim Iglinsky (Milram).

2'47 between the seven in front and the 169 behind.

16:17 CEST   
"Adding the square of the number representing each letter (A=1, B=2 etc), then taking the cube root of that sum, results in an ascending order of all prime numbers, which incidentally are identical to the same formula applied to the birthdates of the last tour victors" writes 'jdege'. Interesting theory, but I'm not going to test it like I did the last one.

16:18 CEST   
Nothing to do with Leipheimer being Tour favourite either.

16:20 CEST    134.5km/50km to go
The bunch crosses the canal du Rhone de Rhine, with the main Rhine river in the background. Ralf Grabsch does a big turn on the front of the peloton, and the gap is 2'22 with 50 km to go.

16:21 CEST    135.5km/49km to go
The breakaways are getting close to the second sprint of the day, which is due in 3 km. There's also another sprint at 9 km to go, which could be entertaining. It doesn't look like the leaders will survive that long, but we'll see.

Cretskens and Vansevenant share a can of cola as the pace eases a bit in the bunch. Many cans are being consumed now.

16:23 CEST   
Yes, all the towns are on the Tour's route today, but that's a little trivial for a trivia question. Trust me, the answer is really trivial.

16:25 CEST    137.5km/47km to go
Beneteau hits out for the sprint and wins it easily from Vaugrenard and Sprick. That means Vaugrenard has picked up 10 bonus seconds today, moving him into a virtual 10th overall, just behind Landis. But not quite close enough to take the white jersey from Sebastian Lang.

16:26 CEST   
The break reforms as it exits Plobsheim, stage left. Meanwhile, the bunch enters the town 2'00 behind the group in front.

16:28 CEST    139.5km/45km to go
Each town has a brewery? Good guess, but the speed of the race is making it hard for us to fully test that answer.

Now the bunch has eased off the throttle a bit, letting the break dangle out there at 2'20.

16:31 CEST    141.5km/43km to go
The break hits a wider road now, and is just about to head into German territory for a bit.

16:32 CEST    142.5km/42km to go
Only 2 more km to guess the trivia question to win a signed London tube map. Think outside the box!

16:34 CEST    143.5km/41km to go
Vasseur is on the front of the bunch again with the tall Vansummeren. They cross the Rhine river, and are in Germany. In Baden-Württemberg to be slightly more precise. 2'10 over the bunch.

16:36 CEST    144.5km/40km to go
As the break finishes its crossing of the Rhine, we close our trivia question, which was, what do the following towns all have in common?


After reading the last batch of answers, I will reveal the answer!

16:39 CEST   
"All the cities on the route have names that sound like bitchin' heavy metal bands (so long as no one puts "Steamroller" behind the city name)." [Pedro Candell]. But it doesn't win you a tube map.

And while they are not serviced by the London Underground, that is not the answer to the question. The answer is...

16:39 CEST   
...that each town name has at least seven letters.

I told you it was lame [ducks].

16:41 CEST    147.5km/37km to go
Back to the race. The seven leaders, Stephane Auge (Cofidis), Matthieu Sprick and Walter Beneteau (Bouygues Telecom), Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux), Nicolas Portal (Caisse d'Epargne), Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), and Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel), now have 1'48 of their lead intact as they ride into Germany.

16:44 CEST    150.5km/34km to go
Cretskens works on the front of the peloton, riding fairly steadily as Vasseur chats with Vansevenant. The pace is not too high yet. Agritubel has moved to the rear of the bunch, ready to strike.

16:46 CEST    153.5km/31km to go
The bunch fans out across the road, as it rides 1'30 behind the break. It's an opportune moment to counter attack, actually...

16:48 CEST    154.5km/30km to go
George Hincapie cruises up the bunch in the green jersey. He missed out on yellow by 0.73 seconds yesterday, but hopes to rectify that before the end of the race.

16:50 CEST   
Vasseur back on the front as the big bunch rides through a heavily wooded section. Plenty of German fans on the road, but nothing like the same as last year.

16:52 CEST   
The stream of commentator email has suddenly stopped, as people presumably sit staring at the screen, dumbfounded at how poor that trivia question was. I'll try to think of a better one tomorrow.

16:54 CEST    157.5km/27km to go
The gap comes down to 1'24 as the breakaways get to within 27 km of the finish. Will they survive until 9 km to go, when the day's final sprint is located?

16:55 CEST    158.5km/26km to go
Through Offenburg, with the bunch now in more of a chase mode. A Lampre-Fondital rider moves to the front, to help out Quick.Step, Milram, Davitamon and Credit Agricole. There are quite a few teams interested in a sprint today. But who will get it? Hushovd? Boonen? McEwen? Zabel? Bennati? Galvez? Freire? So many options.

16:58 CEST    160.5km/24km to go
The bunch passes under 25 km to go just 1'09 behind the suffering seven in front. The crowds are thicker in town here, but it just ain't the same for the Germans without Der Jan.

16:59 CEST    161.5km/23km to go
Vasseur and Cretskens are doing the work for Quick.Step. Bruseghin is up there for Lampre-Fondital.

Towards the back of the bunch, Di Luca is suffering a bit, not moving up.

17:01 CEST    162.5km/22km to go
The wind is behind them now as the race gets close to the final 20 km. Through Bühl, and the pace is high.

17:02 CEST    163.5km/21km to go
Now the battle for position will start among the sprinters, as the domestiques lift the pace inside the final 20 km. The break will survive a little longer, but has almost no chance of making it to the finish.

17:03 CEST    164.5km/20km to go
Etxebarria sits on the back a bit. He has a stack of bidons in his jersey for his teammates, for when they catch him.

17:05 CEST    165.5km/19km to go
The bunch passes under 20 km to go with three teams working hard in front. CSC is in the second rank, protecting its GC men. The gap is just 40 seconds.

17:05 CEST   
Beneteau looks back to see where the bunch is. The break rides a little harder to keep out in front for as long as possible. Maybe not enough to make it to the third intermediate sprint.

17:06 CEST    166.5km/18km to go
Etxebarria is probably hoping that they get caught soon, as his jersey full of bidons is getting uncomfortable...

17:07 CEST    167.5km/17km to go
The bunch isn't backing off the pace now, so it doesn't look like the break will survive for much longer. 28 seconds with 17 km to go.

17:08 CEST    168.5km/16km to go
Vansummeren does another turn, closing the gap to just 20 seconds. The bunch is hungry for a mass sprint.

17:09 CEST   
An attack in front as Beneteau flies away, pursued by the rest of the break. Nope, they sit up and let Beneteau have his chance. Portal is the only one to chase.

17:10 CEST    169.5km/15km to go
Wegmann is now chasing with Portal, but it's still Beneteau out front. The rest of the break sits up and is absorbed.

17:11 CEST   
Beneteau gives it everything to stay clear, trying to make it to the next sprint. He uses the race motos as much as possible. Wegmann and Portal have sat up.

17:12 CEST    172km/12.5km to go
The bunch is working well though, and although Beneteau might be able to make it to the sprint, he's going to have to really fight to win the stage.

17:13 CEST    172.5km/12km to go
Beneteau has 34 seconds - nice riding, he'll make it to the sprint. He is giving it max effort, hands draped over the front of the bars.

17:15 CEST    173.5km/11km to go
The leader is pedaling at 95-100 rpm, trying to get the most out of his lead, looking for motos to shelter behind. The bunch has him pegged at 25 seconds though.

17:16 CEST    175.5km/9km to go
Boonen is sitting well back in the bunch, maybe 50th position.

Beneteau has 20 seconds of his lead left, as he rides into the town of Kehl. Plenty of fans to cheer him here, as he wins the sprint.

17:17 CEST   
Hincapie gets third in the sprint behind a Credit Agricole rider, and is the virtual yellow jersey now! 2 seconds was all he needed.

17:18 CEST    176.5km/8km to go
Well, Hincapie might be in yellow tonight, but we will see if Hushovd can make it into the top three of the stage. That will give it back to the Viking.

17:18 CEST    177.5km/7km to go
Beneteau is brought back just after the sprint, with around seven kilometres to go. The bunch is lined out.

17:19 CEST   
It's Quick.Step and Lampre leading the bunch now, with a Davitamon rider also helping.

17:20 CEST    178.5km/6km to go
The pace increases on the wide roads back into Strasbourg. Boonen is up to 10th wheel, and there are riders fighting for his wheel. McEwen, Casper and Hushovd are all there.

Merckx is near the front, protecting Landis.

17:21 CEST    180km/4.5km to go
Around a right hander, and no team really has control of the situation. There are a couple of Phonak riders in front. Now a Milram rider does a big turn.

17:22 CEST    180.5km/4km to go
Zabel is near the front, but looks for a wheel. His teammate really isn't doing much.

Di Luca has been dropped.

17:22 CEST    181.2km/3.3km to go
Valverde's white jersey moves up too.

Di Luca is gooone. That's a bad start, as it's a dead flat stage. Auge is also back there.

17:23 CEST    181.5km/3km to go
Quick.Step and Milram are forming some sort of a train, but Rabobank has also got riders up there for Freire. He's second wheel.

17:24 CEST    182.5km/2km to go
Lövkvist leads now for Eisel. But not for long. A Liquigas train forms on the right.

17:24 CEST   
Liquigas drives it under 2 km to go, and the bunch lines out again. The sprints are in about 10th wheel and back. Hushovd is still there.

17:25 CEST    183.5km/1km to go
Liquigas leads all the way until Pozzato takes over at 1km to go. Freire on his wheel. Boonen has McEwen's wheel, behind Hushovd.

17:25 CEST   
Hushovd moves up to second behind Julian Dean, but it's a long way. McEwen then Zabel and Bäckstedt. Boonen is on de Jongh's wheel.

17:26 CEST    184.5km/0km to go
Boonen leads out way too early, then stops, like a track sprinter, then gives it full gas. Casper challenges him and wins the first stage!!!!

17:27 CEST   
Hushovd has been sliced by one of the green PMU hands, and is bleeding a lot and holding his arm. That happened just before the finish. Hopefully it doesn't mean an exit for the maillot jaune.

17:28 CEST   
Second went McEwen, then Zabel and Bennati.

17:31 CEST   
So George Hincapie will take the yellow jersey, as Hushovd didn't finish in the top three. he'll be OK for tomorrow, but it doesn't look great.

17:39 CEST   
A strange incident that saw Hushovd exit the stage in an ambulance. That's the danger of having spectators so close to the race. Especially ones waving green hands. Bad luck for Thor, who lost his yellow jersey anyway. Boonen also seemed to hit a spectator earlier.

But a great stage win by Casper, who, when Boonen realised he'd gone too early, went very early himself...and won. Chapeau to the French sprinter.

That's all from us in the Hindenberg V-1 today. We'll be back with more trivia for tomorrow's second stage between Obernai and Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg).


1 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Cofidis                                 4.10.00
2 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                               
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram                                        
4 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                            
5 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas                                
6 Isaac Galvez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears                 
7 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team CSC                                  
8 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Francaise Des Jeux                         
9 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 
10 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank                                      

General classification after stage 1

1 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel                    4.18.15       
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole                            0.02
3 David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC                                0.06
4 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears          
6 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team CSC                                    
7 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile                                 0.08       
8 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel                      0.10       
9 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak                                     0.11       
10 Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) Francaise Des Jeux                      


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