Sunday July 1st, 2012

Stage 1Liège / Seraing

Start 12h35 GMT 2+

Sagan Makes A Perfect Debut

Stage summary01.07.2012Stage 1- Liège / Seraing

He can win on a whim on all sorts of terrain and today Peter Sagan proved that he's not at all daunted by the pressure of the Tour de France. In his second day in the race, he's won a stage.

The Progress Report
Stage one of the 99th Tour de France was from Liège to Seraing. The 198km course included five categorized hills, all ranked category-four. They were the côte de Cokaifagne (at 42km), the côte de Francorchamps (at 49km), the côte de Lierneux (at 94km), the côte de Barvaux (at 139km) and the final rise in Seraing. The intermediate sprint was in Erezée at the 116.5km mark. There were 198 riders at the sign on and, after a 7.4km neutral zone, the white flag was dropped to signal the official start at 12.34pm.

Six in the escape: Morkov becomes virtual leader...
As soon racing began, Nicolas Edet attacked. He was joined by Morkov (STB), Bouet (ALM), Urtasun (EUS), Delaplace (SAU), Gene (EUC) and Edet (COF) and by the 11km mark they had a lead of 3'00” on the peloton. The best on GC of this group was Morkov who was 51st in the prologue (24” behind Cancellara). It was at 11km that Martin (OPQ) and Hunter (GRM) were caught up in a crash but they quickly rejoined the peloton. Still, Martin did consult the race doctor numerous times in the opening hour. The early reports were that he had a sore wrist and had lost some skin on his legs.
At the 24km mark, the barriers at a level crossing came down and stopped the escapees for rougly 45”. They had a lead of 2'30” at the time but this was reduced to 1'10”. By the 30km mark, however, the escapees had pushed their advantage up to 3'35”. The average speed for the opening hour was 39km/h.
Morkov took the first climbing point (and the peloton was at 4'50”) and Urtasun was first over the next climb that was hotly contested one but still the advantage of the escapees remained the same. This was the maximum gain of the break. RadioShack-Nissan put most of its riders at the front of the peloton. The average speed for the second hour was 38.2km/h. Morkov led over the third climb.
 
Big rush for points
The average speed for the third hour was 36.3km/h. Yohann Gene (EUC) won the intermediate sprint and his group of six was ahead by 3'10” when he crossed the line. Then, when the peloton was in the final two kilometers leading to the sprint site three teams – Vacansoleil, Lotto-Belisol and Orica-GreenEdge put their lead-out train on the rails. Goss (OGE) was the main beneficiary as he beat Cavendish (SKY) to the line to take the nine points for seventh place. Then the pace of the chase eased and, with 70km to go, the bunch was behind by 4'00”. Morkov and Urtasun raced ahead for the point of the fourth climb and the Danish rider won that duel. He will wear the polka-dot jersey in stage two.

Setting things up for the finale
Until about 45km to go, RadioShack accepted that it had to take charge of the chasing duties but with the escapees only 1'25” ahead, several other teams moved to the front of the bunch, including Lotto-Belisol, BCM, Orica-GreenEdge and Sky. The advantage never grew again. With 23km to go, Rogers (SKY), Sanchez (RAB) and Rojas (MOV) were caught in a fall. Just as they remounted another crash occurred in the middle of the peloton that involved Valverde (MOV) Monfort (RNT) all riders who fell remounted their bikes. With 20km to go, the bunch was trailing by 25”.

Sagan's perfect debut!
The escape was caught with 8km to go and then we saw Lotto-Belisol take control of the peloton. Tucked in behind them were four riders from Orica-GreenEdge. And this was essentially the order through to the final 3km. The first true attack came from Sylvain Chavanel (OPQ) with about 2.5km to go and he was chased down by Albasini (OGE) but their move only served to force the hand of Cancellara who, as he's done so well before in the Tour of Flanders, bolted into the lead with an impressive surge on the steepest part of the final climb. He was marked by Sagan (LIQ) and this pair had a solid lead but it wasn't enough to deter Boasson Hagen (SKY). The Norwegian bridged and, in the final 600m this trio was set to contest the stage win. Cancelllar urged a turn from the others as the peloton closed in quickly on the false flat but Sagan didn't budge: he only took the lead when he opened up his sprint inside the final 200m. Cancellara tried to hold him off but to no avail... the Liquigas team wins the day and the yellow jersey was second over the line.

Stage 1 Liège / Liège

All about the stage key moments

Jersey wearers after the stage 20

Classifications after the stage 20

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