World Champion Cavendish wins first sprint stage

World Champion Mark Cavendish dominated the Tour’s first sprint stage.

Tournai, Belgium – Every year cycling pundits tell the cycling world that this is the year that someone will dethrone Mark Cavendish as cycling’s best sprinter and every year he proves them wrong.
Such was the case today when Cavendish effortlessly outclassed his opponents, in fact, the only one close at the finish was his arch enemy, Andre Greipel.

Green jersey points leader Peter Sagan received his first lesson in sprinting with the big boys as he was manhandled by his rivals during the sprint and was a non-factor in today’s finish.

Cavendish’s win vaults him to second place in the points competition and certainly reinforces his position as cycling’s premier sprinter.

The thing that sets Cavendish apart from his competition is an innate instinct to time his sprint. Cycling is a tactical sport that rewards the savvy rider who keeps his cool under pressure and uses his brain as well as his legs to dominate his rivals. At this, there are none better than Mark Cavendish.

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Sagan wins Tour’s first stage

Sagan continues his amazing 2012 campaign | Image: AFP

Seraing, Belgium – Peter Sagan continues his remarkable 2012 campaign winning the first stage of the 2012 Tour de France, pipping Fabian Cancellara and Edvald Boasson Hagen at the line.

Cancellara gapped the main field on the day’s final climb, however, he was unable to shake Sagan who jumped on his wheel when the Swiss strongman launched his attack. With the peloton in shambles, Boasson Hagen was able to bridge up to the two leaders and was in the perfect position for the win but didn’t have the horsepower to overcome the young Slovak.

Coming into this year’s Tour, Sagan already had a dozen victories on his 2012 resume, thoroughly dominating the Tour of California and the Tour de Suisse. Sagan is my dark-horse to rip the Green Jersey off Mark Cavendish’s back; who was nowhere to be seen in today’s finale.

The GC remains unchanged with Cancellara still in yellow, Sagan will don the Green Points Jersey tomorrow, American Tejay van Garderen will wear the White Jersey as the Tour’s Best Young Rider, and Michael Morkov will wear the ridiculous polka dot jersey (I really do hate that jersey).

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Cancellara decimates field in Tour de France prologue

Fabian Cancellara | Image: Team Radio Shack website

Liege, Belgium – Time trial stalwart Fabian Cancellara destroyed the world’s best riders completing the short 6.4 km prologue an amazing seven seconds faster than overall favorite Bradley Wiggins.

Last years Tour de France winner Cadel Evans finished in a disappointing 13th place overall, 10 seconds behind Wiggins and 17 seconds behind Cancellara.

World Time Trial Champion Tony Martin had a disappointing finish due to a bike change, however, he appeared to be in top form and will certainly be a factor in the other time trial stages.

Young American rider Tejay van Garderen finished in a suprising 4th place overall and will wear the white jersey as the Best Young Rider.

Sylvain Chavanel set the early time to beat and held on to finish in third place and round out the podium with Cancellara and Wiggins.

1  Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan  0:07:13
2  Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling  0:00:07
3  Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
4  Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team  0:00:10
5  Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling  0:00:11
6  Brett Lancaster (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team
7  Patrick Gretsch (Ger) Argos – Shimano  0:00:12
8  Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team  0:00:13
9  Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
10  Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team  0:00:15

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Cavendish in green as the Pyrenees loom

Cavendish was overjoyed to be back in green. Image: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Mark Cavendish won his third victory in this year’s tour in dominating fashion to take the coveted maillot vert.

It was another rain-soaked day inFranceand the GC favorites just wanted to stay out of harm with an epic stage in thePyreneesMountainslooming on Thursday.

The peloton almost misjudged the breakaway, not catching Rabobank’s Lars Boom until there was just over a kilometer remaining.HTCwas doing the lion’s share of the work without much help. At one point they were down to two riders left before Sky, Garmin, and Lampre finally sent some troops to the front.

With the catch made,HTCtried to assert itself but Garmin and Sky overwhelmed them on the front. Cavendish and lead out man Mark Renshaw smartly tucked in behind the train as Sky and Garmin riders continued to drop off. With about 500 meters to go Renshaw emerged from the dwindling pack with Cavendish glued to his wheel.

Yesterday’s stage winner Andre Greipel launched his sprint down the left side. The ever alert Cavendish blasted off down the right side gaining two bike lengths on Tyler Farrar. Greipel crossed the road in a desperate attempt to catch Cavendish’s wheel but by this time he was too late. The Manx Missile had a commanding lead and took the stage by a bike length even though he sat up to celebrate his 18th Tour victory.

The sprinters will be hoping to survive as the Tour enters the high mountains tomorrow. The stage should be epic with climbs up the Tourmalet and a summit finish atop Luz Ardiden.

Race favorite Alberto Contador will be looking to close the gap on Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck. The stage should show us who the contenders and pretenders are. Evans can time trial nearly as well as Contador but can the Aussie hang in the mountains. Schleck has shown he can climb with Alberto but his time trial appears to be severely lacking again this year.

For the GC men, the Tour starts tomorrow.

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Evans holds off Contador to win stage four

Today’s course looked like a roller coaster on paper and given the steepness of the final climb the GC favorites were sure to make today’s stage decisive.

A small breakaway of five riders got away early and took the intermediate sprint. However, there were still plenty of points to be had when the peloton arrived and Tyler Farrar dominated the sprint with Rojas a bike length behind him. Rojas will stay in the green jersey for now but Tyler Farrar looks to be a man on a mission.

That being said, HTC’s Mark Cavendish looks like he wishes he was back home in Manx. He looks completely disinterested in riding the Tour this year. Maybe it’s all the defections that HTC has suffered in recent years and maybe Cav is just having a bad year but he does not look like himself. Last year when he was off to a slow start I defended him but this year is another story although I hope he proves me wrong.

It wasn’t long before the peloton picked up the pace and reeled the break in. HTC did yeoman’s work to bringing the break back, led by big George Hincapie, who dished out a brutal pace at the base of the Mur de Bretagne.

Only the Tour’s strong men were left to fight it up the brutally steep two-kilometer climb. Evans did the lion’s share of the work as the ten man group made the final ascent. Cadel was stuck on the front with only a few hundred meters to go. Having no other option the Aussie jumped out of his saddle and led out the sprint. In the end the only rider who able to contest the sprint was Alberto Contador. Both riders threw their bikes across the line and Evans was able to hold of Contador by a quarter of a wheel.

Contador thought he had won the stage and triumphantly raised a fist in the air but the finish cameras showed that the Aussie held the Spaniard off.

Evans holds off a charging Contador - Image: AFP

The worst luck of the day went to Radio Shack’s Chris Horner who flatted on the climb before the Mur. After spending twenty kilometers chasing back on at the exact moment Hincapie dropped the hammer. Horner was able to limit his losses and is only 18-seconds behind Evans on the General Classification.

Hushovd stays in yellow for another day as the big man was able to sit on the back of the GC favorites group. He showed tremendous strength to get up the climb with men who weight 30 to 40 pounds less than him (15 to 20 Kilos).

Thus far it has been a very exciting Tour lets hope the sprinters give us a good show tomorrow.

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Garmin Cervelo storm to victory – God of thunder in yellow

Image: Pez Cycling

Since forming his Garmin Cervelo team, Johnathan Vaughters has dreamed of winning the Tour de France team time trial and today the dream became reality. The high octane squad stormed to victory led by strong man, Thor Hushovd who is now in yellow as the Tour’s overall leader.

BMC surprised many taking second today, however, BMC is stacked with time trial talent led by Cadel Evans, George Hincapie, Brent Bookwalter, and Marcus Burghardt. Evans is in third place overall well positioned for yellow once the race hits the mountains. Evans is just a few seconds in front of fellow GC favorite Andy Schleck. If Cadel can limit his losses in the mountains he can certainly be expected to make up a minute or so on Schleck who appears to have regressed in the race of truth.

Schleck’s Leopard Trek came in a respectable fourth but if he and brother Frank had any TT skills at all, they would have won today’s competition and be in yellow. As it stands now, Andy better be able to take serious time out of his rivals in the high mountains or he’s riding for a podium position rather than victory.

More disappointing is Alberto Contador’s Saxo Bank Squad. They finished some 28 seconds behind which means they lost more than a second per kilometer in today’s short 23 km stage. The overall race favorite finds himself in 75th position after two days of racing almost two minutes behind.

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Gilbert takes the first stage, Cadel puts over a minute on Contador & Schleck

Phillipe Gibert followed an attack by Fabian Cancellara to take the first stage of the 2011 Tour de France. Cadel Evans followed the move and put more than 1:20 into Schleck and Contador after they were caught up in a crash about nine-kilometers from the finish.

The Tour cannot be won the first day but it can be lost. Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck should have known to be up front with a steep catergory-four climb at today’s finish. Both BMC and Radio Shack had their leaders at the front and Evans was able to take advantage.

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