St 1: Kirsipuu upsets the odds

As expected, the first road stage of the Tour goes to a bunch sprint, the winner though was far from

As expected, the first road stage of the Tour goes to a bunch sprint, the winner though was far from
The impression that Alessandro Petacchi would waltz through the first week of this year's Tour like he did last year's took a real knock when the Italian was put into position to win by his Fassa Bortolo team, but ended up losing out to veteran Ag2r sprinter Jaan Kirsipuu. The Estonian went early in the final rush for the line and just managed to hang on and prevent Robbie McEwen taking a home win for his Belgian Lotto-Domo team in Charleroi. Thor Hushovd finished third and with bonuses won earlier in the day moved to just four seconds behind yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara. That the Swiss stayed in yellow was some consolation for Fassa Bortolo, who seemed to do everything right in setting Petacchi up for victory. They kept an early break of five riders within close range during the lumpy first half of the stage, and were then prominent in organising the pursuit of CSC's Jakob Piil and Raobank's Marc Wauters - a stage winner in Antwerp three years ago - when they attacked after the final sprint with 50 kilometres left. This pair never got more than two minutes clear, as Fassa Bortolo and the other sprinters' teams cleverly let them have some slack, but not enough to give them anything like a stage-winning advantage. Although Piil and Wauters weren't caught until they were within two kilometres of the finish, Fassa Bortolo, Ag2r, and Lotto-Domo always had the situation under control. Control, of course, tends to be lacking when the Tour bunch hurtles into the final straight for its first massed finish. Last year there was a huge pile-up at Meaux, and although that scenario was thankfully avoided Petacchi's defeat at the hands of Kirsipuu was equally surprising. This was Kirsipuu's fourth Tour stage win, but his first in a bunch sprint since he won at Challans in 2001. A year later, his declining powers as a bunch sprinter seemed to be reinforced when he joined a break on the road to Rouen and beat off some far less nippy opposition with ease. But this will give him and his French team confidence, particularly as team-mate Jean-Patrick Nazon was not far behind in fifth and Petacchi eventually came in a very unexpected eighth. Stage 1, Lige-Charleroi 1 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Ag2r-Prvoyance 202.5km in 4.40.29 (43.32kph) 2 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo 3 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole 4 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Gerolsteiner 5 Jean-Patrick Nazon (Fra) Ag2r 6 Baden Cooke (Aus) 7 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) CSC 8 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 9 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile 10 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros 11 Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Cofidis 12 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Cofidis 13 Jrme Pineau (Fra) Brioches La Boulangre 14 Sergio Marinangeli (Ita) Domina Vacanze 15 Sylvain Calzati (Fra) RAGT 16 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Alessio-Bianchi 17 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r 18 Daniel Becke (Ger) Illes Balears 19 David Etxebarria (Spa) Euskaltel 20 Laurent Brochard (Fra) Ag2r 28 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC 32 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile 34 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel 36 Julian Dean (NZ) Crdit Agricole 39 Mark Scanlon (Ire) Ag2r 47 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal 48 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal 50 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick Step 52 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Phonak 87 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank 99 Scott Sunderland (Aus) Alessio-Bianchi 147 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal 153 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis 186 Matt Wilson (Aus) 6.05 187 Brad McGee (Aus) 188 Nick Gates (Aus) Lotto-Domo 30.38 Overall standings 1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo 4.47.11 2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole 0.04 3 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal 0.10 4 Jens Voigt (Ger) CSC 0.15 5 Jos Ivan Gutierrez (Spa) Illes Balears 0.16 6 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Phonak 0.19 7 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Crdit Agricole 0.20 8 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC 9 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal 10 Jos Enrique Gutierrez (Spa) Phonak 0.22 11 Angel Vicioso (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.23 12 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank 13 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC 14 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) CSC 0.24 15 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis 0.25 16 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile 17 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal 0.26 18 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Phonak 19 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) 20 Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) US Postal 0.27 29 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel 0.29 31 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo 63 Mark Scanlon (Ire) Ag2r 0.36 71 Julian Dean (NZ) Crdit Agricole 0.38 80 Baden Cooke (Aus) 0.39 110 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros 0.46 117 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick Step 0.48 143 Scott Sunderland (Aus) Alessio-Bianchi 0.50 186 Brad McGee (Aus) 6.22 187 Matt Wilson (Aus) 7.10 188 Nick Gates (Aus) Lotto-Domo 31.43 Points 1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole 38 2 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Ag2r 35 3 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo 30 4 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Gerolsteiner 24 5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo 23 King of the Mountains 1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Davitamon 13 2 Janek Tombak (Est) Cofidis 12 3 Jens Voigt (Ger) CSC 4 4 Franck Renier (Fra) Brioches La Boulangren 3 5 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) 2
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