Italy’s Alessandro Petacchi won today’s opening stage of the Tour de France, seven years after his last success at cycling’s most prestigious race.
The 36-year-old Lampre team rider, winner of four stages in 2003, came first on today’s 223.5-kilometer (139-mile) stage from Rotterdam to Brussels after a series of crashes near the end ruled several contenders out of the sprint finish.
Britain’s Mark Cavendish of the HTC-Columbia team was among sprinters who finished down the field after being involved in the pile-ups. Cavendish’s teammate Mark Renshaw of Australia was second, with Norway’s Thor Hushovd of Cervelo in third. Team RadioShack’s seven-time champion Lance Armstrong was 55th.
Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara of Team Saxo Bank, winner of yesterday’s prologue, retains the race leader’s yellow jersey. He leads Tony Martin of HTC-Columbia by 10 seconds, with David Millar of Garmin-Transitions 10 seconds further back. Armstrong is fourth.
Defending champion Alberto Contador of Astana, a teammate of Armstrong last year, is sixth overall.
Tomorrow’s second stage is a 201-kilometer ride from Brussels to Spa. The 3,642-kilometer race ends on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on July 25.