Saturday, June 29, 2013
5 things to know about Tour de France
BASTIA, Corsica -- The Tour de France enters its second stage on Sunday. Five things to know:
1. FINISH HERE ... NO, WAIT: THERE!The Tour's 100th edition began with a chaotic first stage on Saturday. With minutes left, the Orica Greenedge team's bus got jammed under the finish-line scaffolding -- and race organizers decided to move up the finish line to the 2-mile mark. Minutes later, with its tires as deflated as the many fans waiting at the finish, the bus was moved, so race organizers quickly radioed word again to the riders: The original finish would hold after all. Several riders crashed amid the nervous confusion, including several sprinters seen as favorites to win the stage.
2. KITTEL: KING OF CORSICAWith many of those sprinting rivals out of the picture, Germany's Marcel Kittel of Team Argos-Shimano sped to the stage win after the 132-mile jaunt on Corsica's eastern coast from Porto Vecchio to Bastia -- earning the first yellow jersey ever delivered on this bucolic French Mediterranean island, hosting its first Tour stage.
3. DISPIRITED SPRINTERSMark Cavendish of Britain, the best sprinter of his generation, was one of four leading speedsters -- including Peter Sagan of Slovakia, Matt Goss of Australia and Andre Greipel of Germany -- who were entangled or delayed in the group crash with 2½ miles to go. Greipel moaned of "a complete disaster" in the stage finish, and Cavendish called it "just carnage." The Briton said the late finish-line change sparked the trouble -- and he felt lucky to emerge unscathed.
4. FAVORITES IN DISFAVOR, TOO Chris Froome, a Kenya-born Briton, and two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador of Spain -- the favorites to win the three-week race that ends in Paris on July 21 -- each had mishaps. In the neutral zone -- where riders take a warm-up ride before the stage start -- Froome clipped a concrete pillar in a road median that "tripped him over," but he recovered quickly with no injury, said Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford. Contador went down in the last group crash, finishing with his jersey torn on his left shoulder. He said afterward he was fine.
A SPRINT FOR SUNDAY?Stage 2 takes the 198-rider pack over four mid-grade climbs along the 97-mile jaunt that cuts a diagonal line through Corsica's jagged mountains from Bastia to Ajaccio. If breakaway riders don't hold off the pack, the stage could be set for another sprint finish on the flat western coast -- on a peninsular point that is home to rich flora and fauna, including Peregrine Falcons and Ospreys.