A crash-strewn final three kilometres of the first road stage of the Tour de France was won by Alessandro Petacchi in Brussels today.
Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank) went wide on a right-hand bend with 3,000m to go of the 223.5-kilometres first stage from Rotterdam to the Belgian capital, before a second – and this time more major - crash one kilometre later wiped out Tyler Farrar’s hopes of an American success on Independence Day.
Petacchi was the major benefactor, winning the sprint for the line with the 20 or so riders to emerge unscathed from the second collision.
Cavendish’s HTC-Columbia lead-out man Mark Renshaw was second and third went to Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team), the winner of the points classification in 2009.
Petacchi takes the green jersey from Scot David Millar (Team Garmin-Transitions), whose progress earlier in the day was temporarily halted by a collision with a dog.
As the major incidents happened in the final stages, all riders were awarded the same time, so there was no effect on the general classification standings.
Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) retained the race leader’s yellow jersey, with Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia) second, Millar third, Lance Armstrong (Team RadioShack) fourth, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) fifth and race favourite Alberto Contador (Astana) sixth.
Team Sky leader Bradley Wiggins and Andy and Frank Schleck (both Team Saxo Bank) remained around one minute off the pace.