Sylvain Chavanel took a chance in the Tour de France Stage 1 finish on the Category 4 Côte de Seraing, a 2.4km, 4.7% average gradient climb.
Chavanel attacked up the ride side as Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Nissan), Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) were marking each other on the climb. If the move worked, Chavanel could have either reduced the 7 seconds he trailed Cancellara in the GC, or perhaps taken the Yellow Jersey.
However, Chavanel couldn't sustain his power, and was overtaken by the group. Cancellara counter attacked, and Sagan stuck to his wheel. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky ProCycling) caught the duo in the final kilometer, and it was Sagan who took the victory after Cancellara launched his sprint.
Chavanel still preserved his current 3rd place standing in the GC, and remains trailing Cancellara by 7". Dries Devenyns, meanwhile, had a strong finish and placed 10th in the chasing peloton who couldn't quite catch the three riders up the road. Chavanel finished right behind him.
"I tried to attack in the steepest part of the climb," Chavanel said. "I knew that it was more or less impossible to wait for the end for the sprint. Guys like Boasson Hagen and Sagan are better than me in a finish like that. So I tried to attack a bit early. When Cancellara jumped on my wheel and attacked, I thought maybe someone else could take the wheel of Cancellara. So I stopped a little bit, but when I started again the race as away. Two guys away, Boasson Hagen was chasing at that time. So I decided to stay in the peloton through the end. I arrived near the front, but it was impossible to make the sprint. At the end I am happy because I was 12th. I did my race. I have no regrets about the stage today, it was not my stage. My condition is good and I will try again."
Levi Leipheimer managed to take time back on the final climb, allowing him to move up in the GC.
"The final was dangerous and we were riding very fast," Leipheimer said. "Maybe at 3km to go, just before the climb. we were a little bit too far from the head of the bunch. Then I passed a lot of riders on the climb, but it was impossible to catch the first part of the group. In any case, the legs are good and my priority in this first part of the Tour is to stay safe and out of trouble."
Tony Martin crashed at 11km from the start, as someone in front of him went down and he could not brake to avoid the rider. He crashed on the left side. After the race ended, he went to the hospital for further examination.
Jerome Pineau was hit by a spectator on his right shoulder 25km from the finish. He was unable to move his arm at the finish line. He also went to the hospital for further examination.
More information on the conditions of Martin and Pineau will be available as soon as possible.
Peter Velits suffered a flat tire in the final kilometers, and was disappointed to lose time as a result.
"We were at 11km from the finish," Peter Velits said. "We entered in a corner and suddenly I had the feeling that something was wrong in my back wheel. Martin, who was near me, told me that I had a flat tire. We decided to stop and change the wheel. We were pretty fast but at that point the group was really riding fast. It was impossible to come back. I'm sad but not upset. There's nothing you can do against bad luck — you just turn the page immediately and think about the next stages. "