5 Jul 2010

Italian wins first stage of Tour de France after avoiding late pile up

7:13 am on 5 July 2010

Italy's Alessandro Petacchi survived a crash-filled first stage of the Tour de France to win his fifth stage victory in the race and his first for seven years.

The Italian, now the most successful active rider with 155 career wins, beat Australian Mark Renshaw and Norway's Thor Hushovd on a finish line depleted of most of the favourites who had crashed in the final kilometres.

The 26 year old won four stages on the Tour in 2003 and probably expected more opposition at the end of the 223.5 kilometre ride from Rotterdam to Brussels.

The Columbia team leader Britain's Mark Cavendish, who won six stages last year, went out of contention with 2.5 kilometres to go when he missed a sharp turn and crashed, along with three-times world champion Oscar Freire.

The resulting pile-up was huge and involved several pre-stage favourites including American Tylar Farrar and the yellow jersey holder, Swiss Fabian Cancellara.