Rain blasted the peloton during Stage 1 of the 2004 Tour de France, in which multiple riders crashed on the wet roads between Liège and Charleroi, Belgium on the 121-mile course of rolling hills and valleys.
2004 Tour de France : Jaan Kirsipuu Wins Stage 1
Jaan Kirsipuu Wins Stage 1
An attack by Jakob Piil (CSC) and Mark Wauters (Rabobank) in the late minutes of the race looked to be enough to keep the duo ahead of the pack for the duration of the stage, but with less than one mile to go, the sprinters kicked in and overtook Piil and Wauters with a virtual photo finish.
Sprint specialist Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2R) took the stage win Robbie McEwen (Lotto) and Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) rounding out the top three. Fabian Cancellara, who beat out Lance Armstrong by just two seconds in Saturday's prologue, came in 27th, a good enough finish to keep the 23-year-old Fassa Bortolo rider in the yellow jersey for a second day.
Armstrong, who took the 48th spot, now stands at third in the overall standings behind Cancellarra and Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole). CSC's Jens Voigt stands at fourth place while Americans Bobby Julich (CSC) and George Hincapie (U.S. Postal Service) are anchoring CSC and USPS with eighth and ninth place overall standings respectively.
Oscar Sevilla and Mario Cipollini were both involved in a crash that resulted in Sevilla having to change bikes. Tyler Hamilton was involved in a separate crash in which he slid out on a corner, changed bikes, and ultimately rejoined the peloton. He finished 52nd. Voigt and Franck (Brioches La Boulangere) also crashed on the slippery descent of the Category 3 Côte de Borlon, the first Category 3 hill of the 2004 Tour. Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak) also went down with just over three miles to go in the race.
At two and a half miles, the attacks started with Walter Benetau (Brioches la Boulangere) attacking first with Voight and Karsten Kroon (Rabobank) on his heels. The group was caught by the peloton but Voight, who continued to attack throughout the course of the day, joined the next group that broke away consisting of Janek Tombak (Cofidis), Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Franck Renier (La Boulangere) and Bernhard Eisel (FDJeux), only to be caught yet again.
With 12.5 miles to go, Jakob Piil (CSC) and Mark Wauters (Rabobank) were just 1:45 ahead of the peloton. But that lead though was continuously chipped away. With 15 kilometers to go the gap was 1:20, and with 1.2 miles left in the stage, the leaders had only a five-second advantage when Piil and Wauters were caught and Kirsipuu (Ag2R), McEwen (Lotto), and Hushovd made a break for the finish line.
In related news, Euskaltel-Euskadi, whose team leader Iban Mayo is considered a legitimate contender for this year's Tour title, has suspended its team doctor Jesus Losa, according to Agence France Presse (AFP). The decision comes on the heels of British rider David Millar's admission of the use of the performance-enhancing drug, EPO. According to AFP, Euskaltel has suspended the doctor in relation to advice Millar stated he had received from Losa. Euskaltel is currently conducting its own investigation into the claims.