Belgian Philippe Gilbert wins the final sprint to the finish to grab the yellow jersey and the opening stage of the 2011 Tour de France.
Australian Cadel Evans came in second three seconds later and Thor Hushovd of Norway was third, leading a group of riders.
But to me the finish was not what was seared in my mind but the crash that was actually caught live.
And with that crash, defending Champion Spaniard Alberto Contador turned in a disastrous time which could be huge for his quest for a repeat.
He came in over a minute after Gilbert at 182nd place. The group he was riding with was affected by a crash at about five or six miles to go.
And this was what every cycling fan would have probably seen on the tour’s coverage and which was shown at replays. It was caused by a bystander in a bright yellow shirt nonetheless not paying attention and clipping a cyclist from Kazakhstan.
Another crash happened about a mile to the finish but it wasn’t shown live. It affected a number of tour favorites including last year’s second placer Andy Schleck of Luxembourg. It didn’t affect his time though as the tour’s ruling on crashes with only so much to go gave him the same time as the group he was in at the time of the crash.
There were other crashes at the earlier parts of this first stage but this is normal as nerves are still coming into play.
What is important to note here though is that Contador won over Shleck last year only by a mere 39 seconds. And just in the first stage he is down by 80 seconds.
I have personally witnessed a crash like that and with injuries. This memory came back to me and what was bad about it is that a companion of mine caused it.
One summer day back when we were probably in the fifth grade, I was with a group of neighborhood boys riding our bikes and skateboards as we noticed a race was going to pass by. And so we stopped to wait and watch by the wayside.
And just like that over-zealous spectator, one of our companions started to act absentmindedly and probably forgot where he was and how he was supposed to behave. Remember these riders are passing us by at very fast speeds and anything can happen, to the riders and to us watching by the roadside.
Our friend started waving like crazy and almost got into contact with one of the speeding cyclists. And even though there was no contact it was enough to send the cyclist careening into the path of another which made a domino effect, only to our eyes it looked like it happened in slow-motion.
This essentially split the race in two–the first group zooming right on, the second group moaning down on the pavement.
Needless to say being young and not knowing any better, we took off in our bikes and skateboards as fast as we could.
And it was that now vivid memory that suddenly came back to me as I watch that Tour de France crash. I was glad nobody was hurt at this crash. But I couldn’t say the same thing about that crash that occurred a mere few feet in front of me, back in the 1970s. Did I mention the blood? Oh no, the gory memory is coming back to me all over again.