Spain’s Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez became the first cyclist to drop out.
CANTERBURY, England (AP) — Australia’s Robbie McEwen crashed over his handlebars with 12 miles remaining, got back on his bike and mustered the grit to win the first stage of the Tour de France Sunday in a mad-dash sprint.
With his wrist aching and right knee cut, McEwen persevered in the English countryside during cycling’s showpiece event. It was a tough, gallant performance and, for a day at least, showed the better side of a sport reeling from a string of doping investigations, admissions and scandals during the last year.
Elated by stage win
“This is definitely one of the best ever,” said McEwen, a sprinter who rides for the Predictor-Lotto team. “After the crash I hurt myself — hurt my wrist — but the boys brought me back. I still can’t believe I won this stage.”
This was McEwen’s 12th stage win at the Tour. He finished in 4 hours, 39 minutes, 1 second on a mostly flat 126-mile route to Canterbury that favored sprinters.
Norway’s Thor Hushovd was second and Belgium’s Tom Boonen third among the 181 cyclists who had the same time as McEwen.
McEwen was tossed from bike during a group crash.
“The first thing I thought was that I had broken my wrist,” he said. “I couldn’t feel anything. ... It’s worth that pain to have a stage win in the Tour de France.”
McEwen tied Germany’s Erik Zabel as record-holder for stage victories among current riders, though far short of Eddy Merckx’s record of 34. Seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong won 22 individual stages.
Switzerland’s Fabien Cancellara kept the overall leader’s yellow jersey a day after he won the time-trial prologue in London. Andreas Kloeden of Germany is second overall, 13 seconds back, followed by Britain’s David Millar, 21 seconds behind.
Spain’s Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez became the first cyclist to drop out of this year’s race after injuring his shoulder in a crash.
Millar, cheered by local fans, sped ahead for an early breakaway but was caught by a group of four trailing riders and then by the full pack with about 18 miles to go. Millar was awarded the polka-dot jersey, given to the best overall climber in the Tour.
Cycling does not have the same hold in Britain as it does in France. But spectators turned out en masse for the Tour’s first start in London, with up to one million people packing the city’s streets Saturday. Sunday, tens of thousands lined the route, waving Union Jack flags while brass bands blared jolly tunes. London mayor Ken Livingstone waved the flag for a ceremonial start on Tower Bridge.
The flavor was distinctively British, with some fans sitting in roadside armchairs with potato chips and pints of warm beer to see a race more often associated with wine and cheese picnics in France.
The Tour crosses the English Channel today for the second stage, a 105-mile ride from coastal Dunkirk to Ghent, Belgium.