Stage one of the 2011 Tour de France started off without a whole lot of drama. There was a breakaway which began at the very start of the race and stayed away for a majority of the race. However, they never appeared to be a serious threat to steal a stage win and were eventually caught by the pelaton.
With the race winding down towards the finish, the pelaton, driven by Omega Pharma-Lotto and Lampre - ISD, began to really pick up the pace. As the pelaton raced towards the finish, pacing over 25 miles per hour, a spectator who was not paying attention and standing far too close to the road, clipped a rider in the pelaton causing a massive pile up of riders.
Only about a third of the pelaton found themselves ahead of the crash with the majority of the field caught behind the piled up riders anxiously waiting for the road to be cleared as they fell valuable seconds behind the rest of the pelaton.
Those who were able to stay ahead of the accident found themselves a bit disorganized at first. No team was stepping up to work at the front of the group as the pelaton fanned out and waited for someone to make the first move. However, general classification hopefuls Levi Leipheimer and Cadel Evans soon became aware of the fact that the two favorites to win the Tour de France, Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck had found themselves caught out behind the crash.
Realizing their opportunity to strike an early blow on the two favorites, Team BMC and Team Radio Shack, the teams of Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer respectively, stepped to the front of the pelaton and began to put in serious work in an effort to put space between them and the two favorites.
Soon enough, BMC and Radio Shack were able to sit back as the teams with favorites to win the stage began pushing up the speed of the pelaton, putting even more time between their group and the group holding favorites Contador and Schleck. With that perfect storm of organized work, what started as a 30 second gap soon grew to the 1 minute 20 second difference that stood at the end of the day.
With that kind of lead, Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer will have a lot more freedom with race decisions here on out. Having a cushion of 1 minute and 20 seconds will allow Leipheimer and Evans to sit and wait for Contador and Schleck to make a move and hope to be ready to respond to it. Without such a lead, being underdogs to the two clear favorites, Evans and Leipheimer would have had to have been the ones making a move at some point if they wanted to push for a podium finish.
In a race that is often decided by as few as 15 to 30 seconds, starting a race 1 minute and 20 seconds behind the other general classification riders is not a good thing. While Contador and Schleck are by no means out of the race, they will certainly be re-thinking their game plans.
Previously, both riders likely had plans of dropping other GC contenders like Leipheimern and Evans in the brutal climbs later in the race. Now, both riders will likely have to target those stages as ones where they will attempt to catch up on time. While the accident today may have not decided the race, it has mad it a whole lot more interesting.
We'll be here for the entire race providing news updates and stage previews and recaps, particularly as they relate to Bay Area cyclist Levi Leipheimer. For more in-depth discussion on the 2011 Tour De France, head over to Podium Cafe. For more general Tour coverage, head over to the SB Nation story stream.