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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 July 2006, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
Casper sneaks surprise stage win
Jimmy Casper celebrates winning Stage One of the Tour
Casper snatched it on the line
Frenchman Jimmy Casper snatched a surprise victory on the first stage proper of the Tour de France in a bunched sprint finish in Strasbourg.

Casper pipped Australian Robbie McEwen and German Erik Zabel on the line.

But a dramatic finale saw Thor Hushovd, Saturday's prologue winner, finish with blood gushing from an elbow wound after catching it on an object in the crowd.

Hushovd was forced to surrender the yellow jersey to George Hincapie, who won a time bonus in the third sprint.

The American, leader of the Discovery Channel team in the wake of Lance Armstrong's retirement, claimed third place in the final intermediate sprint, 9km from the end of the 184.5km stage which started and finished in Strasbourg.

He leads Hushovd, who was taken to hospital for treatment, by two seconds overall, with Spanish favourite Alejandro Valverde among the group six seconds adrift.

Thor Hushovd is attended to on the ground after finishing the stage
Hushovd suffered a gashed elbow
Television pictures suggested Hushovd's wound was caused by a spectator waving one of the green cardboard hands - handed out by one of the race sponsors - over the barriers on the home straight.

Tour organisers later banned the distribution of free hand-outs in the final two kilometres of the race's flat stages.

Hushovd crossed the line and immediately lay down with blood pouring from his elbow before being flown by helicopter to Strasbourg hospital.

"It's a deep wound, but not a serious one," said the Tour's official doctor Gerard Porte. "It will need a few stitches, but on first inspection it looks as though he will be able to continue."

Veteran New Yorker Hincapie will wear the yellow jersey for the first time on Monday's 228.5km stage from Obernai to Esch-sur-Alzette.

"Yesterday (Saturday) I was very disappointed because I wanted this yellow jersey so badly," he said.

It's the most beautiful day in my life

Stage winner Jimmy Casper
"Today the goal was not to go for bonus sprints but when I saw I had a chance to win a couple of seconds I took it."

A group of seven riders - Matthieu Sprick, Benoit Vaugrenard, Stephane Auge, Nicolas Portal, Unai Etxebarria, Fabian Wegmann and Walter Beneteau - broke away from the field after the opening few kilometres.

They held a lead of nearly five minutes after 54km but were gradually reeled in by the peloton, which caught them with 12km left.

One lone Frenchman, Walter Beneteau, stayed out in front to claim the final intermediate sprint before the sprinters' teams took over.

World champion Tom Boonen, favourite for the stage win, hit the front too early with 300m to go and seemed to be affected by a fan leaning over the barrier holding a camera.

The Belgian had to settle for 13th place as Cofidis rider Casper became the first French rider to sprint to a Tour stage win since Jean-Patrick Nazon in 2004.

"It's the most beautiful day in my life," he said after also taking over the green jersey.

"To defeat Zabel and McEwen is a dream come true. I was riding at full tilt but I was lucky because I suddenly had an opening. The door opened at the right time for me."


Stage One results:
1 Jimmy Casper (Fra) four hours 10 minutes
2 Robbie McEwen (Aus) same time
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) same
4 Daniele Bennati (Ita) same
5 Luca Paolini (Ita) same
6 Isaac Galvez (Spa) same
7 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) same
8 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) same
9 Thor Hushovd (Nor) same
10 Oscar Freire (Spa) same
Selected others:
23 George Hincapie (USA) same
25 David Millar (GB) same
29 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) same
125 Bradley Wiggins (GB) same

Overall classification:
1 George Hincapie (USA) four hours, 18.15 seconds
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) +2 seconds
3 David Zabriskie (USA) +6 secs
4 Sebastian Lang (Ger) +6 secs
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) +6 secs
6 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) +6 secs
7 Michael Rogers (Aus) +8 secs
8 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) +10 secs
9 Floyd Landis (USA) +11 secs
10 Benoit Vaugrenard (Fra) +11 secs
Selected others:
15 Cadel Evans (Aus) +15 secs
17 Bradley Wiggins (GB) +15 secs
18 David Millar (GB) +16 secs


SEE ALSO
Stage One as it happened
02 Jul 06 |  Cycling
Tour de France stage one photos
02 Jul 06 |  Photo Galleries


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