Tour de France 2010
Start: 3 July, Rotterdam Finish: 25 July, Paris
Coverage: Listen to the final hour of every stage on the BBC Sport website (UK only), with selected stages on BBC 5 live sports extra; Watch live on Eurosport and ITV4; Live text commentary each day on BBC Sport website
Manxman Cavendish (centre) is having a disappointing season
By Peter Slater
BBC Radio 5 live commentator
The Tour de France's first few days left me feeling slightly empty.
As a commentator you want to be talking about the genuine article, a properly competitive football match rather than a pre-season friendly, an athletics meeting where medals and titles are at stake.
On Sunday and Monday I didn't feel I was describing to the listeners the finish as it should have been on the Tour.
Circumstances dictated the outcome, of course. On the road into Brussels on Sunday Mark Cavendish should have been in contention on that inviting run into the finish.
Instead he was shrugging his shoulders and allowing Alessandro Petacchi a glorious win the Italian could never have expected under normal circumstances.
Possibly it was Cavendish's fault and he deserved to lose, but Petacchi must have known in his heart of hearts that it was something of a hollow victory.
Monday was even worse. We had the breakaway, then we had the chase, then we had Sylvan Chavanel going for glory from a long way out.
Fair play to him, he was probably hoping for a stage win and a day on L'Equipe's front page.
Because of the multiple crashes and the riders' truce Chavanel ended up with all that and more as he took the yellow jersey by almost three minutes.
While he'll treasure that for the rest of his life, he must know that if normal service had been in operation it wouldn't have happened.
On Tuesday came the pave, and something remarkable. We had elite groups splitting, one of the favourites - Frank Schleck - taken to hospital, and Team Sky's Geraint Thomas in the white jersey.
That was more like it, something for us in the commentary box to get excited about.
Then on Wednesday we had a flat stage into Reims. Nothing happened until the last few kilometres. Then nothing happened.
Cavendish appeared at the front and we thought he was going to ride the legs off the other sprinters and cruise to the first of several stage victories.
But he started to fall behind and that man Petacchi came through to win another stage, and this time it couldn't be described as a hollow victory.
He "got the jump" on both Cavendish and Norway's Thor Hushovd, and was chased home by Julian Dean of Team Garmin-Transitions and Team Sky's Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Now here's another thing. Boasson Hagen is a young, up-and-coming rider. He's performed creditably on the Tour of Britain, and if Cavendish doesn't watch out he'll be passing him by on the other side.
Still there's always Thursday and Friday, and young Thomas is doing the nation proud.
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The white jersey's Geraint Thomas is second overall