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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 July, 2003, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
Petacchi wins dramatic first stage
Alessandro Petacchi
Petacchi has won his first-ever stage on the Tour
Stage One: Saint Denis, Paris - Meaux - 168km.

Alessandro Petacchi survived a dramatic crash in the final kilometre to win the first stage of the Tour de France on Sunday.

The Italian stayed in the peloton for the 168km stretch from Paris to the country village of Meaux before leaving it late to make a sprint for the line.

Petacchi, who is part of the Fassa Bortolo team, gritted his teeth to out-sprint Robbie McEwen and Erik Zabel, who recovered from a puncture to take third.

Defending champion Lance Armstrong was thrown from his bike during the crash but was not seriously injured and completed the stage on team-mate Jose Luis Rubiera's bike.

Australian Brad McGee will continue to wear the yellow jersey for the second stage after he retained the overall lead.

"At the start of any stage race it's always my ambition to win the sprint, and the team did really well to set me up," said Petacchi.

"I haven't raced since the Tour of Italy but this just confirms the form that I had in the Giro."

Christophe Mengin, Andy Flickinger and Walter Beneteau had broken away from the peloton just 19kms into the race.

The trio notched up their biggest lead of eight minutes and 45secs at the 82km mark.

The decision to attack early paid off for home favourite Mengin as he won two of Sunday's three climbs to secure the polka-dot jersey for the second stage.

Australian Brad McGee
It was carnage out there at the end
Overall leader Brad McGee
With 60km remaining the US Postal and ONCE-Eroski teams formed their own mini-pelotons around their star cyclists, Lance Armstrong and Joseba Beloki respectively, for the final push to the line.

But it was the Lotto-Domo, Fassa Bortolo and Credit Agricole teams who steadily continued to chip away at the breakaway trio's lead.

Nestled in the front three, AG2R's Flickinger claimed top honours in the final sprint in Mauperthuis.

Flickinger decided to push out in front on his own with 15kms to go but he was not able to build more than a 35-second lead ahead of the chasing pack and was caught at the 11km mark.

In a frantic final kilometre a fall by a single rider caused a domino effect and about 150 riders, including leader Brad McGee, piled up on the road.

"I thought I got through it but someone cleaned me up from behind and I went over the handlebars," said McGee.

"I landed on my head and shoulders but it was real carnage out there at the end."

Petacchi was fortunate to break clear ahead of the pile-up to take top spot while those riders who were involved in the crash all received the same time.

There was some concern, however, for McGee's FDJeux.com team-mate Jimmy Casper who may be forced to retire after he was taken away in an ambulance after the accident.

American Tyler Hamilton, the CSC team leader, also looks unlikely to take any further part in the race after breaking his collarbone in the crash.


Stage One results:

1. Alessandro Petacchi (Italy) Fassa Bortolo 3 hours 44 mins 33 seconds
2. Robbie McEwen (Australia) Lotto
3. Erik Zabel (Germany) Team Telekom
4. Paolo Bettini (Italy) Quick Step
5. Baden Cooke (Australia) FDJeux.com
6. Thor Hushovd (Norway) Credit Agricole
7. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank
8. Luca Paolini (Italy) Quick Step
9. Romans Vainsteins (Latvia) Vini Caldirola
10. Jaan Kirsipuu (Estonia) Ag2r

Overall results:

1. Bradley McGee (AUS/FDJ) 3hr 51min 55sec
2. David Millar (GBR/COF) at 0:04sec
3. Haimar Zubeldia (SPA/EUS) 0:06
4. Jan Ullrich (GER/BIA) 0:06
5. Victor Hugo Pena (COL/USP) 0:10
6. Tyler Hamilton (USA/CST) 0:10
7. Andy Flickinger (FRA/A2R) 0:10
8. Lance Armstrong (USA/USP) 0:11
9. Joseba Beloki (SPA/ONC) 0:13
10. Santiago Botero (COL/TEL) 0:13





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Overall leader Brad McGee
"You don't want to see a crash like that but it will keep happening"


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