PLUMELEC // Spain's Alejandro Valverde made an impressive statement of intent by winning stage one of the Tour de France to take the leader's yellow jersey. A tortuous final ascent up the Cote de Cadoual, known as the Breton Alpe d'Huez, in Plumelec left the field strung out as a host of riders launched attacks. Stefan Schumacher was the first to break with one kilometre left after the field had reeled in an eight-man breakaway.
But Schumacher was caught and passed by Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen, who looked on course for the win until Valverde's late burst caught the field by surprise. The Tour favourite Cadel Evans finished sixth and avoided a series of nasty crashes which caught up some of the leading contenders. Frank Schleck was an early faller but recovered to finish seventh while last year's king of the mountains, Juan Mauricio Soler Hernandez, lost valuable time when he crashed in the final kilometres.
That pair were more fortunate than Herve Duclos-Lasalle, who was an early retirement from the race after fracturing his wrist. The sprinters will be hoping to make their mark for the first time in this race today when the peloton tackle the second stage from Auray to Saint-Brieuc, with the slight climb towards the finish likely to suit Spain's Oscar Freire. @Email:email@example.com