The usual chaos today. A mad chase to bring back the breakaway. Hills to wear down the sprinters. A crash that blocks the road. A last-minute desperate dash for the line by Matthias Kessler. A frantic weaving sprint with the Viking Hushovd unintentionally hitting a slightly drifting McEwen and Hushovd pulling his foot from his pedal. Never a good thing to do - and he got quite dark about it, too - as you would. Result? McEwen 1st, then Boonen then the Viking. Cyclingnews has more here.
It's useful to look at the GC right now. 133 riders lie within a minute of yellow at this early stage with no early breakaways succeeding as yet. A big break could get away and turn the race on its head but there's plenty of pressure on the sprinters' teams to ensure that doesn't happen.
So Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole leads the overall with Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic just 5 secs back. Now in green, Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto is just 8 seconds off yellow and like Boonen has a real chance to claim the maillot jaune. Monday's yellow jersey wearer George Hincapie (USA) from Discovery is just 10 secs back but may not want to take further risks at this still early stage.
David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC is 16secs back and notably we have Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears, Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team CSC, Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile , Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel and Floyd Landis (USA) Phonakcrammed together, all within 21 seconds of top place. It's tight at the top.
With some more sprint points on offer over the next few days we can look to Hushovd, Boonen and McEwen to share the spoils and skip away a bit, unless we see breakaways steal the show. In any case all of the sprinters will lose time when the steeper, longer climbs are reached - so this is their time in the sun - at least until after the mountains. Hincapie, Valverde, Landis, Savoldelli, Rogers, Kloden (29 secs back today) and Evans (25 secs back) will then take up the top places and fight for yellow.