Petacchi wins crash-marred stage

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Italian Alessandro Petacchi won yesterday's crash-marred first stage of the Tour de France, with top sprinting rivals and race favourites like Lance Armstrong delayed by spills.

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Italian Alessandro Petacchi won yesterday's crash-marred first stage of the Tour de France, with top sprinting rivals and race favourites like Lance Armstrong delayed by spills.

Three crashes tangled up riders in the last few kilometers, including a big pile-up within the last kilometre that stalled a large bunch including race leader Fabian Cancellara.

Cancellara, the Swiss rider who won Saturday's prologue, retained the yellow jersey. Germany's Tony Martin is 10 seconds behind in second, Britain's David Millar lies third, 20 seconds off the pace, and seven-time Tour champion Armstrong remains fourth, two seconds further back.

Top sprinters like Britain's Mark Cavendish, who won six Tour stages last year, and Oscar Freire of Spain, crashed together while negotiating a sharp turn in the last few kilometres

In the last kilometre, a massive pile-up left Petacchi a relatively easy sprint victory. - Sapa-AP

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