Stage 1: Casper wins; Hincapie takes overall lead

George Hincapie celebrates his first ever day in yellow.  Credit: FRANCK FIFE/AFP Getty Images
STRASBOURG, France - Jimmy Casper of France won a sprint finish to take the first stage of the Tour de France on Sunday, while American George Hincapie took the overall race lead.

Norwegian rider Thor Hushovd sliced open his arm and bled profusely after being squeezed against the barriers that line the route in the final sprint. The Tour doctor said Hushovd may need stitches but should be able to continue.

Hushovd had been the race leader going into the first stage after winning Saturday's opening prologue time trial. But Hincapie picked up bonus time on a sprint section in Sunday's route to vault into the lead. FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images France's Jimmy Casper (Cofidis/Fra) celebrates as he crosses the finish line of the 184.5 km first stage of the 93rd Tour de France.

The veteran New York native will wear the coveted race leader's yellow jersey for the first time Monday in the second stage of the three-week race. Hincapie was long Lance Armstrong's right-hand man, riding with him on all of his record seven Tour victories. But with Armstrong now retired, Hincapie is making his own mark on this Tour.

"I'm in very good shape," he said.

He said he had been "very disappointed" to lose to Hushovd by a split second in the opening time trial. "I really wanted the yellow jersey," he said.

Hincapie, 33, is among the new favorites after the Tour was blown wide open by the expulsion of top contenders Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich on Friday because of suspicions of doping.

Hincapie already showed last year that he can be a force in the high mountains that come later in the three-week race by winning a brutal stage in the Pyrenees.

On Sunday, he showed race savvy, too.

He seemed to catch Hushovd by surprise by racing ahead of the main pack going into the last of three intermediate sprint stages along the 184.5-kilometer (114.6-mile) route.

Those sprints offer bonus seconds to the first three riders that go through. Hincapie was third, picking up two seconds, more than enough to make up the milliseconds he lost to Hushovd on Saturday.

"I saw an opportunity that I couldn't pass up. I took it and I think I made a great decision," he said.

Taking the yellow jersey was "a big accomplishment for me," he added. "If I could hold it for another day or two that would be great."

Casper beat out Australia's Robbie McEwen and German veteran Erik Zabel in the finishing sprint into Strasbourg, eastern France. They were so close together that they were given the same time.

Hushovd appeared to slice open his right arm by rubbing against one of the giant green cardboard hands that a sponsor of the Tour hands out to fans. Many fans lining the barriers were holding out the hands, and slow-motion television replays showed that Hushovd brushed past one as he was riding flat out.

His arm bled heavily. The race doctor said the cut was deep but not serious. Hushovd's team said he was being taken to a hospital. Hushovd still finished ninth.

Casper said was not the first time that a rider had been hurt in such a way.

"It would be good to get rid of those hands," he said.

Top 10 results, Stage 1: Strasbourg - Strasbourg (184.5 km)
1. Jimmy Casper, France, Cofidis, 4 hours, 10 minutes, 0 seconds.
2. Robbie McEwen, Australia, Davitamon-Lotto, same time.
3. Erik Zabel, Germany, Team Milram, same time.
4. Daniele Bennati, Italy, Lampre-Fonditel, same time.
5. Luca Paolini, Italy, Liquigas, same time.
6. Isaac Galvez, Spain, Caisse D'Epargne-Illes Balears, same time.
7. Stuart O'Grady, Australia, Team CSC, same time.
8. Bernhard Eisel, Austria, Francaise des Jeux, same time.
9. Thor Hushovd, Norway, Credit Agricole, same time.
10. Oscar Freire, Spain, Rabobank, same time.

Stage 1: Results

Top 10, Stage 1 Overall standings
1. George Hincapie (United States/ Discovery Channel ), 4:18:15"
2. Thor Hushovd (Norway/Credit Agricole), +2"
3. David Zabriskie (United States/Team CSC), +6"
4. Sebastian Lang (Germany/Gerolsteiner)
5. Alejandro Valverde (Spain/Caisse d'Epargne)
6. Stuart O'Grady (Australia/Team CSC)
7. Michael Rogers (Australia/T-Mobile), +8"
8. Paolo Savoldelli (Italy/Discovery Channel), +10"
9. Floyd Landis (United States/Phonak), +11"
10. Benoit Vaugrenard (France/Francaise des Jeux)

Stage 1: Overall standings

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