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Original Issue

Stage Frights

A U.S. team shines in a bloody first week

Jonathan Vaughters took some heat for his Tour de France selections this year. The Garmin-Cervélo team manager left top Irish climber Dan Martin at home, choosing to focus on Stage 2's team time trial. Said Vaughters of his roster, "I can only pray I got it right."

He got it right. The U.S.-based squad, which competes under the banner of drug-free riding, won the TTT, in the process putting Norwegian sprinter Thor Hushovd (below) into the yellow jersey. The next day—July 4—Garmin's Tyler Farrar won in a sprint finish. Expected to lose the maillot jaune after a day or two, Hushovd held it for a week, ceding it only after Stage 9 as the result of another nasty crash.

The early, nervous stages of the race are always crash-filled. This year has been particularly harrowing. Among the high-profile riders forced to abandon: former world champion Tom Boonen of Quick Step (concussion); podium favorite Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky (snapped collarbone); and RadioShack's Chris Horner (broken nose, concussion). Those mishaps were a prelude to the carnage of Stage 9, when a mass crash on a slick descent took out four more riders, including Astana leader Alexandre Vinokourov and Garmin's Dave Zabriskie. Race leaders slowed to allow the downed riders to catch up. That bit of sportsmanship cost Hushovd the yellow jersey but capped a brilliant week for Garmin and the cause of clean riding.