Sagan wins first stage of Tour
Peter Sagan won Sunday's first stage of the Tour de France in a sprint finish as Fabian Cancellara retained the race leader's yellow jersey.
Cancellara attacked a third of the way up the final 2.4km ascent to the finish and it seemed only Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) could go with him on the the 198-kilometres stage from Liege to Seraing.
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) bridged the gap and the trio were clear with 500m to go, but Sagan powered away to claim a first Tour stage win of his career. Cancellara was second with Boasson Hagen of Norway third and Belgium's Philippe Gilbert fourth.
Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins was second overnight behind Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) and negotiated the final climb well to finish alongside defending champion Cadel Evans on the same time as Sagan.
Evans moved up from 13th to eighth overall, but remained 17 seconds behind Cancellara and 10 behind Wiggins.
The day, which saw the Tour ride an undulating loop through the Ardennes region of Belgium, was relatively uneventful until the finale.
Team Sky were wearing yellow helmets as leaders of the team classification, while Wiggins was in temporary possession of the green jersey, on behalf of race leader Cancellara, following his second-placed finish in the prologue.
A group, protesting against job losses at a local steel factory, temporarily delayed the peloton in the neutralised zone but as soon as the flag to start racing was lowered, an escape formed.
Yohann Gene (Europcar) led the day's six-man breakaway - also comprised of Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Anthony Delaplace (Saur-Sojasun), Maxime Bouet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) - at the intermediate sprint, collecting 20 points.
Two minutes, 35 seconds behind them, the peloton crossed, with world champion Mark Cavendish contesting the sprint.
Cavendish (Team Sky) won the points classification's green jersey in 2011, but was beaten by former HTC-Highroad team-mate Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) and claimed eight points.
The Manxman had support from Edvald Boasson Hagen and it was an indication that he is not yet willing to give up the maillot vert without a fight.
The pursuit of the day's escapees continued, with the deficit reduced to under two minutes by a peloton led by Cancellara's RadioShack-Nissan-Trek squad and Andre Greipel's Lotto-Belisol team. BMC and Team Sky were also prominent.
There were two crashes in the peloton, the first involving Michael Rogers and the second caused by an amateur photographer. Neither caused any significant problem.
With 20km to go, the leading six held a 30-second advantage, but the peloton, with Orica-GreenEdge to the fore, swallowed them up with 9km to go.
The speed led to the peloton being strung out alongside the river Meuse as the teams attempted to get their leaders into position for the finale.
Cancellara made his move, but Sagan showed his class to claim victory as the general classification standings were largely unchanged ahead of tomorrow's 207.5km stage two from Vise to Tournai.