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Hunter stays out of trouble

Survival was the keyword of Sunday’s first proper stage of the Tour de France cycle race.

After Saturday’s Tour opening prologue time trial, two huge crashes in the final stages set the cat amongst the pigeons of the 223.5-kilometre ride from Rotterdam to Brussels.

Much pre Tour hype has been around the feared cobblestones coming up later in the tour but the majority of the peloton have already got up close and personal with the tarmac well before the cobbles.

South African Robbie Hunter is a survivor after the first stage and finds himself in 21st position overall, 39sec down on Tour leader Fabian Cancellara of Team Saxo Bank.

The stage win went to Italian Alessandro Petacchi of the Lampre-Farnese Vini team who clocked 5hr 09min 38sec for the stage. The first 158 riders were all credited with the same time after the crash-marred stage. Hunter being given 40th spot.

Hunter’s Garmin-Transitions team find themselves in third spot in the team category, just two seconds down on Team Radioshack and a scant second behind Team HTC-Colombia.

Garmin-Transitions were in the running to set up a win for Tyler Farrar but he then got tangled up with a mangled bike and had to sit out the sprint.

Said Hunter on his Twitter feed: “Interesting day, a few crashes, really tense.. and the final never worked out for us. Tyler had a bike in his back wheel 300m to go.”

And an interesting development in Tour de France history — “The vuvuzelas were blowing today. Really cool!! Ayoba!!”

Monday’s second stage is a hilly 201km affair between Brussels and Spa.

Mark Etheridge