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Published Jul. 5, 2010

Times wires

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Lance Armstrong saw it coming: tight turns, narrow roads, big crowds and nervous riders would make crashes likely in Sunday's first stage at the Tour de France.

He sure was right.

The seven-time Tour champion emerged unscathed after at least six crashes bedeviled the sun-baked stage through Dutch and Belgian flatlands that was won by Alessandro Petacchi of Italy, who avoided a big pileup in the final straightaway.

Race leader Fabian Cancellara tumbled to the asphalt and defending champion Alberto Contador scraped a leg against another bike after he hit his brakes in the logjam that blocked the road. Neither was seriously hurt.

The 139-mile course from Rotterdam, Netherlands, to Brussels started out with three mid-stage crashes, one caused by a dog that darted into the pack, and finished with another three in the last 2 miles.

"Total mayhem," Armstrong said.

Even so, the overall standings didn't change. Germany's Tony Martin remained 10 seconds behind Cancellara, who won Saturday's prologue. Britain's David Millar was third, 20 seconds back. Armstrong was another 2 seconds back and Contador was sixth.

"Typical first stage: Everybody wants to be in the front, everybody nervous for crashes," Armstrong said, noting that a huge turnout was good and bad.

"Millions and millions on the road, it's a blessing and a curse. It's so great to have so many supporters," he said. "It (also) makes the guys super nervous."

Fast facts

Tour de France

Sunday: Italy's Alessandro Petacchi avoided three crashes in the final 1.25 miles to claim his first Tour win since 2003.

Lance Armstrong watch: Fourth, 22 seconds behind Fabian Cancellara.

Today: Second stage is 125 miles over hilly terrain that follows some of the Walloon Arrow and Liege-Bastogne-Liege one-day classics.

TV: 8:30 a.m., Versus