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By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright 2001 AFP
Lotto-Adecco’s Nico Eeckhout took the leader’s jersey at the Etoile de Bessèges after winning the 141km first stage from La Ciotat to Aubagne. Eeckhout won a six-up sprint from fellow breakaways Nicolas Reynaud (Festina), Jakob Piil (CSC-World Online), Nicolas Jalabert (CSC-World Online), Chris Peers (Cofidis) and Christophe Bassons (Jean Delatour).
Reynaud and Cyril Dessel (Jean Delatour) embarked on a long breakaway just 10km into the stage, on the climb of Ceyreste, eventually building a lead of 6:25. At the 100km mark, they were caught by the five other riders that made up the final group. After Dessel dropped late in the race, the remaining six fought it out for the stage win, holding off the chase of AG2R, which was hoping to set up its sprinter Jaan Kirsipuu.
1. Nico Eeckhout (B), 141km in 3:28:47
2. Jakob Piil (Dk), at 0:01
3. Chris Peers (B)
4. Christophe Bassons (F), both s.t.
5. Nicolas Reynaud (F), at 0:10
6. Nicolas Jalabert (F), s.t.
7. Jaan Kirsipuu (Est), at 0:26
8. Hendrik Van Dyck (B)
9. Steffen Radochla (G)
10. Jan Svorada (Cz), all s.t.
1. Eeckhout (B)
2. Piil, at 0:04
3. Peers, at 0:07
4. Bassons, at 0:11
5. Reynaud, at 0:14
6. Nicolas Jalabert, at 0:20
7. Kirsipuu, at 0:35
8. Van Dyck, at 0:36
9. Radochla, at 0:36
10. Svorada, at 0:36