Frenchman Jimmy Casper surprised the big name sprinters to win stage one of the Tour de France in Strasbourg.

The Cofidis rider beat Robbie McEwen (Davitamon) and Erik Zabel (Milram) in a hectic sprint after world champion Tom Boonen sat up in the final metres.

Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) finished ninth in the sprint after being hit on his right forearm by a spectator in the final hundred metres. He suffered a deep five centimetre cut, almost certainly caused by a cardboard PMU green hand, and was taken to hospital by helicopter. The cut was cleaned and stiched and he is expected to start Monday’s second stage.

George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) was only 23rd in the sprint but took the yellow jersey after gaining taking third place and two seconds in the final intermediate sprint, nine kilometres from the finish. Hushovd is now second at two seconds and Dave Zabriskie (CSC) is third at six seconds.

Brits David Millar finished 25th and Bradley Wiggins was 125th in the same time as Casper.

After crossing the line Casper could hardly believe he had won his first ever Tour stage.

It?s great to beat big champions like Boonen, Zabel and McEwen. This is the best day of my life!? he said.

?It was a strange sprint because nobody lead it out but that?s the kind of sprint I like and it turned out just right for me. I know I?m an outsider for the sprints but I?ve worked a lot and I?m mentally stronger now. That?s helped me train better and I came to the Tour with more confidence.?

Hincapie was deeply disappointed not to win the prologue but is now the fourth American to wear the yellow jersey.

“I really wanted the yellow jersey, it’s a dream come true,” the 33 year-old New Yorker said.

“I was very disappointed to go so close yesterday, I was gunning for the win in the prologue but I was beaten by a great rider. Today I wasn?t thinking of trying to get the jersey before the stage but when the break was caught near the finish I saw an opportunity I couldn?t miss. I think I made the right decision.?

?Now I?d love to keep the jersey for as long as possible. It?s up to (directeur sportif) Johan Bruyneel and I don?t know if we?ll try and control things but if I can hang on to it for a day or two that?d be great.?

The 184.5km flat stage was characterised by a long break by Stephane Auge (Cofidis), Matthieu Sprick and Walter Beneteau (Bouygues Telecom), Benoit Vaugrenard (Francaise des Jeux), Nicolas Portal (Caisse d’Epargne), Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) and Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel). They attacked after three kilometres and worked hard to stay away but were caught ten kilometres out.

Results

1 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Cofidis 184.5km in 4.10.00
2 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
4 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
5 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas
6 Isaac Galvez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
7 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Team CSC
8 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Francaise Des Jeux
9 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
10 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank all same time.

General classification after stage one

1 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 4.18.15
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole 0.02
3 David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC 0.06
4 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears
6 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Team CSC
7 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 0.08
8 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 0.10
9 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 0.11
10 Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) Francaise Des Jeux s.t.

More later