Sky and Wiggins stay in the zone

SERAING, Belgium Sun Jul 1, 2012 1:42pm EDT

Team Sky rider Bradley Wiggins (R) of Britain cycles during the 198km (123 miles) first stage of the 99th Tour de France cycling race between Liege and Seraing, July 1, 2012. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Team Sky rider Bradley Wiggins (R) of Britain cycles during the 198km (123 miles) first stage of the 99th Tour de France cycling race between Liege and Seraing, July 1, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Stephane Mahe

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SERAING, Belgium (Reuters) - Favorite Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky got through a "sketchy" first stage of the Tour de France largely unscathed on Sunday and then hopped straight back on stationary bikes for their customary if unique warmdown.

Slovakian young gun Peter Sagan won the stage with Fabian Cancellara producing another stunning performance up the last steep climb to retain of the yellow jersey picked up in Saturday's prologue.

Despite being back in the pack on a stage marred by a big crash, Wiggins stayed second overall and remained seven seconds behind Swiss Cancellara ahead of Monday's flatter 207.5 kilometers route through Belgium from Vise to Tournai.

"It was sketchy I think in the end but the way it ended up Bradley didn't lose any time," Team Sky general manager Dave Brailsford told reporters around the bus where Briton Wiggins was zoned out still pedaling away on his warm down bike.

"It was a good effort. It got really nervous once the first crash happened.

"Sagan was very cunning, he positioned himself well on Cancellara's wheel but it was a hell of an effort from Cancellara."

Team Sky's Australian Michael Rogers was caught up in the first crash but recovered well to finish the stage on the same time as the leaders before getting on his warm down bike too, a ploy few other teams are using on the Tour.

"It just helps with recovery, it gives us a bit of an advantage which we have up our sleeve," he said. "It's been helping us all year as our results have shown."

World champion Mark Cavendish was nowhere to be seen having dashed into the team bus after a punishing stage which showed that even with some weight loss, hilly routes still do not suit the sprinter.

He has slimmed down to try to prepare for the London Olympic road race this month where the course is more up and down than he might have liked.

The Briton was two minutes seven seconds behind Sagan having sat up from the saddle to avoid the crashes and ease off when the climbs became just too much.

A puncture for team mate and compatriot Chris Froome hit his chances. (Editing by John Mehaffey)

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