Chasing Le Tour: a dramatic opening stage

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The opening stage of the 100th Tour de France was supposed to be a formality. A break would get away to soak up some TV time, the sprinters teams would reel them in, then Cavendish would leave all in his wake to take yellow into stage 2. Things turned out to be far more dramatic than that.

A break did get away, gaining several minutes on the field and putting Juan Jose Lobato in the KOM jersey after summiting the day’s only climb ahead of his breakaway companions. And predictably, the breakaway’s time gap was eroded and eventually erased with 37km to go. And then things got interesting.

Newly-crowned Dutch road race champion Johnny Hoogerland crashed with around 15km to go, having lost an argument with an advertising banner. Up the road in Bastia the Orica-GreenEDGE team bus was trying to pass under the finish gantry and promptly got wedged, sending organisers, officials, photographers and other members of the media into a frenzy.

While all and sundry tried to unjam the bus, another crash in the main field brought down riders, including Garmin-Sharp’s GC contender Ryder Hesjedal. Race radio reported that with the Orica-GreenEDGE bus still stuck, the result would be taken from the 3km to go barrier, right where a roundabout was. Some of the riders got the message, some didn’t. And the problem was only exacerbated when the bus was reversed away from the gantry and the original finish line was reinstated.

(See Hendo’s Twitter profile for more of his thoughts on the incident)

But many of the riders had more to worry about than the location of the finish line. A huge crash with 5km to go thwarted the chances of pre-race favourites Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan and Andre Greipel, and saw Albert Contador land heavily on his arm and shoulder.

Reigning world TT champion Tony Martin was probably the most seriously hurt of the felled riders, with a slew of injuries including a concussion, contusions, a deep wound on his elbow, and lots of road rash. Fortunately he hasn’t been ruled out of stage 2 yet.

In the end the stage honours went to Argos-Shimano’s Marcel Kittel in a bunch sprint ahead of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Danny van Poppel (Vacansoleil). Kittel was presented with three jerseys at the finish: the yellow overall leader’s jersey, the green points jersey and the white best young rider’s jersey. It’s great to see Argos-Shimano punching above their weight in the first season as a WorldTour team.

It certainly wasn’t the start to the 100th edition of the Tour de France we were expecting, but there’s no shortage of dramas to talk about. We’re excited to see what the next 20 days bring. In the meantime, check out these images from stage 1.

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