Front-flip crashes and a headwind suspends bridge-based theatrics at Tour de France

Nature thwarted Tour de France organisers as crosswinds failed to materialise on the Great Belt Bridge.

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By the end of stage two, the Great Belt Bridge that connects Zealand and Funen was simply being referred to by riders as ‘the Big Bridge’. But for all the might of the 56m-high structure stretching 18km over water, its impact on the second stage proved to be minimal.

Denmark had originally wanted the stage to end in Funen’s capital Odense but Tour de France organisers wanted to turn the drama up to 11, leaving only 3km from the exit of the bridge until the finish line. The city of Nyborg, one of the 17,000 locals said, has never seen so many people.

While the crosswinds didn’t materialise, crashes on the bridge and in the final 3km brought some of the expected first-week chaos to proceedings.

“It was a bit sketchy for the first kilometre but then everybody calmed down when there was a crash,” UAE Team Emirates’ Brandon McNulty told CyclingTips of the fall that brought down the yellow jersey of Yves Lampaert.

You could tell straight away that nothing was going to happen,” Bahrain-Victorious’ Fred Wright added. “The cross-head…it was just a bit too much head.”

That helped everyone relax a bit, Arkea-Samsic’s Connor Swift explained, but despite the crash relaxing the peloton “everyone was still panicking” the Brit said, “it’s the first proper stage of the Tour and it’s a sprint. Just a lot of nervous people and once we get past the fifth stage it should settle down a little bit.”

“I think it’s pretty similar,” Swift continued of how the nerves of the bunch this year compared to the bedlam of the opening week at last year’s French Grand Tour. “And then also added to the fact the crowds were lined with fans all day I think everyone was kind of remembering that crash on the first stage of the Tour last year with that big crash that hit Tony Martin [Opi-Omi], obviously no-one wants that to happen again so everyone was cautious and that causes a little bit more stress.”

Ag2r Citroën’s Aussie GC hope, Ben O’Connor, was brought down in the second crash and told CyclingTips he front-flipped over his handlebars. While he’s hurt his leg he’s confident it won’t affect his race.

So a stressful day out for the riders and some scenic viewing for the fans was the common census. But the new yellow jersey Wout van Aert had a different opinion.

“To be honest it was boring because the headwind was so strong so it felt like a training ride,” the Belgian said bluntly. “I think we were barely riding 30km/h, especially in the uphill part.”

“It was close to the finish so there was no freedom to look around and enjoy [the views]. It was definitely something special but in these circumstances, it was nothing more than an easy part without public on the side of the road.”

Perhaps Van Aert is annoyed at a missed chance for his Jumbo-Visma team to test the strength of UAE Team Emirates, who have brought a squad for the mountains rather than the tricky first week. While a day to remember, it was hardly a bridge over troubled Wout-er.

[Minus five points for this last one, Jonny – ed.]

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