Featured image courtesy of gettyimages
The Tour de France is the Tour de France, never following a script and never predictable.
As soon as a breakaway formed and the weather turned for the worst, there were doubts that a bunch sprint would actually happen.
While Covid-19 is still a worry, Stage 1 of the 107th Tour shifted to a new focus, one of crashes, wet descents and a truce among the peloton.
Most importantly it’s the winner of the stage that counts and today we saw a sprinter that probably nobody expected to win, cycling up to its old tricks again.
Alexander Kristoff is always spoke of as a favourite to beat the fast men but never tipped highly enough. Well now the Norwegian rider can say he’s won the opening stage of a Tour de France and with it the first Norwegian in the maillot jaune.
The day started with your usual breakaway of French domestic teams, Cyril Gautier of Vital-Concept B&B Hotels, Fabien Grellier for Team Total Diréct Energié and Michal Schär for a CCC team that need as much coverage as they can get right now.
As soon as the rain began to fall we knew it would then become a tricky day. With swimming pools in abundance viewed from the helicopter, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the numerous piscines had overfilled due to the conditions on the roads around Nice.
Surfaces feeling like ice and with tricky descents to cover no wonder Jumbo-Visma’s Tony Martin doing his best Titanic impression signalled for a mini race pause to keep everyone safe. Every team put safety first by slowing down the pace, everyone except Astana who pushed hard, saw their rider Ion Izagirre come off his bike and probably didn’t make too many friends by doing so – crazy!
What was worrying to see were riders still falling despite a slowing of the race tempo. Which riders didn’t hit the deck will be a guessing game but we know that the stage wasn’t kind to key domestiques for the GC contenders. Jumbo-Visma’s George Bennett and Tom Dumoulin fell, lots of sympathy for Ineos’s Pavel Sivakov, UAE’s David de la Cruz suffered but the big talking point is Thibaut Pinot.
Inside the 3 km safety zone, Pinot crashed but thankfully won’t lose any time but never nice to see. The question now for Groupama-FDJ is how he will feel going into some tough stages ahead and this is only week one!
The first Norwegian to wear the yellow jersey since Thor Hushovd back in 2011 and at the age of 33, Alexander Kristoff becomes the oldest man to win an opening stage of Le Tour since Gino Bartali in 1948.
The day belongs to Kristoff, the best win of his career but of course we’ll question the other sprinters. All the main contenders, Sam Bennett, Caleb Ewan and Giacomo Nizzolo all suffered from mechanicals and crashes. It just seemed that heavy legs and even Peter Sagan couldn’t get close to Kristoff’s power at the line.
Credit must also go to the world champion Mads Pedersen who took second place. An encouraging result and maybe a spring board to take a stage at this Tour.
A mountain stage after just Stage 2 tomorrow, a day where Alexander Kristoff won’t be in yellow come the finish. How will everyone have recovered ahead of a stage where the GC men get their first opportunity to attack the race?
All the GC teams have suffered a hit and there’s a long way to go.
One stage down, twenty more on the way!