Mike Teunissen was a surprise winner of the opening stage of the Tour de France after a major crash ripped the peloton apart inside the final three kilometres.
Geraint Thomas was among those to fall in the final moments of the 194.5km stage that started and finished in Brussels, but the defending champion quickly remounted his bike.
Jumbo-Visma’s star sprinter Dylan Groenewegen was also among those on the deck, but Teunissen took victory for the team regardless as he held off Peter Sagan in a photo finish.
Geraint Thomas was among those to fall in the final moments of the 194.5km stage that started and finished in Brussels, but the defending champion quickly remounted his bike.
Jumbo-Visma’s star sprinter Groenewegen was also among those on the deck, but Teunissen took victory for the team regardless as he held off Sagan in a photo finish.
The crash came a little over two kilometres from the finish, with Groenewegen appearing to come off worst.
Thomas fell into a barrier as the peloton ground to a halt but did not appear to suffer any injury, while his Ineos team-mate Egan Bernal stayed upright.
None of those involved will lose any time in the general classification with the incident occurring in the last three kilometres of the stage.
Teunissen wins stage one of the Tour de France
Mike Teunissen has won the stage to take the yellow jersey. I honestly don’t think anybody predicted that. The Dutchman who works as lead-out rider for Jumbo-Visma team-mate Dylan Groenewegen managed to pip Peter Sagan to claim the biggest win of his career.
Caleb Ewan finished third.
Meanwhile, despite either crashing or being caught up behind the Groenewegen incident, Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal both finished the stage safely and was given the same time as his main rivals in the race for the general classification.
1.5km to go | Big crash
A number of riders are down, including Dylan Groenewegen and a handful of Ineos riders.
2km to go
Alex Dowsett of Katusha-Alpecin, the six-time British time trial champion, is near the front, alongside a phalanx of Lotto-Sodal riders.
3km to go
The general classification riders are safely within the final 3km. Over to you sprint teams.
3.5km to go
Bora, Lotto and Sunweb are all on the front. Ineos tucked in behind, protecting their general classification co-leaders.
4km to go
The pace is winding up as the strung out peloton waeves its way towards the finishing line outside Laeken Castle, the home of the Belgian royal family. Definitely going to be a battle royal for the first yellow jersey at this year’s Tour de France.
7km to go
Sunweb have moved themselves towards the front of the pack for the first time all day. Their man, Michael Matthews, will fancy this slightly uphill finish, though it may not be steep enough for the Aussie he has a punchy little kick when the road rises.
10km to go
We are in the final 10km of this stage and Stéphane Rossetto has been caught. Time for the sprinters’ teams to go to work.
Jakob Fuglsang just dropped back to the medical car off the back of the bunch, but he’s carrying on. The Dane appears to have knocked his knee in that crash a few minutes ago. Hopefully he can carry on tomorrow.
12km to go
Stéphane Rossetto is digging deep, but his lead is dropping quite fast. His advantage is just 36sec now.
Fuglsang is suffering
Jakob Fuglsang has four team-mates alongside him and the Dane is losing blood which is pouring down the side of his face. How relevant that is we may not find out until tonight, but that’s why the general classification teams do their best to stay at the font of the peloton. Of course, everybody wants to be at the front but there simply is not the space for everybody.
A number of riders, including one of the pre-race favourites Jakob Fuglsang (Astana, Den) have hit the deck. Not entirely sure what happened, but looks like maybe a narrowing of the road caused a squeeze. Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Merida, Ita) also went down and managed to pick up quite a bit of road rash down his left leg and glute. That’s definitely going to smart in the morning.
Worrying times for a number of riders and their directeur sportifs. Stéphane Rossetto’s lead, incidentally, has seen his advantage drop to below a minute.
20km to go
Stéphane Rossetto takes a bidon from a team car, while around one minute down the road old foes Deceuninck-Quick Step and Lotto-Soudal are jostling for position on the front.
23km to go
Stéphane Rossetto’s advantage has been whittled down a little to just 1min 11sec. Back in the main bunch the teams are organising themselves into formation, knowing that more than likely today will conclude in a sprint finish. The various teams will now be approaching this finish with different ambitions. The sprinters’ teams, obviously, will be hoping to contest the stage while the squads with general classification contenders will be making sure their men stay out of harm’s way. A crash or tumble at the wrong time – is there a right time? – could potentially end their race and, in turn, a whole team’s ambitions. The three kilometre rule will be invoked.
Wow, what a guy . . .
Having read this tweet from the Inner Ring, I now really, really want Stéphane Rossetto to win this stage*.
Rossetto in the lead. In March, descending Col de Braus in hills behind Nice, a cat ran out. He crashed, fracturing pelvis in 3 places. With nobody around to help, he rode back to his apartment in Menton & then used a stepladder as a makeshift crutch to get himself to hospital
— the Inner Ring (@inrng) July 6, 2019
*He will not win this stage.
35km to go
Very little change on the road. Stéphane Rossetto may be starting to labour a little.
40km to go
Stéphane Rossetto is pushing on. His lead is holding at around 1min 40sec.
46km to go
Race leader Stéphane Rossetto, by the way, has just three victories on his palmarès . A stage at the 2013 edition of Tour du Limousin, the general classification at the 2014 Boucles de la Mayenne and the fourth and final stage at last year’s Tour de Yorkshire. He appears to be riding with great purpose here today and has managed to pull out 1min 45sec on the peloton. His team, Cofidis Solutions Crédits, have not won a stage at the Tour de France for over a decade and this is a debut ride for the 32-year-old at his home race. I can’t see the the Pro-Continental rider holding off the peloton who will be desperate to deny him his victory, but what a story that would be if he could hold on.
53km to go
Stéphane Rossetto(Cofidis Solutions Crédits) has managed to ghost his way off the front of the peloton and the Frenchman has managed to put a shade over one minute on the main bunch. A few minutes back, Deceuninck-Quick Step’s Spanish climber Enric Mas endured a mechanical. Meanwhile a handful of others, including Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott, Ita) have also been delayed for one reason or another.
Sagan strikes early blow for rivals
As expected, Peter Sagan won the intermediate sprint to become the virtual leader in the points classification. Incidentally, there are 50 points on offer on the finishing line.
After causing some splits in the bunch, Bora-Hansgrohe sat up on the front. The easing up in pace allowing those struggling off the back the opportunity to get back on.
Breakaway done | 70km to go
Natnael Berhane, Mads Wurtz Schmidt and Xandro Meurisse have been caught by the peloton which is now strung out in a long line. Many appear to be struggling to hold the wheels.
72km to go
As soon as the peloton hit the cobbles, Bora-Hansgrohe shifted towards the front before putting in a big injection in pace. There appears to be very little wind out there in Belgium, but splits have been created by those big efforts from Bora-Hansgrohe. One can only guess that the German team are preparing themselves for the incoming intermediate sprint.
Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick Step, Ita), meanwhile, was fored into taking a bike change from his team car.
Incoming cobbles | 75km to go
Natnael Berhane, Mads Wurtz Schmidt and Xandro Meurisse’s advantage has dropped to below a minute for the first time since departing from Brussels almost three hours ago. There is a short stretch of cobbled road coming soon. In theory they shouldn’t provide the riders with too much to worry about, but given that there are a number of lightweight climbers here today it will be interesting to see how they cope with the terrain. One lapse of concentration could do for a rider here. A poorly-judged feathering of the brakes, a bouncing bidon or a touch of wheels can cause carnage, hence a number of the big general classification squads getting thier leaders up towards the front.
Vos bounces back to win stage two in Italy
While we wait for the intermediate sprint to come, just heard that Marianne Vos has won the second stage at the 30th edition of the Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile – or the Giro Rosa as it is more commonly known – after leading a Dutch one-two-three at the end of the 78.3km race around Viù. The Giro Rosa is the CCC-Liv’s rider’s first outing in a stage race since she crashed out of the Women’s Tour and will come as a huge boost for the legend of the sport. Katarzyna Niewiadoma, whose Canyon-Sram team won the opening-day team time trial, is leading the general classification in the 10-day race.
95km to go
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal, Bel) has taken over duties on the front of the peloton as the riders chalk off the opening 100km of this year’s Tour de France. Just another 3,380km to go boys. Tucked in behind De Gendt is the German time trial champion Tony Martin who has a posse of Jumbo-Visma team-mates tucked in behind.
The three-man breakaway’s lead has dropped to 1min 40sec.
The peloton has just passed though the feedzone . . .
. . . which is my cue to go and grab my lunch.
Aldag to quit Tour in protest over Cavendish?
The fallout over Mark Cavendish’s controversial non-selection for the Tour de France continues to gather pace, with rumours that Dimension Data performance director Rolf Aldag might even quit the race over the decision, writes colleague Tom Cary who is currently out in Belgium.
An extraordinary opening morning at the 106th Tour de France was overshadowed by conflicting reports over a rider who is not even in Brussels.
Doug Ryder, the team principal of Dimension Data, claimed it was a “team decision” not to select Cavendish, who has won 30 Tour stages in his career and still hopes to match Eddy Merckx’s tally of 34.
However, barely 10 minutes after Ryder had finished speaking outside the team bus, Rolf Aldag, the team’s performance director, contradicted him.
110km to go
The three-man breakaway continues to tap away, just a shade below two minutes, up the road from the peloton who are looking fairly relaxed. As mentioned earlier, today’s stage is expected to conclude with a bunch sprint finish and so Deceuninck-Quick Step, Jumbo-Visma and Lotto-Soudal are continuing to control the pace on the front. The finale of this stage will be a slightly uphill kicker, for those familiar with the Brussels it is outside the palace that overlooks the city. Anyway, here’s a profile of the final few kilometres . . .
125km to go
Not a great deal of action out on the roads right now. The three-man break has an advantage of 1min 40sec on the peloton which has just passed through the feedzone. The next key point in today’s stage will come in around 60km when the race reaches the intermediate sprint. The first rider across the line in Les Bons Villers will scoop up 20 points in the competition for the green jersey, while the 15th gets just one.
Unsurprisingly, the six-time winner of the points competition Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe, Svk) is again the favourite to win another green jersey, though some are tipping Belgian tyro Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma, Bel) to challenge the three-time world champion. I think Van Aert certainly has the tools to work with, but whether or not he is given the freedom to ride for himself, as opposed to work for team-mate Dylan Groenewegen in the sprints, will prove crucial.
Money matters . . .
For those who are interested in these things, today’s racing has cost the race organisers €500 in prize money so far, here’s the breakdown . . .
140km to go
After taking the virtual lead in the mountains classification, Greg Van Avermaet sat up as if to say ‘my work today, is done’ before drifting back towards the main bunch.
The three other riders from the earlier breakaway – Natnael Berhane, Mads Wurtz Schmidt and Xandro Meurisse – remain out in front with their advantage holding at around the two-minute mark.
Meurisse opens his tally . . .
The Wanty-Groupe Gobert rider was first over the top of the Bosberg, picking up a solitary point in the mountains classification while also pocketing himself €200 in prize money.
Van Avermaet goes into the polka dot
Following that early attack from Natnael Berhane, it was the Flemish riders Greg Van Avermaet and Xandro Meurisse who took control on the upper section of the climb.
It was the WorldTour rider, though, who was strongest and the CCC man crested the summit first to pick up two points in the mountains classification and €300 in prize money. Providing he completes today’s stage then he will become the overnight leader in the mountains competition.
Here we go . . .
Natnael Berhane attacks on the early section of the Muur van Geraardsbergen, but Greg Van Avermaet responds and reins him back in, taking with him Mads Wurtz Schmidt and Xandro Meurisse. Fully expect Van Avermaet to take the points here.
153km to go
The stage leaders are edging ever closer to the Muur van Geraardsbergen – they are just under 2,000 metres from the start of the 1.2km ascent. This is where, incidentally, another Belgian rider Lucien Van Impe won the first of his points in the mountains classification competition when he won the polka dots back in 1975, the year the jersey was launched.
165km to go
That four-man breakaway – Greg Van Avermaet, Natnael Berhane, Mads Wurtz Schmidt and Xandro Meurisse – has increased its lead to around 3min 20sec, but the peloton appears happy enough to give themselves their day in the sun.
The leading protagonists are now around 20km from the first categorised climb of the day, the steep cobbled Muur van Geraardsbergen (Mur de Grammont) where, one imagines, Van Avermaet will be hoping to do exactly what he did at this year’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and lead the way up to the church on the summit where he hopes to open his account in the mountains classification and become the virtual leader in the competition.
175km to go
Just over 20km into today’s stage and we are already seeing the dominant teams come to the fore. Deceuninck-Quick Step, Jumbo-Visma and Lotto-Soudal all have riders near the front of the bunch on behalf of their sprinters – Elia Viviani, Dylan Groenewegen and Caleb Ewan respectively – while Ineos have positioned themselves towards the head of the pack in an effort to say out of trouble. The opening few days of the Tour are often nervy affairs in side the bunch and on these Belgian roads, which tend to have a lot of road furniture and varied surfaces, this can become magnified making concentration paramount.
Gang of Four | 190km to go
A lone Total-Direct Énergie rider attempted to bridge over to the breakaway, but his efforts appear to have been in vain. The peloton has stopped briefly for a comfort break, allowing the four-man break to grow out tgheir lead to around two minutes. Lovely day out in Brussels today, there’s a light wind but it’s sunshine all the way at a most pleasant 24°C. Lovely riding conditions.
And they’re off!
Right from the flag a four-man group of riders chipped off the front and, somewhat surprisingly, there’s a huge name in there: Olympic champion and multiple classics winner Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team, Bel) is there with Natnael Berhane (Cofidis Solutions Crédits, Eri), Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Katusha-Alpecin, Den) and Xandro Meurisse (Wanty-Groupe Gobert, Bel).
As the riders continue to tap their way through the neutralised zone, why don’t why have a very quick look at today’s stage? The stage is expected to favour a sprinter, but before the race concludes outside Laeken Castle, the home of the Belgian royal family, the 176-rider peloton will have coursed its way through both Flanders and Wallonia, uniting this quite divided country – historically, at least – through cycling.
Much of the early part of the route will be familiar to those who enjoy the spring classics – both the Muur van Geraardsbergen (Mur de Grammont in French) and Bosberg are frequently used in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Tour of Flanders – but today they are positioned so early in the race they are unlikely to have any impact on the stage win.
There is one intermediate sprint which comes 69.08km from the finish in the town of Les Bons Villers. For the cartography fans out there, here’s a map of the route . . .
Calm before the storm
As it stands, the riders are currently tapping away through the neutralised section of road in the city of Brussels. Eddy Merckx is one of the guests of honour today – the other is John-John Dohmen (a hockey player, apparently) – but most of the eyes are focused on Édouard Louis Joseph Baron Merckx who is waving to the huge crowds in his cycling-mad homeland.
Unbelievably, not everybody quite understands how big a deal Merckx is in cycling and so I wrote a short piece about him which you can read here.
Morning all, and welcome to the Tour de France . . .
That’s right folks, we are back for another three-week odyssey that is otherwise known as one of cycling’s three grand tours. Whether the Italians or Spaniards – or for that matter, cycling fans – this one is the grandest of them all. The original, the big dog, the daddy.
Through a series of mishap and misfortune, the 106th edition of the Tour may just be the most open race since 2008, the year Carlos Sastre ghosted to victory on Alpe d’Huez before climbing into the yellow jersey and the history books.
Following the crash that will likely keep four-time winner Chris Froome out of action until next year and Tom Dumoulin’s failure to recover from a knee injury the Dutchman picked up at the Giro d’Italia, the Tour will be missing two of the sport’s biggest names.
Equally, a number of riders who may ordinarily be considered contenders for the yellow jersey – Vincenzo Nibali, Simon Yates and Mikel Landa – are expected to arrive on the starting line in Brussels a little fatigued following yet another brutal edition of the Giro.
When the route was revealed in October, received wisdom was that organisers had designed a course for a rider who was not necessarily a strong time trialist, but one who enjoyed climbing. A rider who, a bit like Frenchman Romain Bardet, was an old-fashioned racer.
Race director Christian Prudhomme described the course, which features five mountain-top finishes with three rising above 2,000 metres in altitude – and a record number of 30 categorised climbs – as “the highest Tour in history”. But who will the course suit most and, more importantly, who appears to be peaking at the right time?