Brussels (AFP) – Dutch rider Mike Teunissen won a chaotic opening stage of the Tour de France on Saturday after a collision in the final kilometre blew the bunch sprint wide open in Brussels.
The 26-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider becomes the first yellow-jersey holder on the 2019 Tour and the first Dutchman to lead the race since Erik Breukink 30 years ago.
Teunissen edged Peter Sagan in a photo finish at the winning line, with the Slovak taking the green sprint points jersey after he won the early intermediate sprint.
“I never thought I could beat the sprinters, but in the end I got it,” said Teunissen.
“I started cycling with these kind of dreams. It’s a dream come true. I’ll remember this day for a long, long time.”
Australian rookie Caleb Ewan took the young rider’s white jersey after staying clear of the crash.
The race was marked by two falls as young Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen, who many tipped for the stage win, caused a mass fall as the tension mounted a kilometre from home.
One of the Tour de France overall favourites, Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang also crashed 18km from the finish but struggled back to the peloton looking shocked and bleeding from the head.
Greg Van Avermaet claimed the first King of the Mountains polka dot jersey after winning an intense struggle on the 7.8 percent gradient Mur de Grammont climb at 45km, which often features in the Flanders one-day classics.
The 34-year-old Van Avermaet, on his golden Olympic champion bike, was in Saturday’s early breakaway, from which he also came second on the day’s other, lesser, Bosberg climb securing the polka dot jersey after just 50km.
Half a million fans and well-wishers turned out as the race embarked in balmy sunshine from Brussels city centre, passing the Grand Place, the Royal Palace and the European Commission building before a 194.5km loop through the lush Belgian plains.