Stage 1 Recap
Predictably the peloton let a small group of riders go clear including spring classics danger man, Juan Antonio Flecha, and gained a modest advantage on the peloton. The attentive peloton didn’t let them get too much of an advantage thought, just enough of a gap to let the group of five hog the cameras for most of the kilometers of the 213km long Stage 1.
A bit of drama straight out of the gate, as overall favorite and Team Sky leader, Chris Froome went down within the first few minutes of the race. When your contact patch with the road is about the size of two American dimes, it doesn’t take much to take the wheels out from under a rider. Turns out his little crash would become just a footnote on a chaotic day by the time it was done.
Before the anticipated bunch sprint finale, there were were points to be earned near Ponte Novu, where the French army finally put an end to the Corsican republic in 1769. The breakaway took the biggest pot of the points, but left some valuable crumbs for the specialists. The sprinters had their own battle as they had a go at each other to gain the first points in the Green Jersey competition. Greipel nipped out Cavendish and Sagan to gain the remaining points in this first intermediate sprint. It was just a warmup for the almost certain bunch sprint finale in the now fast approaching town of Bastia.
The race stated heating up around the 20km mark as the peloton started closing down the time gap from the breakaway who had been out front for 176km when they were caught with under 40km to go. At about the 190km mark, Dutch National Champion, Johnny Hoogerland (no stranger to crashes) went down, but was able to finish the stage with scrapes and bruises.
The real drama was happening at the finish as the Orica-Greenedge hit the finishing scaffolding and immediately started spraying AC refrigerant skyward with about 15 minutes before a blitzing peloton arrived. Seemingly stuck, the whole of the Tour organization worked frantically to figure out a solution to the bus, which was blocking the finish line. Race radio initially announced that the race results would be recorded at the ‘safe zone’ that begins at 3km. The zone was established a few years ago that riders involved in a crash would not lose time. They then changed their minds after someone figured out that the million-dollar bus probably had reverse.
With the now new finishing line 3km closer than expected, the front end of the race was in absolute disarray. That chaos was certainly the reason that caused a massive crash (at about 6km) that took out Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan, and then shortly after with a mechanical Andre Greipel. With the top three sprinters out left out of the finishing sprint and the bus finally out of the way, the stage could go anyone. Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) found his way to the front to take the win and the right to wear the first Maillot Jaune of this year’s tour.
Some big names went down in the late stage crash, Van Garderen, Contador, Steegmans, Hesjedal, and taken away on a stretcher World Time Trial Champion, German Tony Martin. Crashes always happen, but it’s a shame that the day’s events and the chaos caused at the last minute had such a devastating impact on the first day. All 198 riders were given the same finishing time on the day.
Stage 2 Preview
Stage 2 of this year’s Tour is certainly not your typical first week stage. The day’s profile has four categorized climbs with the last one a sharp little climb at almost 9% will bite into the riders legs just about 10km from the finish. Typically the winner of the prologue or first stage gets to wear the Maillot Jaune for a few days, but not this year. The jersey will change hands today.
A couple of factors may surface on the way to the Corsican city of Ajaccio, opportunists and first week fitness of the Overall contenders. The opportunists are the riders who will be trying to take advantage of the terrain and the inattention of the favorites to try and get away, maybe even permitted, because they are not viewed as a 3-week threat. Some of the General Classification riders (overall contenders) might also find out that they underestimated the fitness level needed for a first week such as this and find themselves in trouble very very quickly. It’s generally said that a GC contender needs to be at their strongest in the last week of the three week race. If the big boys aren’t paying attention or were relying on the fitness ‘coming to them’, it might be too late.
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