Matteo Trentin and Marcel Kittel finished the opening stage, held under a grim sky on wet roads, in the top 10.
On and off rain impacted on stage 1 of the Tour de France, a 14km-long individual time trial in Düsseldorf, which became the fourth German city to host the Grand Depart. At times, the torrential rain led to several crashes in the tight and testing corners of the parcours, numerous riders hitting the ground and losing time, with two of them being forced to wave goodbye to the race after just a few kilometers.
Matteo Trentin was the fourth Quick-Step Floors rider to leave the starting house and stormed through the flat course, stopping the clock in 16:14 and going into the hot seat. The 27-year-old Italian was leading a Grand Tour time trial for the first time in his career and remained in that position until former World Champion Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky) improved his time by a mere three seconds.
Despite the big favourites coming thick and fast in the final hour, Matteo’s time proved to be one of the best of the day and allowed the Quick-Step Floors to conclude the stage in a remarkable fifth place, just ten seconds behind winner Geraint Thomas, but ahead of defending champion Chris Froome.
“I’m surprised of today’s performance. My goal was just to go full gas and make sure I don’t blow up, because there’s still three weeks ahead. I felt good, but I definitely wasn’t expecting such a result. It’s my maiden top 10 in a time trial in the pro ranks, and what better place to get it than the biggest scene in cycling? It’s really nice and it gives me more confidence for the next days”, said Matteo, who is riding his fourth Tour de France.
One of the home favourites in Düsseldorf, Marcel Kittel was among the late starters, and the 29-year-old sprinter – a former Junior World Champion in the discipline – showed he still has the touch and class in the time trials, closing the day in a solid tenth, 16 seconds off the pace. Besides Matteo and Marcel, also Dan Martin had reasons to be content, as he navigated safely through this complicated stage and stopped the clock in 16:53.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to start the Tour de France in front of my countrymen. It’s incredible how many people came here today and it makes me proud that my country is celebrating the sport again”, a smiling Marcel said at the finish, before describing his experience during the 14km ITT.
“The time trial is a painful discipline, but I enjoyed it. With all these fantastic fans cheering for me from the start, I was riding in a tunnel of noise and it was really cool. That motivated me even more do get a good result today”, concluded the German, who will now move his sights to stage 2, which will take place between Düsseldorf and Liège.