On the opening day of the 105th edition of the Tour de France, riders and fans alike were treated to beautiful weather conditions in the Vendée department of France’s Atlantic coast. The weather promoted fast riding as riders geared up for what promised to be an enthralling and exciting edition of the world’s most famous race. In a finale that saw crashes, splits in the peloton and mechanicals threatening to bring a rider’s race to an end on the very first day, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, was protected by his BORA-hansgrohe teammates perfectly, pushing hard and just missing the top spot to take second, with Rafał Majka closing out the top ten with a tenth position, making his ambitions for the GC race clear.
The opening stage of La Grande Boucle would start in the tranquil setting of the Île de Noirmoutier, but this tranquility would be short-lived, as the most famous cycling race in the world made its way down France’s Atlantic coast to its conclusion, 201km away in Fontenay-le-Comte. The parcours was flat throughout, with a small hump almost 30km from the finish line to decide who would wear the polka dot jersey, but this was a sideshow to the main event – a flat finale suggested that today the stage victory would be claimed by the sprinters – as well as deciding who would be first to of this year’s race wear the famous Maillot Jaune.
The Team Tactics
The first day of the Tour is always an exciting time, but it’s also fast, frenetic and dangerous. Speeds are higher, the ambition is stronger, and the desire to win is many times amplified. As a result, crashes are much more likely and so the aim for most of today would be to stay out of trouble, especially with the possibility of winds in the final 30km as the race moved inland, and to protect Peter Sagan and Rafał Majka in the finale – with Peter potentially contesting the sprint, and Rafał wanting to finish safely for the GC race. For the finale, the whole team will pull to come to the finish in a good position, with Lukas Pöstlberger and Daniel Oss the last ones to position the UCI World Champion ahead of the sprint.
The second the flag dropped for Le Grand Depart, a break made their move. This small group of three quickly built an advantage that quickly exceeded two minutes and on this opening stage, the peloton was happy for the breakaway to put all the effort in. The advantage crept up to almost four minutes before the bunch started to take notice. Starting with the intermediate sprint around 80km out, where the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, took ninth position, the speeds increased, gradually cutting into the break’s lead at speeds of 45km/h, before finally making the catch with 10km remaining – only for a pile up to cause a split in the bunch. The BORA-hansgrohe riders were ahead of the split, but this shook up the peloton and as the finish line loomed closer, there were more crashes and mechanicals throwing the GC race into disarray. The BORA-hansgrohe riders took control at the front, with Rafał, Marcus Burghardt, Daniel Oss and Lukas Pöstlberger bringing Peter into a strong position. Five riders back when the sprint started, Peter was close, passing three riders with ease, but was just unable to maintain his effort to take the win, taking second on the line. Rafał came across the line in tenth spot, showing his ambitions in the GC race already at this early stage. Peter will start stage 2 in the green jersey after stage winner Gaviria took the Yellow Jersey.
From the Finish Line
“The Tour de France got underway today with a fast stage! It was flat, with a parcours that suited the pure sprinters and, as expected, we had a brisk finishing sprint. The guys did an excellent job throughout the stage and in the tense final kilometres protected Rafał and me from all the trouble. We stayed clear of all the crashes. I felt my legs in good shape and took second in the stage. It’s just the start of a long Tour de France.” – Peter Sagan, UCI World Champion
“It was a good start to the Tour de France today for us and the guys followed our plan perfectly. When there was the second crash, we started pulling at the front, on the one hand, to stay out of trouble, and on the other to take a bit of an advantage out of the situation. Some GC guys were stuck behind, we had all our guys at the front, and that was important. Rafał finished 10th and in the end, every second counts. Peter did a strong sprint as well, Fernando was simply better today, but the stage was too easy to suit Peter so, I think, second was very good today.” – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director