Hasta cinco ciclistas de Movistar Team se fueron al suelo en una caótica y lluviosa apertura de la ‘Grande Boucle’; los más afectados, Rojas -con un golpe en la espalda y heridas en el brazo- y Soler -con contusiones-. Kristoff (UAD), primer líder.
/ Today’s route
The route was basically the same as the one used by the women’s La Course, over three laps and 156km that included two climbs of the Côte de Riniez (Cat-3), plus another one in the neutralized section, and the gentle ascent to Levens -non-categorized- with about 40km from Nice’s finish. A sprinter-suiting scenario in the first day of contest for the yellow jersey.
/ Weather report
It was as uncertain as in the ‘morning sector’, with about 25ºC, coastal winds from the southeast and, above all, storm threat for the entire afternoon, especially in the early stages.
/ Keys to the race
- Michael Schär (CCC), Fabien Grellier (TDE) and Cyril Gautier (BVC) jumped away from the gun and led the race early, under strict control from Deceuninck-Quick Step, which never allowed them gaining more than three minutes on the field.
- The real stress for the bunch started, however, with the rain falling as of lap two of the Nice circuit, with numerous crashes -one of which kept Imanol Erviti behind, with no physical consequence- and several incidents into the ascent and downhill of the Côte de Riniez.
- Another crash during the second passage through Nice, with Oliveira, Verona and Erviti implicados -the Navarrese crashed three times-, split the peloton into several pieces. The ever-so-chaotic situation invited several teams, once the break was caught with 60km to go, to cover the sections leading up to the finish at a moderate pace. In turn, the organisers announced, on request from some other riders and into agreement with the race jury, to take the times for the overall classification with 3km to go.
- Just under the 3km banner, another crash affected two of the Blues: José Joaquín Rojas, who suffered bruises on his arm and a significant blow to his back, and Marc Soler, who sustained a blow to his knee yet was able, together with his team-mates, to reach the line (two crashes today for the Catalan). Alexander Kristoff (UAD) claimed the first yellow jersey as he won the bunch sprint ahead of Mads Pedersen (TFS) and Cees Bol (SUN).
Imanol Erviti: “What a start! It doesn’t usually rain in this area, but when it does, you can see the effects it brings. The crosswalk with 3km was a problem – as the peloton went past before the final lap, some rider lost control of his bike, and then at the end, the peloton crashed again. Other than Enric and Alejandro, we all went down, just like myself. I was trying to bridge back when the peloton decided to stop, so I can’t describe the actual situation, but I feel like going easier there was the most sensible thing; the ‘track’ was in really bad condition.”
Carlos Verona: “What an unlucky day! We hadn’t suffered any rain at races during the summer and we suffered these first storms right at the start of the most nervous event of the year. The roads were really dangerous with this rain, to be honest – you could even see riders falling at that final descent, when we were riding so calmly. I think the peloton acted with common sense when they decided to ease up into the final sections. The organisers also decided to take the GC times with 3km to go, because it was so dangerous. It wasn’t the start we planned or would have hoped to have, but at least we could all make it to the finish. We hope Rojas and Marc, those with most abrasions with the final crashes, can recover well, that’s the most important thing now. I had never seen a peloton so serious about each other’s safety as I did today – it might be down to the accidents we’ve experienced lately. Chapeau to the people in the bunch, because the roads were just impossible today.”
/ Upcoming goals
Sunday’s stage two of the Tour de France will be one to keep an eye on for the overall contenders. Another loop around Nice (186km), this time through the so-called Haut Pays, with three categorized ascents –La Colmiane (Cat-1), Turini (Cat-1) and the Col d’Èze (Cat-2)- plus the ‘Bonus Sprint’ atop the Col des Quatre Chemins, just 9km from the end. A stage not to be missed – and hopefully a sunnier one.
Cover picture (c): BettiniPhoto