TDF Stage 1: Marcel Kittel moves into maillot jaune as crash rules out sprint rivals

Chaos on Corsica following late chute - as organisers fought to remove Orica-GreenEdge bus stuck at finish line

by Simon_MacMichael   June 29, 2013  

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Argos-Shimano's Marcel Kittel is the first wearer of the maillot jaune in the 100th edition of the Tour de France following chaotic scenes towards the end of the opening stage on Corsica, with a crash with around 5km to go taking out the big favourite for the stage, Mark Cavendish of Omega Pharma-Quick Step, as well as Cannondale's Peter Sagan and Andre Greipel of Lotto-Belisol.

The crash, which took place as organisers desperately tried to move the Orica-GreenEdge bus which had been stuck under the finish line arch, also held up overall contenders including two-time winner Alberto Contador of Saxo-Tinkoff and BMC Racing's Tejay van Garderen, winner of the best young rider's classification last year.

Early reports of casualties include Tony Martin of Omega Pharma-Quick Step, said to have broken his collarbone and to have lost consciousness inside the team bus after the stage, plus Team Sky's Geraint Thomas, reportedly taken to hospital for an x-ray.

Garmin-Sharp's Ryder Hesjedal had crashed shortly beforehand, with advertising banners billowing into the road towards the end of the 213km stage from Porto-Vecchio to Bastia causing a series of chutes, but shortly after the stage finished organisers ASO confirmed that all riders would be given the same time today.

Race favourite Chris Froome of Team Sky – whose Tour got off to an inauspicious start when he fell and had to change bikes while the race was still neutralised – managed to avoid the carnage, as did team-mate Richie Porte, although another Sky rider, Ian Stannard, did come down in one of those crashes.

It was a frantic end to a stage that had been expected to end with Cavendish, winner of the points jersey in the Giro d’Italia last month and the British road championship in Glasgow last weekend, become just the third rider from these shores to have led all three of cycling’s Grand Tours, the others being David Millar and Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Today, the first visit of the Tour de France to Corsica, presented the first opportunity in nearly half a century for an out and out sprinter to take the maillot jaune on the first day, and while Cavendish will have another opportunity in his mother’s home town of Harrogate in 12 months’ time, he will be cursing his luck today.

He avoided hitting the deck – others, including Sagan, were less lucky – but there was no chance of him rejoining a small front group that fought it out for the stage win, Kittel prevailing over Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff, with Danny van Poppel of Vancansoleil-DCM third.

The frantic finale to the stage showed the value of race radios to communicate to the riders what was happening at the finish after the Orica-GreenEdge bus became stuck on the line; at one point, it looked as though the end of the stage would have to be moved forward for safety reasons.

Even so, there was still evident confusion in the peloton about exactly what was happening - stage winner Kittel said he had no idea about the bus beinb stuck, while Lotto-Belisol's Greg Henderson said on Twitter afterwards that he believed the finish line had been moved to 3km from the end of the stage.

The opening road stage of any Tour de France is stressful enough as those seeking to contest the win, as well as the GC hopefuls, look to stay near the front of the peloton to keep out of trouble, but there’s little doubt that the reports coming back from the finish line would have added to the peloton’s nervousness as it headed towards the finish.

The start of the Tour’s first ever stage on Corsica had been greeted with azure skies and bright sunshine, and until that chaotic finale had run true to the predicted script, with an early break that would never be given too much leeway before being brought back by the sprinters’ teams.

Those five riders who made up the day’s break had got away almost immediately after the flag dropped to signal the start of the three-week race, the move initiated by Europcar’s Jerome Cousin.

He was joined by the ever combative Juan Antonio Flecha of Vacansoleil-DCM, Euskaltel’s Juan Jose Lobato, the Saur Sojasun rider Cyril Lemoine, and Lars Boom, sporting the new Belkin kit after the team formerly racing as Blanco secured new sponsorship this week.

There was just one climb counting towards the mountains classification on today’s stage, the Category 4 Côte de Sotta, crested just 45.5km into the stage, and it was Lobato who took the solitary point on offer to ensure he will be wearing the polka dot jersey tomorrow.

The two men riding for Dutch teams went head to head for the intermediate sprint which came with 63km left to ride, Flecha launching the initial attack, Boom responding and passing the Spaniard to take the maximum 20 points.

Behind, the first volleys were fired in the green jersey competition proper, André Greipel taking the sprint for sixth place – and with it, 10 points – from Cavendish and Sagan, who got 9 and 8, respectively.

Predictions had been that those three would be the men most likely to battle for the stage win today, and with it the right to wear the maillot jaune tomorrow, but the carnage late on saw Kittel emerge as stage winner and race leader on the first day of what is shaping up to be a memorable Corsican debut for the Tour.

Tomorrow’s Stage 2 covers 156km from Bastia to Ajaccio and even this early in the race is expected to provide a tough test – and potential hazard – for those with ambitions of standing on the podium in Paris in three weeks’ time, including a Category 2 climb as the race heads from the west coast to the east one across Corsica’s interior.

17 user comments

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First trip to Corsica, and quite possibly the last trip to Corsica I think.

posted by Nick T [615 posts]
29th June 2013 - 16:50

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Ten minutes for the OGE bus driver to find reverse.

As Cav couldn't win at least he can rest easy in the knowledge that Sagan, Greipel and Goss weren't in the points either. Kittel is pretty decent but I'd be surprised if he is top three in the points competition by Paris.

I think I prefer the prologue to be honest. There's something about introducing all the riders in the race that just feels right.

JaseCD

posted by jasecd [117 posts]
29th June 2013 - 17:13

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I think they may neutralise those sprint points given the carnage. It hardly seems fair to dish them out following the confusion.

Although I don't wish Goss harm, it was a good thing he was out of the running following the OGE bus calamity destroying the stage.

I don't know how they would ever have sprinted for the 3km point. Totally unsuitable for the finish. Looks like that not knowing paid off, who said the knowledge was key?

posted by Colin Peyresourde [977 posts]
29th June 2013 - 17:45

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We've heard of football teams parking the bus. Now we know what it means when cycle teams do it.

Noli porcum linguere

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posted by captain_slog [252 posts]
29th June 2013 - 17:55

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Nick T wrote:
First trip to Corsica, and quite possibly the last trip to Corsica I think.

And the logic to that is what exactly?

posted by Tom Amos [201 posts]
29th June 2013 - 18:20

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Problem for Cav is that despite the fact neither he nor Sagan got finish points today, that doesn't mean it's all square; Cav needs to maximise each opportunity, simply because Sagan will have more chances of taking points throughout the race.

Early days, obviously, but I wouldn't have been wanting to grab a finish-line interview with him Wink

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7492 posts]
29th June 2013 - 18:52

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Tom Amos wrote:
Nick T wrote:
First trip to Corsica, and quite possibly the last trip to Corsica I think.

And the logic to that is what exactly?

With Corsicans liking the French about as much as the IRA like the Monarchy, planning a Tour de France stage there hasn't exactly been straightforward. When the result is as shambolic as this, why bother to do it again in a hurry Tori?

posted by Nick T [615 posts]
29th June 2013 - 19:26

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I think the race organisers got this terribly wrong. I know the riders deserved a finish, but that 3km mark was not the place. They should have either slowed the race, stopped it or cancelled the race (depending on whether they could move the bus). But changing the finish only caused undue chaos. Tony Martin goes home and two of the favourites, if not more go down. They chose the worst of all worlds.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [977 posts]
29th June 2013 - 20:03

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The finish took place where it was supposed to be, but evidently there was a lot of confusion... as the report says, some riders believed it had been brought forward 3km (which was being talked about).

From news that the bus was stuck to the scheduled end of the stage was 15 mins at the absolute maximum (riders were around 12k out), you can only imagine how chaotic it must have been, but that's exactly the kind of situation where a snap, well communicated and irreversible decision is needed, and that didn't happen today.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7492 posts]
29th June 2013 - 20:16

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What a farce! This is a multi-million dollar international sporting competition in its 100th incarnation, and yet again it comes across as a complete shambles.

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posted by nowasps [202 posts]
29th June 2013 - 21:17

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What a bustard of a thing to happen!

posted by thorolf [36 posts]
29th June 2013 - 21:20

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Colin Peyresourde wrote:
I think the race organisers got this terribly wrong. I know the riders deserved a finish, but that 3km mark was not the place. They should have either slowed the race, stopped it or cancelled the race (depending on whether they could move the bus). But changing the finish only caused undue chaos. Tony Martin goes home and two of the favourites, if not more go down. They chose the worst of all worlds.

I can kind of sympathise with the race organisers and it's easy to say, with the benefit of hindsight, what they should have done from the comfort of an armchair hundreds of miles away.

Controlling a race is difficult at the best of times. Controlling 195 nervous, fired-up riders all doing 35+mph and probably the best part of 60 tour vehicles is nigh on impossible at that kind of notice.

No matter what they'd done, people would complain and say "they should have done..."
If they'd stopped the race, how would you restart in with only 5km to go? If they'd neutralised it, you'd have people saying "oh well they could/should have done..." Never going to please all people in those circumstances, I think they took the only option open to them.

Although quite why the team buses were still getting into position with the race only 15 minutes away is anyone's guess, they should have been there an hour before and inside their own area.

posted by crazy-legs [437 posts]
29th June 2013 - 21:20

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nowasps wrote:
What a farce! This is a multi-million dollar international sporting competition in its 100th incarnation, and yet again it comes across as a complete shambles.

Perhaps - but how many other sporting events of this stature take place outside the confines of a stadium where all the variables can be more readily controlled?

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7492 posts]
29th June 2013 - 21:35

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crazy-legs wrote:

Controlling a race is difficult at the best of times. Controlling 195 nervous, fired-up riders all doing 35+mph and probably the best part of 60 tour vehicles is nigh on impossible at that kind of notice.

No matter what they'd done, people would complain and say "they should have done..."
If they'd stopped the race, how would you restart in with only 5km to go? If they'd neutralised it, you'd have people saying "oh well they could/should have done..." Never going to please all people in those circumstances, I think they took the only option open to them.

Although quite why the team buses were still getting into position with the race only 15 minutes away is anyone's guess, they should have been there an hour before and inside their own area.

Well I was discussing this as it happened and I hadn't seen the course. I didn't plump for their 3km finale that is for sure. The bunch was together and so slowing, stopping or letting them ride in until they knew it was impossible were my answers. That 3km marker was a nightmare bottle neck. It would have been carnage if it had reached there.

Instead it created panic. Griepl's surge which caused the big crash is purely an effort on his part to get to the front in time - he panicked because he didn't know what was happening, that panic was caused by the race instructions.

In all other scenarios (I have listed above) the riders would know that they were safe and that their position was secure. There would be massive disappointment about the finish if they couldn't do it, but halting the peloton is not a precedent - only the other year they had to stop for a railway crossing.

There's was the worst of all worlds, panicking the riders and creating confusion, and a serious crash. It is lucky that they still have Sagan, Cav and Contador....

posted by Colin Peyresourde [977 posts]
29th June 2013 - 21:43

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erm can someone help me out here.
the crashes -
all the people that went to hosptital are still able to start the 2nd stage. i thought if you didnt cross the line on your own steam you were out of the race?

posted by russyparkin [550 posts]
30th June 2013 - 8:54

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they all crossed the line under their own steam, even tony martin. although he subsequently passed out in the team coach, reportedly...

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7038 posts]
30th June 2013 - 9:27

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Dave Atkinson wrote:
they all crossed the line under their own steam, even tony martin. although he subsequently passed out in the team coach, reportedly...

Big girls blouse. I bet they said to him this morning 'if those nancy boys Hamilton and Evans can ride with broken collarbones, you can bloody well get on your bike this morning!' Or some such equivalent in German/Belgian/French.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [977 posts]
30th June 2013 - 21:41

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