Alexander Kristoff of UAE Team Emirates is in the yellow jersey tonight after winning a crash-strewn opening stage of the Tour de France in Nice, ahead of world champion Mads Pedersen of Trek-Segafredo and Team Sunweb's Cees Bol.
A crash with around 3 kilometres to go saw France's great hope for the overall win, Thibaut Pinot, come down hard, the Groupama-FDJ rider shephereded over the line by his team mates 4 minutes after Kristoff had crossed for his victory.
The crash appeared to happen just inside the final 3km, meaning that Pinot would take the same time as the rest of the bunch, although the extent of his injuries will need to be assessed.
Rain fell throughout the 156-kilometre stage that opened this unprecedented edition of the race, postponed from late June due to the coronoavirus pandemic.
Shadows have fallen across the race in recent days due to a rise in COVID-19 cases in the Alpes-Maritimes department, but today it was the rain clouds that caused the visible problems for the peloton.
After the first few incidents, Jumbo-Visma's Tony Martin came to the front of the group, signalling to the riders behind to slow down, taking up the role of patron of the peloton previously played by fellow four-time world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara.
Still the crashes came, however, one involving Martin's own team mate, the New Zealand climber George Bennett, a key domestique for race favourite Primoz Roglic.
Before Martin's effective neutralisation of the race, Ineos Grenadiers, the team of Roglic's most dangerous rival, defending champion Egan Bernal, suffered a blow when Pavel Sivakov in his Tour de France debut came down hard, twice.
Team medical staff are likely to be busy tonight, and it could be that for some riders, the Tour is already over.
Sunshine is forecast for the Cote d'Azur tomorrow, which sees another stage starting and finishing in Nice, but the weather could still play a key part in the outcome, with the Mistral wind potentially blowing strongly in the afternoon, potentially causing time splits.
Stage winner and race leader Alexander Kristoff of UAE Team Emirates
It’s a dream to wear the yellow jersey, I don’t think you can ask for anything better. The team came here to aim for the General Classification and some sprint stages. I was hoping, but I didn’t think I would win so early.
Today I was riding well and I was able to give my best on the final straight, realising that I was in the frame for a win. I stayed in the wheels for a while, coming out on the right in the final and, when I realised it was the right moment, I pushed hard. In the past few months I haven’t been able to give my best and I also crashed at the European Championships, so being here celebrating is a great feeling.
Thibaut Pinot, Groupama-FDJ
It was a difficult day, one of the worst of my career, a bit like all the peloton. It was clearly as though we were riding on ice. Riders were coming off even when the race was neutralised.
Luke Rowe, Ineos Grenadiers
I think the problem was just the fact that it literally hasn’t rained here for two or three months – then you get one day where it rains and it’s literally like ice. I think most teams have at least half their rider who have touched down today. We’ve had a couple but luckily we’ve passed through.
We’ve got a riders organisation and there’s a couple of guys from each team in there. We spoke last night about how we’re going to approach the Tour de France in general, look after each other and do the right thing when it’s needed. And whilst you want to race and put on the best show, at the same time you could see just how many crashes there were and that was with the three descents being ridden at a very careful speed.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.