Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma) edged the sprint finish on stage 1 of the Tour de France on Saturday, taking the yellow jersey in the process. The Dutchman beat Peter Sagan (Bora-Hangrohe) in a photo finish, while Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) took third.
“I was still fresh, I saw everyone cracking in the last meters, even Sagan, and I just kept going until the end. It’s amazing,” said Teunissen of his first Tour de France victory.
The largely straight, untechnical final 10 kilometers of the race meant the pace in the closing stages was intense, with speeds reaching up to 80kph as several teams looked to set up their sprinters and protect their GC riders. With the pace and tension so high, there was always a risk of crashing, and with 1.5km to go, Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) fell hard in a large crash caused by a touch of wheels elsewhere in the peloton and was taken out of contention for the sprint. Defending champion Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) also hit the deck, though looked unharmed.
Groenewegen’s teammate and leadout man Teunissen played it cool despite the loss of his leader. In the final kilometer, Sagan was the first to go, with Michael Matthews (Sunweb) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) contesting. Teunissen and Ewan came into the mix from behind the lead trio as Matthews faded.
The Dutchman came around Colbrelli in the final 50 meters and edged the win over Sagan by a tyre’s width. Ewan was briefly squeezed off the wheel he was following but recovered to take third.
“We’ve been working already weeks, months I would say, to bring Dylan [Groenewegen] to the stage victory and to the yellow jersey. And then at one and a half k everything disappears because he goes down in the crash,” said Teunissen. “And then I thought I’m still here, I’m still fresh, we can try it, eh.”
There was also a crash with 18km to go that brought down pre-race GC favorite Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), who fell hard and cut his face and shoulder. He received attention from the race doctor before being paced back to the bunch by his teammates. The heavy fall would be far from the start the Dane was hoping for after such a faultless season so far.
Saturday’s 194.5km stage started finished in Brussels, and looked set for a sprint finish as a result of its largely flat profile. As part of the Grand Depart‘s homage to Eddie Merckx, the route headed toward the roads used in the Tour of Flanders, and passed the birthplace of the five-time Tour winner, who won his first yellow jersey 50 years ago. The Muur van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg, two iconic climbs from the Tour of Flanders, fell early in the stage and played a largely symbolic role.
Greg Van Avermaet (CCC-Team) jumped into the four-man breakaway that formed early in the stage, along with Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Katusha-Alpecin), Natnael Berhane (Cofidis), and Xandro Meurisse (Wanty-Groupe Gobert).
Van Avermaet was first over the category 3 Muur while fellow Belgian Meurisse was first over the category 4 Bosberg, with Van Avermaet taking enough points to become the first polka dot jersey-wearer of the race. The CCC man then dropped back to the peloton, his job done for the day, leaving three out front.
The gap to the breakaway hovered at around two minutes for the first 80 kilometers until it rapidly tumbled and the trio were swept up with 70km to go.
The racing was largely uneventful through the start of the stage until Bora-Hansgrohe shattered the peloton as they accelerated over a cobbled sector leading to the intermediate sprint, which was won by Sagan as he sought after yet-another green jersey.
The race all came back together 10km later. Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis) clipped off the front with 55km to go, and held a 1:30 lead for a significant period. He was caught shortly after Fuglsang’s crash as the race went into the denouement leading to Teunissen’s victory.
Stage 2, Sunday, is a team time trial that Jumbo-Visma have a strong chance of winning.
“Tomorrow is again a big goal,” said Teunissen, the race’s first yellow jersey wearer. “Hopefully Dylan [Groenewegen] is OK and hopefully I can recover a bit and then we go full gas again to help Steven [Kruijswijk] to a good position. Another big target and let’s go again.”