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Tour de France

Tour de France: Ineos Grenadiers, Jumbo-Visma suffer GC setbacks in costly crashes

The Tour's two top teams saw key riders losing skin or ceding time in crashes that could shape the GC battle in coming weeks.

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The four top favorites of the 2021 Tour de France emerged unscathed from a perilous opening stage Saturday, but their teammates weren’t so lucky.

Tadej Pogačar, Primož Roglič, Geraint Thomas and Richard Carapaz avoided the two huge crashes that blighted the Tour’s Grand Départ, but none of the Tour’s awesome foursome will be content with the outcome.

All four yellow jersey contenders have seen their team left reeling after a dramatic opening stage with consequences that could be felt all the way through to Paris.

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Jumbo-Visma was at the epicenter of the first of two crashes after Tony Martin collided with a spectator’s placard.

“It’s nice that the fans are back, but it immediately creates even more tension,” said Wout van Aert, who was sent cartwheeling into a roadside ditch.

“It was a far from ideal day for us. Fortunately, Primoz’s chances are still very much alive.”

Nearly all of Jumbo-Visma hit the tarmac in the scores-strong pileup. Roglič landed heavily on his back though is reported to be unhurt. Martin finished the stage covered in road rash, and Mike Teunissen injured his hip, wrist and elbow.

Super-domestique Sepp Kuss hemorrhaged time after his bike was written off in the carnage. With the Jumbo-Visma team car at the back of the convoy, a lengthy bike change left the Coloradan pedaling to the line 16 minutes back.

Ineos Grenadiers’ shadow leaders Richie Porte and Tao Geoghegan Hart suffered serious time losses after being caught up behind the crash.

With Porte now 2:26 down and Geoghegan Hart nearly six minutes back, Ineos Grenadiers will have to go back to the boardroom after starting the Tour with a four leader ploy designed to beat back Roglič and Pogačar.

“It was a solid day – stressful with a few crashes,” Thomas said.

“In the big crash at the end I had no idea who was in it, but it ended up Richie was in it which wasn’t great. I was just concentrating on staying on my bike. I’m happy to get through it but gutted about Richie and Tao.”

Thomas and Carapaz have become the two men that Roglič and Pogačar will have to watch closest now that Porte and Geoghegan Hart are edging out of the frame.

Porte isn’t altogether out of the picture and could still prove a foil in Ineos Grenadiers’ multi-rider assault. Although the veteran Tasmanian still has a part to play in his team’s ambitions, he has a hurdle to leap in order to get back in range of the podium.

 

Ineos Grenadiers may well have lost two of its trump cards after just one stage. Meanwhile, Roglič and Pogačar could see their support crew out of strength as they battle a long list of injuries.

A number of Pogačar’s UAE-Team Emirates wingmen hit the deck Saturday. A separated shoulder could leave Marc Hirschi written as a DNS for stage 2 on Sunday while Brandon McNulty, Mikkel Bjerg and Rui Costa are all walking wounded.

Jumbo-Visma’s yellow jersey ambitions are forged in its Martin–Teunissen engine room. Roglič’s wrecking crew will be severely diminished should the pair’s injuries prove race-ending in the coming days or see them out of horsepower in the longer term. Although Kuss was no yellow jersey contender, having the Coloradan high on GC provided Jumbo-Visma options.

Pogačar raced into the yellow jersey last summer after his team was blighted by injuries and abandons, and has the savvy and strength to race for himself.

However, like Roglič and his injury-riddled backroom, the defending champion and his Emirati team need every rider on top form to handle a super-strength Ineos Grenadiers octet, no matter which of its leaders have already lost time.

Roglič, Pogačar, Thomas, and Carapaz all sit within nine seconds of each other heading into stage 2, a gap that could be easily erased in Sunday’s tough race to the Mûr de Bretagne or in the stage 5 time trial Wednesday.

The margins are slim after the opening stage. But the consequences of Saturday’s costly crash could cause fissures in the weeks to come.