NICE, France (VN) — There were more bandages at the start of Sunday’s second stage at the Tour de France than at a mummy convention.
After more than 100 riders hit the deck in Saturday’s dangerous, rain-soaked opening stage, and bandaged and bruised riders were happy to see blue skies Sunday morning for the Tour’s second day that dips into higher, even more challenging terrain than what the peloton contended with 24 hours earlier.
“Chapa y pintura,” said Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), shrugging off what he called minor cuts and scrapes. “The pace will be fast today, so there might be a few people suffering.”
Nearly every team saw at least one of its riders fall. Everyone on Movistar crashed, except Alejandro Valverde and Enric Mas. Teammate Imanol Erviti said he crashed three times, and compared road conditions to racing in a “skating rink.”
The second stage of the 107th Tour started with three fewer riders, with Rafael Valls (Bahrain-McLaren), and John Degenkolb and Philippe Gilbert (both Lotto-Soudal) out. Valls and Gilbert both suffered fractures, and Degenkolb missed the time cut in what was a brutal opening stage to an already very demanding Tour.
“Their exits don’t change anything for us, because our goal is to win a stage,” said Lotto-Soudal manager John Lelangue. “Of course, our chances of winning a stage were better with those two in the race. We still have Caleb [Ewan] for the sprints, and Thomas [De Gendt] and some others for breakaways. We are down two in just the first day. It’s not ideal.”
The mood in the start area Sunday morning was a mix relief and apprehension. Riders were still licking their wounds from Saturday’s rough ride that featured dozens of crashes. Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) took the start despite crashing twice, once on each side of his body, during the rainy, brutal racing conditions.
“I had crashes on both sides, on both my hips. I felt better this morning than I did last night, so that’s a good sign,” said Sivakov, who lost all GC hope after ceding 13 minutes. “It’s all about recovery, and to be there to help the guys when they need me. I can expect to be back at a really good level, hopefully in a few days.”
The stage saw the peloton pull together midway through the stage to all but neutralize the pace on the most dangerous late-stage descents. Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma) and Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers) helped organize the truce. Ironically, both riders were ejected from last year’s Tour in stage 17 in a mid-race tussle. Yesterday, they were at the front helping to manage the situation.
“I’m not sure what the organization could have done anything differently,” said Ag2r-La Mondiale’s Oliver Naesen in Nice on Sunday. “Should they have neutralized the wet descent like we the riders did? Perhaps yes. Should they have been more humane with [John] Degenkolb finishing out of time? Probably, yes. On the other hand, it’s the first day of rain in months here in Nice, and that’s what you get, because after the first rain is always super-slippery. It’s not their fault — it’s nature.”
Not everyone saw it that way, and many riders were pointing fingers at Astana for breaking the cease-fire and moving to the front, only to see that backfire with Miguel Ángel López losing control and smashing into a retaining wall and road sign. López said he was feeling a bit stiff Sunday morning, but otherwise was fine to race. Teammate Luís León Sánchez defended the team’s strategy, and said the team only pulled to the front of the bunch to remain safe and be ahead of the nervous pack.
Most of the GC favorites survived relatively unscathed.
Jumbo-Visma’s Primoz Roglic and Tom Dumoulin finished safely, and so did defending champion Egan Bernal. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) was the worse off among the top GC stars, sporting a sore knee and bandages at the start line Sunday.
“It hurts all over,” said Pinot, who was caught up in the major pileup with 3km to go. “I am sore all over my right side, and I have a bruise on my back from where someone else ran into me. That’s what worries me more. The knee is sore, but with some heat, it will get better. The soreness was ease once we start to roll.”
That’s what everyone was hoping for. And dry roads all the way to Paris.