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Tour de France

Tour de France: What the stars said after crash-riddled opening stage

Here's what the stars said after a stage shaped by two huge crashes and one spectacular attack.

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Julian Alaphilippe set his nation’s hopes ablaze with a searing opening stage win at the Tour de France on Saturday.

The French ace attacked on the final climb of the day to rocket away from the lead group, leaving pre-stage contenders Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Michael Matthews reeling.

Also read: Alaphilippe unstoppable in summit finish attack

Alaphilippe’s victory came after a nerve-riddled opening stage marred by two huge crashes.

Van Aert and a number of his Jumbo-Visma teammates were at the center of the first mass pileup, while Chris Froome was a major victim of the second, which came with just six kilometers to go.

From crushing crashes to spectacular attacks, here’s what the stars said after the Tour’s Grand Départ.

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step): Stage winner, GC leader

Julian Alaphilippe was a top favorite for the Tour’s hilly opening stage, and the Frenchman didn’t disappoint the home crowds.

The reigning world champion made the first telling attack on the hilltop finish at 2.2km to go, and it stuck. After making a strong gap on the steep lower slopes of the Fosse aux Loups climb, Alaphilippe kept motoring to cross the line eight seconds ahead of the chase.

Alaphilippe’s victory secured the yellow jersey, the 18th time he will have worn the Tour’s iconic maillot in his career. He referenced his partner and newborn son when speaking after the stage.

“My team did a great job all day, they believed in me a lot. We had to finish the job on the last climb where we wanted to up the pace the start to eliminate the sprinters. When Dries Devenyns stepped aside, I gave the maximum without asking myself questions. Once I left, I wanted to gauge my opponents, and when I saw that there was a small gap, I told myself I had to give everything I had, and they couldn’t fill the gap.

“It was so hard, but in the end … I’m so happy, it’s an emotion that cannot be described. It is a pleasure for me to win, but also to give emotions to my family, that is really a special victory for me.”

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma): 24th

Wout van Aert had an eventful opening stage of the Tour. The newly-crowned Belgian champ was one of the heaviest fallers in the mass crash that rippled through the peloton at 43km to go.

Van Aert regained contact with the bunch after the crash and was active in the final kick up the Fosse aux Loups. Van Aert attempted to parry Alaphilippe’s winning move before realizing the Frenchman wasn’t to be caught. He then dropped back to the chase group and set the tempo with his captain Primož Roglič in the wheel to set up the Slovenian for his sprint to third-place.

Van Aert said the stress of the crash so near to the finale didn’t help his aim to take the first yellow jersey.

“I don’t sustain any damage, only I couldn’t brake in time and I flew into the ditch. I had to wait a long time for my spare bike and it took energy to reconnect with the bunch.

“We are all happy that there are supporters at the roadside again, but that also carries danger. Not only did I lose strength from that chase, but I also had to find my focus again.

“The final went well in the end, and I was where I should be. As I expected, Alaphilippe went early. He attacked like a rocket. I was close to him but I couldn’t react. I was at the limit. When I saw that I could no longer get a result for myself, I put myself in the lead to keep the gap to Alaphilippe as small as possible.”

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix): 20th

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) rode his first-ever Tour stage Saturday in one of the most highly-anticipated debuts in years. The Dutchman was a red-hot favorite for the win but was left to settle for 20th, crossing the line in the main group behind stage-winner Alaphilippe.

Van der Poel had tried to chase down Alaphilippe in the final kilometers but was out of legs after the stressful opening stage. The Dutch ace said staying upright after two huge crashes was a result in itself.

“I think I should take that as a positive point that I made it to the finish in one piece. It was hectic as expected, I’m glad I was spared bad luck.

“Alaphilippe stood out. It was to be expected that he would attack on the steep part, but I had no answer at the time. I didn’t have the legs today. I tried to bridge and caught Pogačar and Roglič, but I didn’t get any further.”

“If you saw how Alaphilippe was climbing today, he will be the favorite again tomorrow [on the Mûr de Bretagne].”

Tony Martin and Robert Gesink (Jumbo Visma): Back in the bunch

Jumbo-Visma’s experienced heads Tony Martin and Robert Gesink were caught at the forefront of the mass crash that brought down scores of riders with 43km to go.

Martin had been on the far edge of the road at the front of the bunch when he collided with a placard being held out by a spectator. The German veteran hit the obstacle hard and instantly came down as waves of crashes spilled out around him.

Several Jumbo-Visma riders were involved including Primož Roglič, Wout van Aert and Mike Teunissen. The whole team was able to make it to the finish safely, but Martin had a swathe of cuts and road rash, and Teunissen was taken for precautionary X-Rays.

Tony Martin: “We had everything under control until that crash. I brought the boys up the right side of the road, but slammed into that spectator’s sign. It all happened very quickly, so suddenly almost the entire crew was on the ground. Many spectators can behave respectfully, but unfortunately not this one. Fortunately, Primož made it through well. I hope the physical damage to myself and the other boys is manageable.”

Robert Gesink: “Of course we tried to stay out of the problems, that was Tony and myself’s job. Tony ran full into that spectator’s board, leaving almost the entire team on the ground. It’s really worthless that something like this happens because of such an action. It’s awful to go through this. Maybe it’s good that sometimes people start to think more carefully about what they are doing on the side of the road. I hope that the damage will eventually be minor.”