Well it’s official! The Tour de France is off and running. But what was supposed to be a relatively routine opening stage was transformed into chaos when a summer storm rolled into Nice.
The day opened with the women’s race La Course by Le Tour. The ladies did two laps around the back hills of the Côte d’Azur and through Nice. The rolled through the Old Port of Nice and along the Promenade des Anglais past the historic Negresco Hotel, with Britain’s Lizzie Deigan outsprinting Marianne Vos, Annemiek van Vlueten and other to the line. So far, so good!
And the men’s race seemed to start in much the same fashion as the Tour riders rolled out through the heart of Nice. But almost immediately they were hit with steady rains. And in the sinuous back hills of Nice, that spells trouble.
Experienced riders like Philippe Gilbert went down. Hopeful Tour neophytes like Pavel Sivakov went down as did Tour favorites like Thibaut Pinot. By the end of the day, those still standing seemed to be a distinct minority.
“Guys were crashing in every corner, and it was really slippery out there,” said Alexander Kristoff, who somehow managed to stay upright and win.
But Kristoff is one of the world’s great rain riders. That is how he won his memorable Milan-San Remo victory back in 2014. And that is how he scored his fourth stage win in the Tour de France, not to mention his first stint in the yellow jersey—a fitting recompense for one of cycling’s grittiest riders.