￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Saturday, July 7, 5:10 a.m – 10:00 a.m. ET
Tour organizer ASO likes to alternate the Tour start between a road stage or a time trial. Last year Geraint Thomas won the time trial in Düsseldorf. This year it’s the sprinters’ chance. That being said, stage 1 is not so straightforward. The route through the Marais Poitevin marshland in western France will be a test of nerves. If there’s a bit of wind, echelons will likely form beyond La Tranche-sur-Mer. The sprinters will want to stay close to the front of the peloton.
Tour Stage 1: Gaviria takes win; Froome crashes and Quintana flats as GC favorites lose time
Fernando Gaviria (Quick Step-Floors) won a hectic first stage of the 2018 Tour de France in front of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Marcel Kittel (Team Katusha-Alpecin). The final few kilometers were marked by chaos, with pre-race favorite Chris Froome crashing with 5 kilometers remaining, while Nairo Quintana suffered an untimely flat just outside the 3km to go banner. BMC team leader Richie Porte was also caught out and finished in the Froome group. Porte and Froome ended up 51-seconds down, while Quintana came in 1:15 behind the stage winner.
Gaviria commented on the amazing achievement of winning the first stage in his Tour debut.
“It’s an incredible day for me and for our team. It’s amazing for everybody on the team. We were ready for it, ready for the sprint. The yellow jersey is one that everyone dreams of wearing and to get it on the first day is amazing. I’m so happy to wear it and we’ll try to keep it as long as we can.”
The Colombian sprinter said that while the hectic final kilometers caught out many pre-favorites, his Quick Step team’s well-drilled lead-out made his run-in a tranquil experience.
“The last kilometer was very tricky and we knew some big riders were caught up behind us. But we were in front and out of trouble. We had a clear plan and we’re happy because we pulled it off.”
The 201km stage from Noirmoutier Fontenay-le-Comte was slated to be the easiest of the opening week, with the riders enjoying a leisurely pace through the majority of the stage. However, the script was turned on its head with 5 kilometers remaining when four-time winner Chris Froome crashed over a roadside barrier. The ensuing chaos saw pre-race favorites like Richie Porte, Eagan Bernal, and Adam Yates lose contact with the lead group.
Even after suffering misfortune, Froome expressed both relief and his usual quiet confidence after the race.
“We knew the first days were going to be tricky, what happened is part of the game,” said the 33-year-old who had a skinned knee and some possible bruising on his right shoulder after his head over heels fall.
“It was getting quite chaotic up at the front with the sprinters getting into position.
“There wasn’t much the team could have done for me,” he said after being accompanied across the line by Luke Rowe.
“I’m just relieved that I’m not injured.” Froome, who fell heavily before the Giro d’Italia prologue but rallied two weeks later to two spectacular stage wins that won him the grand tour.
“There’s still a great deal of road on the way to Paris.”
Team Sky sport director Nicolas Portal dismissed any notion that Sky would consider switching their plan to support Geraint Thomas, who finished in the lead group,
“No, it’s the first stage, we have plenty of cards, not plenty, but that’s why we push G [Geraint Thomas] to keep him up there as long as we can. You never know, tomorrow it could be G or another one. We have to keep both plans, one more guy doesn’t change anything, we told him to stay up front. G didn’t lose any time.
“50-seconds lost, Chris won the GC last year with that amount of time, so yeah, it’s clearly too early to [change plans] and he’s definitely not someone I’m sending home. He’s won six grand tours.”
BMC leader Porte was still unsure exactly what happened as he attempted to outline the chaos and confusion that spread through the group after Froome crashed.
“It was just a crash. It was pretty nervous there. It is not ideal but I think Quintana has probably lost more, Froomey was there, Yates was there … it’s the Tour.
“I was pretty close to it (the crash). I rode Damiano Caruso, my teammate, into the ground and softened the blow.
“I don’t really know what happened, to be honest. It was just one of those things … one minute it is all okay, and the next thing there is a crash in front, and there were a few more crashes on the way in.”
Two kilometers later, Nairo Quintana suffered a flat tire just meters from the 3km-to-go banner. Had the Colombian crossed under, he would have been given the same finishing time as the lead group. However, he pulled up and waited for an excruciatingly slow wheel change from neutral support.
Up at the head of affairs, Gaviria’s Quick Step-Floors team set a blistering pace. The young Colombian opened up his sprint with the world champion on his wheel, but Sagan was unable to muster the strength to come around. He would roll across the line in second place, with Kittell right behind in third.
Tomorrow’s stage sees another sprint stage, but with a tricky 3-4 percent ramp to the finish line. With the chaos from stage 1 still fresh on the riders’ minds, a seemingly straightforward sprint stage could be turned on its head once again.