Nice, France, Aug 29 (efe-epa).- Norwegian rider Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) won the sprint at the end of Saturday’s calamity-filled first stage of the 2020 Tour de France and will start the second day of the pandemic-delayed race wearing the leader’s yellow jersey.
The last crash, just inside the final 3km, kept a number of contenders for the General Classification, including France’s Thibaut Pinot and Spaniard Marc Soler, from battling for the stage win.
But race managers awarded all of the affected riders the same time as Kristoff, who completed the 156km course in and around Nice in three hours, 46 minutes and 23 seconds.
The Oslo native edged out Danish world champion Mads Pedersen (Trek) Dutch cyclist Cees Bol (Sunweb) for his first stage victory in any competition in 2020 and his fourth win ever in the Tour de France.
Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie), Michael Schär (CCC Team) and Cyril Gautier (Vital Concept) tried their luck on a breakaway shortly after the stage got under way, but once the rain began to fall, tactics and strategy became secondary to staying out of trouble.
Nairo Quintana, Caleb Ewan, George Bennett, Tom Dumuolin, Wout Poels, Mikel Landa and Sam Bennett all suffered falls on the rain-slicked roads.
Russia’s Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadier) went down twice, requiring attention from the medical car on one occasion, and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) took a tumble on the descent.
As the peloton prepared to descend following the second climb of the Côte de Rimiez, Tour veteran and his Team Jumbo Visma organized to neutralize the race. Astana bucked the slowdown until Ion Izaguire careened into a lamp-post.
Riders returned to racing with about 20km left in the stage and the crashes resumed, culminating in the major pile-up at 3km that cut off Soler, Pinot and Rafa Valls, who later went to the hospital for treatment.
Kristoff, 33, took advantage of the chaos to get the most out of the sprinting skills that made him the European champion in 2017.
Stage 2 will also begin and end in Nice, but the course will be mountainous, featuring a pair of Category 1 climbs and one Category two peak. EFE soc/dr