IT WAS a tough day at the office for everybody as the Tour de France got off to a covid-delayed start in the French resort city of Nice, writes cycling expert JOHN TREVORROW:
THAT was definitely the most dramatic first day of a Tour de France in my lifetime.
It was carnage on the roads around Nice. After months of dry conditions the rain fell and that meant there was a build up of oil on the roads and it became ridiculously slippery. I have ridden on those roads and with the twists and turns and tight hairpins they are quite challenging in the dry, but in these conditions it was obviously a nightmare.
The stage was won by Norway’s Alexander Kristoff of the Emirates team, from Denmark’s Mads Pedersen of Trek Segaredo and Dutchman Cees Bol of Sunweb.
“It was like an ice-skating rink,” said Movistar’s Imanol Erviti. NTT’s Max Walscheid said, “I’ve never seen so many crashes in my life.” There was even a rumour that one of the vehicles in the publicity caravan that travels an hour in front of the race, was pumping out bubbles for the crowd but was leaking soapy water onto the course!!
Three quarters of the field either fell or were held up by the crashes. Both our Australian riders crashed and both made it back to the relative safety of the peloton. Although Richie Porte looked to come out of it relatively unscathed, the same can’t be said for the pocket rocket Caleb Ewan. Hot favourite to take out the stage and the first yellow jersey, Ewan had to spend a lot of pennies to make it back virtually on his own, and although his team got him into position to challenge he didn’t feature.
One of his main teammates John Degenkolb fell in the same crash but was injured and could not help Ewan. The German sprinter eventually finished outside the time limit. That will be a worry for Ewan in coming stages as he was to be very crucial in Caleb’s lead out train.
The further the race went the worse the conditions seem to get and riders were falling like nine pins. Finally as the field approached the final tricky descent Jumbo Visma’s Tony Martin moved to the front and opened up his giant arms to signal to the peloton that enough was enough. He was joined by Luke Rowe of Ineos and the two veterans, it seems they have gotten over their dispute last year that saw them both evicted from the Tour, tried to take control.
“A few of the experienced riders from each team got together in the lead up to look at how we were going to approach the Tour in general,” We have put together a rider’s group and we spoke how we are going to approach the Tour in general, and look after each other, and do the right thing when it’s needed,” Rowe said.Embed from Getty Images
But it is very hard to get full consensus and Astana’s Omar Fraile could be seen debating the issue with Martin and Rowe. I reckon he probably had team GM’s ALexandre Vinokourov in his earpiece telling them to get racing.
So the Astana boys moved to the front with their young Colombian leader Miguel Angel Lopez in tow and I’ve never seen karma delivered so quickly. Moments later Lopez lost control and ploughed into a roadside sign and was very fortunate to come out unscathed.
The Astana boys sheepishly dropped back into the bunch and copped a very deserved spray.
I can understand teams wanting to race when the action is on and the GC riders are under pressure. But that was not the situation here. There was still 40 kms to go and the stage was always going to end in a bunch finish. So all Astana was doing was attempting to create a scenario where their opposition could crash. The conditions were so treacherous that a cyclist’s ability and experience were not the issue – it was just luck.