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Lotto Belisol: Chaotic final in first stage of the 100th Tour

The opening stage of this 100th Tour de France had a chaotic final, with Marcel Kittel as the winner. The Tour, that visits Corsica for the first time, started with a stage from Porto-Vecchio to Bastia. This jubilee edition was opened festively with an air show by the French army. The 213 km long stage seemed the perfect opportunity for a bunch sprint. And the rider who wins the first stage, takes the yellow jersey. Lotto Belisol wanted to achieve that goal with André Greipel.

From the start it looked like the classic scenario would be played. Immediately after the flag was pulled down for the official start, at about a quarter past twelve, five riders took off and the peloton let them go. Their names: Boom, Cousin, Flecha, Lemoine and Lobato. In the peloton the sprinter’s teams were controlling, for Lotto Belisol it was debutant Bart De Clercq who rode at the head of the peloton for many kilometers. After 45,5 km there was the top of the very first hill in this Tour, the Côte de Sotta (4th category). Lobato passed the top first and will be riding in the polka-dot jersey tomorrow. After the mountain sprint the lead of the escapees started to go up and down. Cousin attacked just before they would get caught and his companions decided to not let that happen. And the front group of five would be formed again.

63 kilometers from the finish line was the intermediate sprint. Boom was the first. In the peloton riders sprinted for the sixth place. André Greipel was the fastest before Cavendish and Sagan and took ten points. Up till then everything was still going according to plan. After the sprint Lobato let himself be caught by the bunch, 37 kilometers from the end none of the escapees were left. The preparation for the bunch sprint could now start to develop completely. But 15 kilometers from the finish the chaos began. The team bus of Orica GreenEdge got stuck underneath the overhead banner at the finish line. When the bus couldn’t immediately get away, the organization decided to move the finish to the point of the last three kilometers, because that’s where the times are registered in case there would be a crash in the final kilometers. This message reached the riders with six kilometers to go.

While Lotto Beliols and other riders were adjusting to the situation, there was a crash in the front rows of the peloton. The derailleur of André Greipel was hit and he could forget his ambitions. In the meantime the bus had been able to drive away from the finish line and the decision was made to keep the original finish. The riders had to reorganize again, in any case for the group that had been able to avoid the crash. Kittel was one of those riders and took the victory. Of course he’s the first yellow jersey. Greg Henderson and Jürgen Roelandts became 7th and 8th respectively. The organization decided to let all the riders finish in the same time.

André Greipel: “Of course I’m very disappointed, I’ll probably only get this chance to take the yellow jersey once; it was the opportunity of my life. I didn’t crash, but my derailleur was hit. That’s why I stood on the side of the road a few hundred meters later. Six kilometers from the end we heard that the finish would be three kilometers earlier, because there had been an incident with a bus. As a team we immediately did everything we could to ride a good sprint, but when I was hit the game was over for me. You can’t change bad luck, you have to accept it, but that doesn’t make it less disappointing.”

Marc Sergeant, manager: “In the final we heard the news that there was a problem at the finish. Then director of competition Jean-François Pescheux informed us that the finish would be moved to the point of the final three kilometers, where the times could be registered. This was a dangerous part actually, where the riders just had to turn left. These changes caused chaos with the organization and teams.”

“The problems with the finish were one thing, but there was also the mechanical trouble for Greipel. We had to improvise. We decided to see what was possible with Jürgen Roelandts and Greg Henderson. But nothing could be done about Marcel Kittel. Of course it was an anti-climax due to several circumstances and that’s a pity. As a team we have worked towards this goal for a long time, that’s why the riders arrived on Corsica on Tuesday to do a recon of this first stage on Wednesday. If there will be a sprint tomorrow, depends on how far a possible breakaway will take off in the tough first part of the stage. We pass a climb of second category and then it’s still 60 kilometers to the finish.”

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