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Fontenay-le-Comte - France - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Fernando GAVIRIA RENDON (Columbia / Team Quick - Step Floors) pictured during the 105th Tour de France - stage - 1 from Noirmoutier-en-l’Île to Fontenay-le-Comte - 189KM - photo VK/PN/Cor Vos © 2018

TOUR’18 Stage 1: Galloping Gaviria First In Yellow!

Stage Report: Fernando Gaviria took the first stage win of the 2018 Tour de France and with it, the yellow and white jerseys. As impressive as the Colombian was, the real drama was behind where GC contenders littered the roads. Both Froome and Quintana lost time as the GC race was blown wide open.

This was meant to be a gentle day out, an easy start to the race, but it was anything but. An all French trio broke clear with minimal effort and they stayed clear until their real goal of the day, the climb which Kevin Ledanois was the first over securing his place on the podium. The remaining duo pushed on but they were caught with 10km left when the real drama started. First of all a crash took out a chunk of the left side of the peloton and Arnaud Demare looked to be the biggest loser but it turned out that a number of GC contenders had been caught out. Chris Froome had avoided the trouble but decided to go off road and ended up losing time anyway. Nairo Quintana was the most unlucky rider in the race, he made it through all the difficulties but then punctured and ended up 24 seconds behind the Froome group in a cruel twist of fate.

After all that the sprint was really an afterthought but Fernando Gaviria was delivered to the front beautifully by his team and despite a late Peter Sagan surge the Colombian stayed ahead and took a Tour stage win in his first ever start. He will slip into the yellow, white and green jerseys for good measure.

It’s finally here, the first stage of the 2018 Tour de France. Yes, it was a boring procession last year but there’s always the possibility that this year might be different. If we’re going to have a different race to last year you get the feeling that something will have to weaken the Sky team, otherwise their dream team will simply bulldoze all in sight. Their strength may end up being a weakness, Geraint Thomas can win if Froome falters and if they both fall flat Egan Bernal has the opportunity to rise to the top, whether all three can be kept happy for three weeks is the big question.

The stage today is so flat that it barely emerges from horizontal axis of the profile as the race hugs the Atlantic coast of the Vendee region before heading inland for the final quarter of the day. The start may be familiar to anyone who can remember the 2005 Tour de France, Noirmoutier-en-L’ile was the finish of the first stage of that race. Dave Zabriskie took the yellow jersey before losing it three days later after a crash in the team time trial. It was also famous for being the stage where Lance Armstrong caught and passed Jan Ulrich, virtually securing another yellow jersey there and then.

There’s really not much to say about the stage, it’s flat, flat as a crepe. The lone climb comes 28km from the finish but I doubt my gran would have any issues getting to the top, the Cote de Vix is 700m at 4.2% and you get the impression it wouldn’t get a categorization on any other day and is purely here to make sure somebody gets to wear the polka dots tomorrow.

After 201km the riders will finish in Fontenay-Le-Comte, if you’re thinking about the cheese you’re about 700km too far west, the excellent hard cheese is from the Comte region on the French-Swiss border to the north of the Alps. We’ll be making our way over there towards the end of the first week but you’ll have to make a trip out to reach the real home of the cheese, we’ll never get that close.

Bang then a Whimper
The flag dropped and the break were formed, Kevin Ledanois (Fortuneo-Samsic), Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Goubert), and Jerome Cousin (Direct Energie) were the French trio who went clear. The gap stretched out towards the four minute mark as the sprint and GC teams were more than happy to let the break enjoy their day.

Four minutes seemed to be the height of the gap that the peloton were happy to allow. LottNL-Jumbo and Quick-Step Floors were dispatched to the front to keep the lid on the break’s lead. One of the riders doing the work for the Dutch team was Robert Gesink. The Dutch climber is remarkably only 32 despite seeming to have been around for much, much longer, at least in my own mind. He started life as a GC contender, and finished in the top ten five times in his career. However, he’s largely given up on GC ambitions and has moved to a supporting role.

For Katusha-Alpecin, their man for the day was Marcel Kittel. The big German took five stage wins last year before failing to finish the 17th stage but he has won just two stages this year – both in the Tirreno Adriatico. Since he has left Quick-Step Floors they have bagged 47 wins this season so far, Katusha-Alpecin are currently on four, this is a huge Tour for them and will go a long way to deciding how successful, or not, their season is.

At the back Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) was having bike problems and was forced to dismount from his blingy chrome stead and hop on a less impressive matt black frame before chasing back on. The pace wasn’t so high yet but the gap to the break was creeping down with 140km left to go.

Roasting by the Sea
The temperature was high and that wasn’t conducive to particularly exciting racing. The gap to the leading trio had settled under the two minute mark and it was looking positive for them to hold on to the climb and ensure that one of them ended the day on the podium at least.

Cousin took maximum points at the sprint, although there wasn’t any real competition at the front. Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) was the fourth across the line although none of the sprinters really broke a sweat.

Lawson Craddock (Education First-Drapac) was the first rider to hit the deck in the Tour. He was a faller at the feed zone and emerged heavily favoring one shoulder, he was visited by the team car and encouraged to fight on until the end of the stage but it wasn’t looking good for the American. He was helped out by team mate Simon Clarke but the faller was bleeding from above his eye and looked fully beaten up.

There were plenty of unzipped jerseys, the heat was truly roasting and there was almost no wind. The leading trio’s gap was now falling below the two minute mark but there wasn’t any real eagerness from the peloton to speed up the catch.

Any Rewards?
The leading trio were just 10km from the climb, their lead was closer to one minute than to two and they were creeping nearer to the real goal of the day.

In the peloton Craddock was suffering at the back of the peloton and was now just focussing on making it to the finish and hoping he could start tomorrow.

The break had made it to the climb and Offredo was leading the way, he was driving along but he had his pocket picked by Ledanois, the U23 World Champion from back in 2015. He would now be guaranteed a place on the podium at the end of the stage. With nothing really left to fight for on the stage the break were playing cat and mouse but their gap was under 30 seconds and they were done for the day.

Nobody had told Offredo and Cousin though and they were still ploughing along ahead of the peloton. Their advantage was 20 seconds with 15km left, nothing for the sprinters to be concerned about but something to note perhaps. Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale) gave it a go from the peloton but he was always within sight. The leaders stayed away until 10km to go but they were caught. As they were caught there was a big crash that occurred on the right side of the peloton, amongst those who were impacted most were Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ). They were near the front of the peloton but there was a touch of wheels and the crash had rippled through one side of the group.

The lead group was now very heavily reduced, barely 100 riders had made it through the crash. Egan Bernal (Sky) was also caught out, he was at the back of the cars but Froome was also down! The defending champion had avoided the crash but without his bodyguards to guide him through the pack, many of whom had been caught up in the Demare crash, Froome had just ridden off the road and flipped over the barriers. But then there was more, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) punctured and had to take neutral service – which was pathetically slow and he rejoined behind the Froome group. There were groups all over the place, Quintana was by himself – no team mates had dropped back to help out and he was towing Education First riders back, who weren’t riding because of Uran and the GC. All the excitement was happening behind but with 1km left to go Quick-Step Floors were leading the way. Bob Jungels did a huge effort and then handed over to Max Richeze who delivered Gaviria to a perfect win on his debut. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) had been closing but ran out of room and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) was also pilling in but he was some distance behind in third place. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Rafa Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) made it into the top ten and were unexpected victors in the GC battle, a battle we didn’t expect to start this weekend. Chris Froome had been in prime position with many of his rivals suffering misfortune but he had simply ridden off the road and ended the day losing 51 seconds to Gaviria in a group with Richie Porte (BMC).

Quintana had been impressive in avoiding the crashes but he punctured at the worst possible moment and his team left him there. Rigoberto Uran (Education First-Drapac) made it through the minefield unharmed and both Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) escaped the crash fest unharmed despite their team mate’s misfortune. Geraint Thomas (Sky) was also in the lead group despite the rest of the his team going AWOL in new and imaginative ways.

Tour de France Stage 1 Result:
1. Fernando Gaviria (Col) Quick-Step Floors in 4:23:32
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
5. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
6. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
7. Michael Matthews (Aus) Sunweb
8. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
9. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana
10. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
11. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
12. Timothy Dupont (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
13. Thomas Boudat (Fra) Direct Energie
14. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky
15. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors
16. Michael Valgren (Den) Astana
17. Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Quick-Step Floors
18. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
19. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data
20. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
21. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
22. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
23. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
24. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC
25. Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana.

Tour de France Overall After Stage 1:
1. Fernando Gaviria (Col) Quick-Step Floors in 4:23:22
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe at 0:04
3. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin at 0:06
4. Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:09
5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates at 0:10
6. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
7. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
8. Michael Matthews (Aus) Sunweb
9. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
10. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana
11. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
12. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
13. Timothy Dupont (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
14. Thomas Boudat (Fra) Direct Energie
15. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky
16. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors
17. Michael Valgren (Den) Astana
18. Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Quick-Step Floors
19. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
20. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data
21. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
22. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
23. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
24. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
25. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC.

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