Kittel Sprints to Victory in Stage 1 of Tour de France
At the start of the stage, the first Tour de France stage to be held in Corsica, five riders jumped away from the peloton. They were Jerome Cousin (Europcar), Juan Jose Lobato (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Lars Boom (Belkin), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM), and Cyril Lemoine (Sojasun). The quintet ran up a three-minute lead before the peloton began to chase.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Lotto-Belisol pegged the lead at between two and three minutes on behalf of Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel. At about 80 km, the break led the bunch by less than a minute. The pursuers, however, realized that it was too soon to reel in the fugitives, and they let the break’s advantage to grow to more than three minutes.
With about 110 km left, Cousin rode away from his companions. Ten km later, he led them by 0:30 and the peloton by 3:40. The break members soon reeled in the Europcar man, however. At 150 km, the five escapees had 3:42 on the bunch.
Gradually, the peloton ground away at the break’s lead. The pursuit backed off again and let the quintet’s advantage stretch out to two minutes. Then, the bunch accelerated again and absorbed the break with 37 km remaining.
A number of teams went to the front, including Saxo Bank-Tinkoff, which was trying to keep GC man Alberto Contador out of trouble. With about 20 km left, Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Lotto-Belisol took command to set up Cavendish and Greipel.
Unfortunately, chaos interfered with the teams’ plans. At the finish line, the Orica-GreenEdge bus got stuck under the finish line banner with the peloton only 10 km away. The race organizers moved the finish line up to the three-km banner.
On the road, however, more confusion took place. Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM) crashed into a fence. Then, with 12 km left, about a dozen riders went down, among them Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp). The Canadian remounted quickly and chased hard to get back on.
At the finish line, the bus was moved from the finish line and the finish line was changed back to its original spot, but another crash occurred on the road. This mishap split the field and sent world time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Contador, Peter Sagan (Cannondale), and Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard (both from Sky) to the ground. The pileup delayed Greipel, who had his derailleur torn off, Cavendish, and many other riders.
Argos-Shimano took command of the front half of the peloton to set John Degenkolb or Kittel. Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) charged into the lead with a km left, but the 50-strong peloton overtook him with 400 m left. Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) crashed on the final turn, while Kittel rocketed into the lead to win by about half a bike length.
The crash put the Stage 2 statuses of some riders up in the air. Martin has a concussion and a contusion on his left leg, as well as a five-cm-wide cut on his right arm and much bruising. Many other riders were injured, and their statuses will be determined overnight as well.
As is to be expected, Kittel was elated with his victory. “Today is a dream come true,” the Argos-Shimano man said. “We’ve been very eager to win a stage in this Tour de France. Starting in the winter, we prepared ourselves for this, and to win the first stage today and wear the yellow jersey tomorrow is just unbelievable.
“I am really proud of all my teammates, who did an amazing job today. They worked throughout the whole day to keep me in good position and to protect me. The finale was very hectic, but the guys stayed calm, and they knew exactly what to do—just like we trained for. They reorganized after the crash and took responsibility. We trained mentally and physically for this kind of situation, and together with the knowledge that we had of this course this helped us stay relaxed, and we followed our plan.
“I am so happy that we achieved this victory for the team as well. They gave me the chance to become a professional cyclist and developed me into the sprinter that I am today. I couldn’t hope for a better thank you.”
The entire field received the same finish time. Kittel leads Kristoff and Van Poppel. Stage 2 of the 2013 Tour de France will be more challenging than today’s. The 156-km ride from Bastia to Ajaccio, Napoleon’s birthplace, will feature the Category 3 Col de Bellagranajo and the Category 2 Col de la Serra and Col de Vizzavona between 70 km and 95.5 km. This will break up the field, and while the 30-plus-km downhill run might allow a regroupment, the Category 3 Cote du Salario at 144 km will allow an escape—if a decisive break does not occur on the earlier three climbs. Do not count on Kittel keeping his overall lead. Who will take it? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
Check in at www.roadcycling.com for daily reports on the Tour de France and follow Roadcycling.com on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Help us spread the word about RoadCycling.com by sharing links to our articles and by linking to RoadCycling.com from your Web site or blog.