Chris Froome's Criterium du Dauphine hopes nearly came crashing down Monday during stage 1 as the Team Sky leader twice had to swerve to avoid contact in the final kilometres while the sprinters' team battled aggressively for position.
In the end, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) took the win and Froome finished safely in the bunch to maintain his third pace overall position behind race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and runner-up Richie Porte (BMC Racing).
Sky's Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe lifted the pace at the front for Froome in the final 10km before Michel Kwiatkowski took over as Froome's protector with 2km to go. Nevertheless, the 2013 and 2015 Tour de France winner had to maneuver away from the melee as Cofidis and Katusha battled to the line.
"With the sprint teams it's always hectic and you could see on the TV there was a big fight between the lead-out trains," said Sky team director Nicolas Portal.
"It's dangerous, but that's why we want to be in a good position," Portal said. "The line is thin between fighting for position and being close to a crash. That's why we're always trying to have guys around Chris who know how to race in the wheels and move him up."
Froome remains third overall, 13 seconds behind Contador and seven seconds behind Porte as the race heads to stage 2, a 167.5km route from Crêches-sur-Saône to the race's first summit finish in Chalmazel-Jeansagnière.
His team remains intact and ready to support him in the upcoming mountain stages, although Stannard and Sergio Henao ran into a bit of trouble earlier in the day.
"We had a small incident during the stage where Sergio had an insect in his helmet on the climb," Portal said. "He crashed and that also caught up Ian Stannard. It was nothing major - just a bit of skin - and both guys were there at the finish."
Both Henao and Stannard finished with the same time as the winner.