Kristoff stays upright to take fourth on Tour's opening stage

Norwegian sprinter evades crashes and chaos to be in the mix

While UAE Team Emirates' Alexander Kristoff's pre-race prediction that the opening sprint stages could be chaotic "because there are a lot of sprinters who don't have big teams around them", the opening stage of the Tour de France proved to be chaotic well before the final sprint had even started.

And while Team Sky's Chris Froome and Egan Bernal crashed in the closing stages of the race, BMC's Richie Porte was held up by a crash and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) lost time as a result of having had to make a bike change, Kristoff was able to stay up at the sharp end of affairs in the final bunch sprint, looking to take his first stage win since Nîmes at the 2014 Tour.

"It was quite chaotic," explained the 31-year-old sprinter, "but I got quite good help from my teammates until about two kilometres to go, when I got lost a little bit and was more or less on my own.

"I had a good position at the end there behind John Degenkolb, and managed to get past him because he had to stop a little bit when Peter Sagan started his sprint," Kristoff continued. "I got onto Sagan's wheel, but couldn't get past him and Gaviria, and Kittel just passed me for third.

"I was hoping to make the podium, and I was close in fourth, but I was hoping to win. Gaviria was just in another league today."

While the opening week of the Tour de France is always about trying to avoid crashes and bad luck, whether you're a GC contender, climber, domestique or sprinter, this year's opening nine days of the race – with its likelihood of crosswinds as it hugs western France's Atlantic coastline before it heads on up north for a date with the dangerous cobbles of Roubaix at the start of the second week – could be one of the most nerve-wracking starts for some years.

"Today gives me a bit of confidence because there are a lot of fast riders here," Kristoff said. "Maybe on one of the next few stages I can improve on my fourth place from today.

"But the start to this year's race has been more or less as chaotic as I'd expected," said the Norwegian, who will nevertheless be crossing his fingers, gritting his teeth and getting on with the job in hand.

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