By Jean-François Quénet in Plumelec
Chris Froome didn't have to wait long to discover just how hard the Tour de France can be. The Barloworld rider crossed the line in Plumelec, the finish of stage one, four minutes behind winner Alejandro Valverde and six places from the bottom of the results list after having a tough time in the finale.
"I didn't crash myself but I stopped and waited for [last year's king of the mountains Juan Mauricio] Soler," explained Froome. "He injured his hand again, the same as at the Giro. I hope I haven't done this work for nothing. It's never good to finish at the back of the peloton and have bad luck on the first day."
Stage one was a roller coaster for the rookie, who is the first man from Kenya to start the Tour de France. He was thrilled to see so many fans on the road side in Brittany, a region he is no stranger to after winning the Mi-Août Bretonne over here last August. Back then, Froome was still an amateur learning his trade at the UCI World Cycling Centre based in Aigle, Switzerland.
There has been some confusion in the results listings over Froome's true nationality, but the rider himself was happy to set the record straight. "I'm not the first Kenyan, I'm the first one from Kenya," he said with a very South African accent. "Riding my bike was my first way of moving around when I was a kid in Kenya, but I really discovered cycling as a sport when I moved to South Africa as a teenager. In South Africa, people think I'm a South African."
In fact, he recently took the nationality of his ancestors from Great Britain, so Froome is not that exotic at the Tour de France. "I'm not known in Kenya and I don't think anybody there will really hear about me riding the Tour, except from my brother who has returned living in Nairobi, where I rode my first race. There aren't more than three or four races a year in Kenya. Bicycles are too expensive for the people. That's why they run, and they run so well."