In the mad dash to the line in the opening Tour de France stage 1 to Utah Beach, experienced Katusha lead-out man Michael Morkov reportedly clipped one of the exposed feet of the barriers that keep back the crowds, setting off a chain-reaction crash that also took down Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) and held up a number of other riders.
Michael Carcaise, the executive director of the Association of North American Professional Road Cyclists (ANAPRC) reiterated the organisation's urgent call to the UCI to adopt the safety recommendations proposed by the riders' association CPA to require flat-footed barriers in the final kilometers.
"This is not a new problem," Carcaise said to Cyclingnews, recalling that Zdenek Stybar highlighted the issue with barrier feet after crashing heavily in the Eneco Tour in 2014.
"It is way past the time for the UCI to prohibit barriers that encroach onto the roadway in the final kilometers of sprint stages. At this point the teams bear some responsibility for putting their employees into a needlessly dangerous work environment. This is sport, but this is also a workplace. If the UCI will not act and make footless barriers mandatory then teams and riders need to circumvent the UCI governance process and work directly with race organizers to develop and implement safety standards."
Lotto Soudal sprinter Andre Greipel agreed. "With the old fences the feet are on the road and the people were leaning over. I think that ASO or the Tour de France needs to change something for us, for our safety, to put the new fences, which are not straight, and the people are farther away off the road. I think that there were really bad circumstances but the team did a good job. A disappointing finish."
Greipel finished fourth on the stage behind Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data).
Van Avermaet targets second stage
After finishing the opening stage of the Tour de France at Utah Beach, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) was one of the riders who was present for a ceremony at the World War II memorial in the dunes.
"I was honoured. This is a historical site. It's a tribute to those who fought for us," Van Avermaet said. The Belgian rider came through the first stage unscathed and eyes a win in Cherbourg-En-Cotentin on day 2.
"It was a hectic stage but it turned out fine. I managed to stay out of trouble. I'd loved to have been closer in the sprint but there was a crash. It was dangerous. I was behind the crash, far enough behind it to avoid going down. There were a few crashes today. I saw Contador going down, too. Luckily it remained dry on the course. I try to put everything on tomorrow and hopefully I can fight for the victory in a stage that suits me more." (via Brecht Decaluwé)
Theuns starts first Tour de France with white jersey
Trek-Segafredo's Edward Theuns was the best young rider across the line on stage 1 of the Tour de France, finishing in fifth place behind stage winner Mark Cavendish. The young Belgian stepped onto the podium after the first Grand Tour stage of his career and accepted the white jersey of best rider under the age of 26 in the overall classification.
"This feels a bit like a victory for me," Theuns said. "I was feeling good, and Fabian (Cancellara) and Jasper (Stuyven) helped me in the last 15 kilometers to stay at the front. I had to spend a little bit too much energy at the very end to get on the wheels of the real top sprinters, and that is maybe the power I missed at the end."
Theuns fought his way to the line behind Cavendish, Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal).
"I had to sprint a little to get on Kittel's wheel. With 400 meters to go maybe I was dreaming a little to win, but really I felt just holding the wheel was the maximum I could do. I am very happy with this. It is incredible," Theuns said.
Theuns has never considered himself a pure sprinter, but he is beginning to find his niche with Trek-Segafredo in his first season at the World Tour level and slowly understanding and growing into his strengths.
"I want to prophesied myself as a sprinter, and I think putting myself between these sprinters is for me a big step and maybe next time I can beat one of them. It was close, I think Greipel came over me in the end, but the rest were losing speed because it was a long sprint.
"It was hectic, and I had to come from far to get in the best position. The other guys have built a train just for this and then it is not easy to get in good position. That little bit going into the wind might have cost me some power in the end, but still it is very satisfying to be there."
Photo: TDW Sport
Voss wins first polka dots
German Paul Voss (Bora-Argon 18) made sure that he won the first polka dot jersey of best climber on stage 1 of the Tour de France. The 30-year-old jumped away at the drop of the flag for the start of the race with teammate Jan Barta, and the two parlayed teamwork into a win for Voss on the first climb, the category 4 Côte d'Avranches 20.5km into the stage. But with one more climb and only another single point available at the top of the Côte des falaises de Champeaux, Voss knew he had to win the second one if he wanted to be sure of taking that jersey.
So he attacked after the first climb, and spent almost 20km alone between the climbs.
"At first I thought it was a stupid idea, then I thought it was a good idea to keep going to make sure I get the second KOM as well, and don't have to wait for the finish line to be in front of the guy who was on the same points as me," Voss explained. "I went all in, it hurt a lot, and then I was done. My legs were hurting pretty bad after that. The goal was to get the jersey, and I got the jersey - so I'm happy."
Voss is familiar with leading the mountains classification at a Grand Tour - he spent four days in the green jersey of best climber in the Giro d'Italia in 2010. "So I know how it feels, but the Tour de France is much bigger and it will be different. I look forward to wearing the polka dot jersey even if I'll probably lose it tomorrow. It is nice to have it for one day."
Stage 2 from Saint-Lô to Cherbourg-Octeville has three category 4 climbs in the first half of the 182km stage, and one category 3 ascent near the finish.
- Mark Cavendish wins stage 1 of the Tour de France
- Tour de France stage 1 video highlights
- Mark Cavendish claims first Tour de France yellow jersey of his career at Utah Beach
- Contador crashes on stage 1 of Tour de France
- Contador relieved to have avoided serious injury in Tour de France crash