Leigh Howard didn't let a lack of preparation impinge upon his Tour de France debut with the IAM Cycling rider initiating the first attack and breakaway of the 2016 edition of the race. The 26-year-old was a late call up for the Swiss team after Belgian Dries Devenyns went down with illness with former Orica-GreenEdge teammate Simon Clarke driving him to the Toulouse airport for the flight to Normandy.
Howard attacked the 198-rider peloton once the red flag dropped outside of Mont-Saint-Michel with Bora-Argon 18 duo Jan Barta and Paul Voss joining him, before Alex Howes (Cannondale-Drapac) and Anthony Delapace (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) bridge across.
"It was quite an easy breakaway to get into actually," said Howard of the stage which was won by Dimension Data's Mark Cavendish. "I was the first to jump and two guys come with me, and two more later on. It would have been nice to get the KOM jersey, that was my aim once I was in the breakaway but one of me versus two of the Bora guys was a little bit hard when they started one-twoing me five kilometres before the first KOM."
With just one point on offer at both KOMs on the stage, the Côte d'Avraches and Côte des Falaises de Champeux, and up against two teammates from Bora-Argon 18, Howard explained he gave it his best shot to claim the first grand tour leader's jersey of his carer but ultimately came up short.
"I wasn't going to get caught up in that game as there was no way I was going to beat two of them by myself," he said. "I played it as well as I could and I tried to collaborate with the other two guys who caught us eventually and we were hoping to catch the lone rider out in front before the second KOM which would have meant as long as he finished third or more then I would have had the jersey anyway."
Although Howard missed his objective of the KOM jersey which Voss will now wear on stage 2, he added it was nevertheless a good way to start his debut Tour de France.
"Unfortunately we were five or ten second behind on the second KOM so no jersey but it was an interesting day out, I took the intermediate sprint and got the jersey on the TV so it was a nice day," said Howard who is already up to 48 race days in 2016, eight more than his 2015 total.