2021 Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) made a strong start to defending his title during stage 1 at the Tour de France on Saturday. He briefly but impressively counter-attacked on the final climb, but after crossing the line, the Slovenian star was more concerned about his teammates, several of whom were caught up in the big crashes of the day, than any evaluation of his performance.
On the plus side, Pogačar was well-placed at the foot of the Fosse aux Loups climb when stage winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) had made his move, and he managed to go clear ahead of the small pack of chasing favourites.
Then in a short but telling skirmish between two of the main favourites, Primoz Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) bridged across and as the Slovenian duo began shadowing each other, their advantage quickly evaporated and they were absorbed by the main chase group.
Pogačar still crossed the line in sixth place in the group of chasers behind Alaphilippe, claiming the right to the best young rider’s jersey in the process. But on a day when at least three of his teammates crashed heavily and one, Marc Hirschi, needed to go to the race medical centre for a checkup, he was in no mood for celebrations.
“Not a good day, not a good day,” he told the Velon website later from outside the team bus. “There were a lot of crashes, I’d seen some guys [teammates - Ed.] not feeling great, like Marc, so I hope they can recover well. On the first day, it’s not good to crash.”
A stage winner last year in the Pyrenees ahead of Pogačar when he was racing with Team Sunweb, following his fall on stage 1, Hirschi finished second last, 18 minutes down, and has been taken to the race medical centre for checkups. According to team sources he needed scans on a suspected broken collarbone.
Team UAE Emirates later confirmed that Hischi suffered a separated shoulder. The team will monitor Hirschi and make a final decision in the morning on whether he can start stage 2 on Sunday.
"Following his crash Marc Hirschi has a grade 3 injury of the acromio-clavicular joint, commonly known as a separated shoulder. There is no fracture of the clavicle and no other injury to the shoulder joint. Tomorrow morning we will reassess his condition and make a decision if he is fit to continue in the race," said Dr.Jeroen Swart, the team's medical director.
While Hirschi’s injuries are an important blow to UAE so early in the race, two more of Pogačar’s teammates, Brandon McNulty ad Mikel Berg, also both came down in the crashes, losing over seven and eight minutes respectively.
Switched from a Giro d’Italia part to the Tour de France specifically to give the Slovenian greater mountain support, McNulty had some road rash when he crossed the line, but they are reported by team sources to be doing OK.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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