In all, 19 riders were given the same time as the winner, Timothy Dupont (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles) who avoided the chaos to win the stage, beating Pierre Barbier (Delko) and European champion Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka Assos). Most of the riders apparently escaped serious injury.
Trek-Segafredo's Mads Pedersen was forced to take dramatic evasive action to avoid falling in a roundabout with 500m to go. A slide-out by Edvald Boasson Hagen (Total Direct Energie) on the left side of the turn caused a chain reaction crash that the former world champion avoided by zipping straight across the entire road to the opposite side of the exit, taking out one rider in the process.
Pedersen skipped through unscathed, coming to rest against some fencing on the side of the road as the few people standing on the sidelines dove to avoid being hit.
"A shit way to end a good sprint stage - I think we could have done a good result, I was in a good position. I'm just happy now I didn't crash, you see how so many guys are coming now with broken clothing," Pedersen said.
Another fall sparked by a fight for lead-out positions on a straight section of road with four kilometres to go took down four riders. Egan Bernal was initially thought to have gone down but Ineos Grenadiers confirmed post-race that it was Ethan Hayter.
Other crash victims on the day included the race's best young rider Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe), Danny van Poppel (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert), Julien Duval and Damien Touze (AG2R La Mondiale), Guillaume Boivin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Boris Vallée (Bingoal-WB) - who is just coming back from a fractured pelvis in 2020, and a rider from B&B Hotels-KTM.
Most riders only had bruises and abrasions but Hayter will get further examinations after going over the bars in the first crash.
Early season nerves 😖 #etoiledebessegesFebruary 4, 2021
Stevige valpartij op rotonde in de laatste 500 meter ontsiert de sprint in de Ster van Bessèges pic.twitter.com/CAzwNikvn9February 4, 2021
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