Headwinds and blame games – sprinters rue first Tour de France opportunity

Liège offered the sprinters their first chance in this year's Tour de France, and it turned out to be a disorganised affair, a huge crash with 3km to go and a late catch of the breakaway contributing to the confusion. Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) burst from the field to claim the win by a bike length to take his 10th Tour victory, leaving the others nothing but the opportunity to explain why they didn't win.

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is a threat to take the victory in almost every situation and was, in fact, the first to open the sprint. And that was the problem.

"Unfortunately I started too early and then got closed by Colbrelli. There isn't much more to say – my sprint wasn't very good," he said in a report posted on his team's website.

Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), still looking for his first ever Tour win, blamed Sagan for his eighth place. His lead-out man Christophe Laporte was with Sagan, who slowed just as Laporte was ready to go.

"It was a stormy sprint with this headwind that explains why Sagan waited. The other wave then took over and it was too late," said Bouhanni. 

Andre Greipel, who finished third, congratulated his fellow German, saying: "Kittel was very strong and deserved the win."

His Lotto Soudal team, he added, was 'well positioned'. "There was a headwind in the last kilometre and the last 200 metres were slightly uphill. No rider had a teammate ahead of him anymore. Peter Sagan was in the lead too early and held back, and so everyone did. Starting the sprint with 250 metres to go was still too soon, so I had to wait."

Michael Matthews was one of many who lost his lead-out man in the sprint. Team Sunweb's Nikias Arndt led the field with 500 meters to go, only to discover his teammates weren't there.

"It was chaotic and some of the crazier sprinters wanted to upset our train," Matthews told radsport-news.com. "There was almost a crash and the guy pulling for me had to click out of the pedal. I had to go around him and then all the others came from behind.

The Australian, who finished ninth on the day, is actually looking more to Monday's stage 3, finishing on a punchy climb, for his big chance.

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