The first stage of the Tour de France didn't start as Team Sky were hoping. Even before the riders had reached the end of the neutral zone, Sky leader Chris Froome took what team boss Dave Brailsford called "a bit of a tumble". But the British squad were ultimately happy with the way their day went as all nine of their riders emerged from the crash-hit finale without sustaining any serious injuries, although there were initial concerns about knocks taken by Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard.
"I thought the stage was going to be all right because when RadioShack started to ride hard with about 35km to go, it got really frantic. But then Jensie [Voigt] came to the front and with a guy of his age there, everyone seemed to relax and calm down," said Brailsford as he stood by the team bus with his riders warming down behind him.
"It looked like it was going to be a pretty bog standard run-in. Then we had the bus incident. The first bit of information came out that we were going to have a finish with 3km to go, so that changed everything. Then there was the crash, then there was chaos, then they managed to shift the bus, and it was business as usual."
Brailsford said everyone knew there were going to be crashes in the opening days of the Tour. It was, he added, just a question of when. "They didn't know when it was going to happen, how it was going to happen and who it was going to happen to, but we knew it was going to happen in some form or other, and it has. The important thing for us is that our two main guys are still standing, are unscathed and haven't lost any time, which was the objective this morning," he said.
Brailsford revealed that Stannard had gone down hard and bruised his hip and that Thomas had crashed "very hard" and was about to go off for an X-ray on the back of his pelvis. Both riders were later given the all-clear and are set to start stage 2 on Sunday morning. He described Froome's crash as "a bit of a tumble".
When he had finished his warm-down, Froome explained how he had crashed on a tricky corner in the pre-stage neutralised zone. "I got through the rest of the day unscathed. If that's the only crash, I have in this Tour I'll take that," said the Sky leader. "I don't think any of us expected it to be plain sailing today. There were some pretty brutal crashes in the final. Once again, it was a reminder that this Tour is about so much more than just having the form and being here. It's about staying out of trouble and looking after ourselves in the peloton at the same time."
Froome said he had no idea what had caused the crash with little more than 3km to the line. "I just heard the sound of braking bikes and shoes going onto the road. Then there were bikes flying around and people crashing all around. I felt like guys were crashing all around me, but I managed to pick my way through and had to chase to get back on just in time for the final," he said.
His young teammate Pete Kennaugh, who is making his Tour debut, was closer to the front when the incident occurred. "I was just behind Contador. He went down pretty hard. I managed to hop up on the curb and get my foot down just in time. I was right up towards the front in the last 10km and people were bouncing off each other," Kennaugh said, noting, "That was just one crash. There were five or six before that actually happened. It was sort of inevitable."
Like Brailsford, Kennaugh acknowledged the day could have been a lot worse. "I think everyone on the team will take that first day. We were aware that something was going on from the radio. It just goes to show you when you think of all the talk we have of banning radios. Could you imagine if that bus was still stuck there and no one had radios and we all came racing in? I think there's a prime example of how these radios are used for safety rather than directors telling us what to do," Kennaugh said.
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