The Jumbo-Visma team had high hopes of getting the win in a bunch sprint at the end of the opening stage of the Tour de France in Brussels, Belgium. The yellow jersey would be the magnificent bonus that came with such a victory. Nobody expected that rider to be Mike Teunissen, who beat Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the stage 1 sprint after his go-to teammate Dylan Groenewegen crashed in the closing kilometres.
The 26-year-old from the Limburg region in the Netherlands is a Classics specialist with a good sprint, too. Just like Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert, European champion Matteo Trentin and new Belgian champion Tim Merlier, Teunissen is a rider who raced all of cyclo-cross' youth categories, and he won the 2013 U23 cyclo-cross world title. In 2014, he won the U23 races of Paris-Roubaix and Paris-Tours. Last year, he was runner-up in Dwars door Vlaanderen and this year he finished seventh in Paris-Roubaix. He recently won Dunkerque and the ZLM Tour.
The yellow curse that seemed to hover over the Dutch riders who eyed the leader's jersey at the Tour de France is finally over. In cycling's history, Teunissen will forever go down as the legendary successor of Erik Breukink. Thirty years ago, in 1989, Breukink was the last Dutch rider to wear the maillot jaune.
"I expected that the yellow jersey would be in our room tonight, but I never thought it would be on my shoulders," a flabbergasted Teunissen told the press after his victory.
He shares the hotel room with Groenewegen. The latter rode into the rear wheel of a rider who braked hard in front of him and crashed at 2.5km from the finish.
Teunissen grabbed his chance and took part in the sprint himself. He rode in the slipstream of the top sprinters for a long time on the uphill finish, and then blasted by Sonny Colbrelli and then Sagan at the finish line. After crossing the line, Teunissen wasn't sure if he had won and so he headed to the Jumbo-Visma team bus.
A few moments later he learned that he'd better head back to the podium to be celebrated as stage winner and take on the yellow jersey. In a first reaction, he was in disbelief.
"I still had Wout [van Aert] with me, who helped me and then I beat all those guys. I can't believe what I did, but there are so many people around, so it's probably not a bad thing. It's really odd," Teunissen said.
A while later, the team's GC-rider Steven Kruijswijk arrived, just as Teunissen was being congratulated for the stage win. "Shut up," Kruijswijk said, knowing that Groenewegen had crashed but clearly not knowing that Teunissen won.
"You're joking. That's unbelievable," Kruijswijk said. A few minutes later, a downhearted Groenewegen arrived at the team bus, but he went straight into it.
Meanwhile, Teunissen climbed onto the podium and received the yellow jersey from the legendary Eddy Merckx - who had won the first of five Tour de France victories fifty years ago.
"He congratulated me and said it was a really nice, exciting sprint. I said it was also exciting for me but that I wasn't sure that I had won. He said it was pretty clear.
"It's really nice to get the jersey out of the hands of one of the biggest cyclists ever. It makes something that already is special, even more special. When I grew up, I saw the biggest cyclists in the Tour and you dream of being there one day yourself.
"The maillot jaune is an icon, and I never thought that I would be in the position to get it. Now I'm in this beautiful piece, and they will never take it away from me.
"I'll always be remembered as the rider who wore the yellow jersey for at least one day. That's something that I will remember forever," Teunissen said.
"I still can not believe the impact. It's a dream come true. There are so many emotions right now."
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