Chris Froome's defence of his Tour de France crown began with a surprising sixth place in the sprint in Harrogate as the 2013 Tour winner decided to contest the sprint to stay out of trouble and secure a good place for the Team Sky car in the race convoy.
Froome was well protected by his teammates during the stage and then opted to try his hand in the sprint. He avoided the Cavendish-Gerrans crash and managed to finish ahead of Milan-San Remo Alexandre Kristoff (Katusha).
Most of Froome's overall rivals finished ten seconds behind him and 14 second down on stage winner Marcel Kittel but the race results were neutralised and everyone was given the same time by the race judges because of the crash.
After warming down and signing autographs for the fans packed around the Team Sky bus, Froome talked about the stage, coughing several times due to his asthma between taking sips on a recovery drink.
"It was relatively straightforward. I think everyone knew it was going to come down to a bunch sprint but the crowds out there were just incredible, second to none," he said.
"It's unreal. As defending Tour champion, it doesn’t get much better than this. It was a shame for Cav in the final. It would have been nice to have a British win today. But that's racing. I felt good and today was about getting to the finish without any big issues. The guys did a good job keeping me out of harms way. I know that team car positioning is a big issue and I just thought, we don’t have a sprinter, so why not get a good car position. I was well positioned and the crash with Cav happened on the left and I was on the right. I just carried on going."
More room please
Froome seemed to enjoy the first stage of the Tour in Yorkshire, waving to the huge crowds as he rode back to the bus. However he the asked for the fans to give him and the other riders in the race more space out on the road, especially on the climbs.
"The crowds were well behaved but I'd like to ask them to give us just a little more space in the roads so that we don’t have to stop in the middle on climbs," Froome asked.
"The crowds out on the climbs were massive and at one point we only had a metre and a half of room to get through. I'd like to ask the fans to give a bit more room on the climbs."
A reported two million fans lined the stage route according to local organizers. Just as many or even more are expected for stage two from York to Sheffield on Sunday.
"Tomorrow is going to be a tough day," Froome said, knowing that the stage profile is much hillier and could see him sprinting at the head of the peloton for a second day.
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