The opening stage of the Tour de France was always going to be a fraught affair with tight Vendee roads, potential cross winds, and the fight for position all predictable but decisive features of the race. And so it proved. While Fernando Gaviria claimed his maiden Tour stage and first maillot jaune, the real fight for the GC took on a new dimension with Chris Froome, Richie Porte, Adam Yates and Nairo Quintana all losing time to several of their key rivals.
Porte, who came into the race leading the line for BMC Racing in the their final Tour before their disbanding, finished in the same time as Froome and Yates, losing 51 seconds to Vincenzo Nibali, Tom Dumoulin, Romain Bardet and others. Such a deficit might not represent a terminal loss of Porte's GC aspirations but in a race that could be determined by seconds, the group of Dumoulin and Nibali will view today's action as a victory.
"It was just a crash. It was pretty nervous there and not ideal but I think Quintana lost more, Froome was there, and that's the Tour," Porte neatly summarised after collecting his thoughts and showering on the BMC team bus.
Porte was held up in a crash rather than falling, as Yates and Froome did, but the shipping of time was still significant. Froome suffered a few cuts, Yates too, but conceding time on the first stage is never a good look, and hardly how a contender wants to set the tone after months of preparation. However, the Tour de Suisse winner looked for a positive aspect to the stage.
"I was pretty close to coming down. I sort of rode my teammate Damiano Caruso into the ground and that softened the blow. I don't really know what happened to be honest but one minute it's all OK and the next thing there's a crash in front, and there were a few more crashes on the way in. There were other guys there, some worse off than me. It's the first day of the Tour but it's not ideal. It's just nice to finally start the race.
"It's swings and roundabout, this race. Guys took time today but the same might not happen tomorrow. The team were good around me today, and this is a shame but we'll see how the next few days go."
Porte's eyes and ears in the team car, ex-rider Fabio Baldato, admitted that he didn't know the exact circumstances to Porte's time loss but that the priority was ensuring that the rider was fit and healthy and that no injuries were sustained.
"I need to speak with him first, because the only thing that I understand from TV was that there was a crash in front of him, Baldato told Cyclingnews.
"We don't think he had problem with the bike but it was a really narrow passage with all the sprinters there. He was near the front, we tried to close the gap, then there was a barrage between the cars that we didn't understand.
"First he's not hurt and secondly other contenders had problems. It would have been better to be in front but we can be better at keeping him out of trouble."
There were shades of 2016 when Porte lost unnecessary time on stage 2 of that year's Tour on the road to Cherbourg-Octeville. That time Porte was left by the side of the road and forced to fend for himself after a late mechanical. This time around the circumstances were different and Porte was afforded proper support but this was not the opening stage he and his team were hoping for.
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