Kittel sprints to win Tour de France stage 1

Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) won his first Tour de France stage and took the first leader's jersey after a chaotic and complicated finish in Bastia. Last-minute changes in the location of the finish line and a mass crash contributed to the confusion, but the German sprinter stayed upright to claim a memorable win. Second place went to Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), with 19-year-old Danny Van Poppel (Vacansoleil-DMC) third.

However the stage was somewhat overshadowed when the Orica-GreenEdge team bus got stuck at the finish line, and was only removed at the last moment, after the decision had apparently been made to move the finish line forward. Shortly thereafter a large crash took out favourites Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan, amongst others, and Andre Greipel who had come through the crash safely, punctured to his great disgust.

Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) was caught up by the crash, and was one of many who seemed to have lost time on the stage. But having moved the stage finish due to the bus mishap and then revised their decision, Tour organizers announced that due to the mass confusion and changing of the finish line all riders would be given the same time.

It was far and away Kittel's biggest career moment. The 25-year-old won one stage at the 2011 Vuelta a Espana, and made his Tour debut last year with high hopes. But a viral infection handicapped him and forced him out of the race on the fifth stage, empty-handed.

This stage win was his 12th victory this year, ranging from stage wins to the overall victory in the Tour de Picardie and the one-day races Scheldrprijs and ProRace Berlin.

“My team took perfect care of me, thanks to all of them,” Kittel said afterward. “I saw the crash but didn't know who was involved. At first we were confused as to what to do, but obviously figured it out.”

When told about the bus incident, he gave a shocked reaction. “I didn't know that, I am hearing it for the first time. I think we were pretty lucky.”

A see-sawing gap

The 100th Tour de France got underway promptly, but couldn't have started out worse for top favourite Chris Froome (Sky). He crashed in the neutralized zone but was lucky to escape unhurt.

Five riders jumped as they hit the start, led by a Europcar rider. The field seemed happy to let them go, and they quickly built up a gap of three minutes. Jerome Cousin (Europcar), Juan José Lobato (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Lars Boom (Belkin), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Cyril Lemoine (Sojasun) had the honour of forming the first break group of the 2013 Tour.

The field kept a close eye on the group, holding the gap between the two and three minute mark.

The Cote de Sotta was the first ranked climb of this year's race, coming at km 45. Lemoine and Cousin both looked to be the first across the line, but Spaniard Lobato took the points and thus the first King of the Mountain jersey, outfoxing the two Frenchmen.

Not long thereafter, the break sat up, and the gap dropped to only 39 seconds. Neither the break nor the bunch seemed ready to end things quite yet, and it blossomed back up to over three minutes. But indecision seemed to rule the day, and once again it dropped to 40 seconds after the feed zone. Four of the riders appeared to be ready to call it a day, but Cousin,who started the break in the first place, kept on going. That eventually inspired the others, who caught back up and the gap seesawed its way back up, hitting four minutes with 90km to go.

A little over 20 km later, the gap was closer to two minutes, and that was enough for the peloton. Argos-Shimano, Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Lotto Belisol had been sharing the lead of the rather leisurely chase, but now they got serious, and Cannondale moved up to do its share.

The first intermediate sprint came with 63 km to go, and Boom and Flecha sprinted for the points, with the Dutchman taking the win. There were still points to be awarded, and there was a furious sprint from the big names in the field. Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) was the winner of this first test, taking 10 points to 9 for Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma QuickStep) and 8 for Sagan (Cannondale).

The end for the last four in the break came with 37 km to go, ending their 176km escape.

That was followed by a crash involving more riders, including Garmin-Sharp's Ryder Hesjedal, who scurried back up to the field.

Meanwhile a problem had developed at the finish line. The Orica-GreenEdge bus didn't fit under the finish banner and got stuck with the peloton only 10km away. Gendarmes swarmed around but there was nothing to be done, the bus was stuck.

The hasty decision was made to move the finish line up to the 3km marker – which came right at the end of a tight bend. The bus was finally backed out, just as another mass crash near the head of the field took down or blocked Sagan, Contador and Cavendish, amongst other. A greatly reduced peloton survived to go to the finish line, which had changed once more, now back to its original position.

Greipel and Kittel were amongst those in the first group, but then unbelievably, Greipel had to pull up with mechanical problems arising from the crash, which he had narrowly avoided. The finish line had by now been moved back to the original line, but the confusion and crashes had by now done their part to eliminate most of the potential sprint trains.

Niki Terpstra jumped in the final kilometer, but it was German sprinter Kittel who turned on the speed to claim the win and the leader's jersey.

Full Results

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1Marcel Kittel (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano4:56:52
2Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
3Danny van Poppel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
4David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Sharp
5Matteo Trentin (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
6Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
7Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto Belisol
8Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Belisol
9Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team
10Kris Boeckmans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
11Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge
12Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
13Julien Simon (Fra) Sojasun
14Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
15Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
16Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
17José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Movistar Team
18Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
19Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEdge
20Maarten Wynants (Bel) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
21Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Sojasun
22Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
23Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
24Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
25Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
26Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
27Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
28Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team
29Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
30Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
31Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol
32Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Merida
33Gatis Smukulis (Lat) Katusha
34Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
35Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team
36Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
37Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
38Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Sharp
39Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling
40Pavel Brutt (Rus) Katusha
41Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling
42Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team
43Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto Belisol
44Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha
45Alberto Losada Alguacil (Spa) Katusha
46Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
47Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team
48Jan Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack Leopard
49Tom Veelers (Ned) Team Argos-Shimano
50Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano
51Jean-Marc Marino (Fra) Sojasun
52Boy van Poppel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
53Koen De Kort (Ned) Team Argos-Shimano
54Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Argos-Shimano
55Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) FDJ
56Romain Sicard (Fra) Euskaltel-Euskadi
57Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ
58Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
59Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
60Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana Pro Team
61David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Sky Procycling
62Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Sky Procycling
63Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Sky Procycling
64Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team
65Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
66Brett Lancaster (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
67Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard
68Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Sky Procycling
69Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ
70Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida
71Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha
72Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
73Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
74Rudy Molard (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
75Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol
76Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack Leopard
77Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
78Laurent Didier (Lux) RadioShack Leopard
79Andy Schleck (Lux) RadioShack Leopard
80Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar
81Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
82Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar
83Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) Sojasun
84David Veilleux (Can) Team Europcar
85Wouter Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
86Anthony Delaplace (Fra) Sojasun
87Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (Col) Lampre-Merida
88Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ
89Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
90Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team
91Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp
92Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ
93Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp
94Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
95Benjamin Noval Gonzalez (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
96Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
97Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
98Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Team Europcar
99Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Blr) Katusha
100Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar
101Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
102Yohann Gene (Fra) Team Europcar
103Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
104Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ
105Kévin Reza (Fra) Team Europcar
106Blel Kadri (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
107John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
108John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano
109William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ
110Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp
111Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Sharp
112Lars Boom (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
113Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
114Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
115Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Sojasun
116Maxime Mederel (Fra) Sojasun
117Roy Curvers (Ned) Team Argos-Shimano
118Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team
119Yury Trofimov (Rus) Katusha
120Jens Voigt (Ger) RadioShack Leopard
121Yoann Bagot (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
122Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
123Thomas Leezer (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
124Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
125Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin-Sharp
126Daniele Bennati (Ita) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
127Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (Por) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
128Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
129Jesus Hernandez Blazquez (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
130Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Movistar Team
131Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team
132Jérémy Roy (Fra) FDJ
133Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha
134Juan Jose Lobato Del Valle (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
135Fredrik Carl Wilhelm Kessiakoff (Swe) Astana Pro Team
136Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team
137Guillaume Levarlet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
138Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
139Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
140Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team
141Jack Bauer (NZl) Garmin-Sharp
142Moreno Moser (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling
143Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano
144Albert Timmer (Ned) Team Argos-Shimano
145Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Movistar Team
146Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team