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Tour de France 2016: Stage 1


Live coverage of stage 1 of the 2016 Tour de France, 188 kilometres from Mont-Saint-Michel to Utah Beach/Sainte-Marie-du-Mont.

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If it’s cycling championships you’re after, you can’t say fairer than the Tour de France.

Stage 1 of the 2016 Tour rolls out from Mont-Saint-Michel at 11.20 local time and gets underway in earnest when the peloton reaches kilometre zero at around 11.50. You can follow all the day's action here on Cyclingnews, as the peloton tackles 188 kilometres of coast road en route to Utah Beach, where the first man across the line will claim the first maillot jaune of the race. It's as simple and as complicated as that.


Setting out from the shadow of Mont-Saint-Michel's striking abbey and finishing at Utah Beach, the westernmost of the five landing beaches on D-Day, the opening leg of this year's Tour certainly leaps off the page, though - in theory, I hasten to add - it ought to be a relative straightforward stage. The expectation is that the afternoon will provide 188 kilometres of nervousnes and high speeds before the inevitable bunch sprint, where Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) will be chasing his third opening day victory in four years. 


That said, the stage takes place in the Manche département and, as the name suggests, the stage will see the peloton spend much of the day on roads hugging the coastline of the Channel, or Manche. The word from the start in Mont-Saint-Michel is that conditions are "windy and cloudy" with temperatures hovering around the 17-degree mark, though the rain has held off for now.


There are two category 4 climbs on the menu this afternoon. The Cote d'Avranches comes just over 20 kilometres in, while the Cote des Falaises de Chapeaux follows after 40 kilometres. We can expect plenty of early attackers seeking the first polka dot jersey of the Tour, but this is a day for the sprinters, as the profile attests.



The last of the 198 starters are signing on and the peloton is beginning to form on the start line at Mont-Saint-Michel. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is viewed by many as the principal challenger to defending champion Chris Froome (Sky), and here he is reporting for duty a few moments ago.


The high mountains feel a lifetime away on the Norman coast, but Quintana will already be casting his mind forward to the Tour's tough denouement in the Alps. Morzine hosts the finish of the final mountain stage, three weeks from today, and Colombian riders have some previous form in the Alpine town. Before the Tour, we took a look at the echoes of Luis Herrera and Fabio Parra in Quintana's path to this point.


The peloton has filed onto the start line and awaits the neutralised start, which is almost Vuelta a Espana-esque in its length this morning. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Quintana are among those on the front row as they are flagged away and take the depart fictif. 


Quintana waves for the television camera as the peloton meanders gingerly in the neutralised zone. Hostilities will not begin in earnest until 11.50 or so local time.


Tomorrow's finale in Cherbourg is perhaps better-suited to Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) than today's finish at Utah Beach, but the world champion has hit the headlines this morning nonetheless. After seeming destined for Astana during the Giro d'Italia, our transfer guru Stephen Farrand informs us that the Slovak is now likely to ride for Bora in 2017. Read the full story, including Alexandre Vinokourov's thoughts, here.


The wind a southwesterly one this afternoon, meaning that the peloton ought to be buffeted by a crosswind as it winds its way up the coast. The risk of splits of the kind we saw on stage 2 to Neeltje Jans a year ago is very real indeed, hence the anxious faces among the GC contenders in the neutralised zone.


Fabio Aru (Astana) is lining up for his Tour de France debut with Vincenzo Nibali at his side, and the pair put forward a united front at their press conference yesterday. "I know I’ve got to be careful in the opening days because the Tour is crazy, then I've got to learn during the first week and see what happens," Aru said.


The peloton is still making its way through the neutralised zone, but this was the scene as they lined up for the unofficial start a short time ago.


André Greipel is among the favourites for stage victory this afternoon, along with his fellow countryman Kittel and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data). Before setting out, he confirmed that his Lotto Soudal squad will be among those trying to control matters this afternoon. “For sure it will be us," Greipel said. "I expect a really nervous day today with the wind. We can expect some possibilities of crosswind. We are motivated for today of course but also for the whole Tour de France. We’re going to try our best and then we’ll see."


Dimension Data looked to dissuade reporters from asking questions about the Olympic Games during Mark Cavendish's press conference yesterday, so it was a question of taking a ship in a bottle approach to broaching the question - they slipped it in sideways and then pulled the string... You can read Cavendish's thoughts on chasing a first maillot jaune and - whisper it, there might be a press officer about - combining the Tour and the Olympics here.


Kilometre zero approaches and there is already a gaggle of would-be attackers straining at their leashes just behind the lead car. The 2016 Tour de France is - almost - underway...


Peter Sagan, meanwhile, is back with his team car, where a mechanic is leaning out the rear window and adjusting his derailleur.


188km remaining from 188km

C'est parti. The 2016 Tour de France has begun. Christian Prudhomme drops the flag to make it so and immediately, the peloton reaches warp speed.


Two Bora-Argon 18 riders are part of a three-man move that clips off the front in the opening kilometre. 


185km remaining from 188km

Jan Barta (Bora-Argon 18), Paul Voss (Bora-Argon 18) and Leigh Howard (IAM Cycling) are our three leaders and, rather surprisingly, the peloton seems content to let them to it. The trio has a lead of a minute after three kilometres of racing.


Leigh Howard was a late addition to IAM Cycling's Tour line-up, drafted in as a replacement for Dries Devenyns in midweek after the Belgian was stricken by illness. Howard has had no trouble getting up to speed - barely a couple of hundred metres into his Tour debut, the Australian was off the front in the break.


Alex Howes (Cannondale) and Anthony Delapace (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) are giving chase with some determination just behind the three leaders, while the peloton seems to content to amble along two minutes down the road.


179km remaining from 188km

Howes and Delaplace are 17 seconds behind our three leaders, while the peloton is already fully three minutes back.


Delegations from Etixx-QuickStep and Lotto Soudal move to the front of the peloton, though they won't be displeased with the current state of affairs. A decent break has sallied clear far sooner and far more painlessly than anyone might have anticipated.


176km remaining from 188km

There seems to have been, however, a degree of pain for Aru's teammate Diego Rosa (Astana), who was an early faller, though the man from Alba is quickly back on his bike and in the peloton.


175km remaining from 188km

Barta, Voss and Howard are collaborating very smoothly indeed and are extending their advantage over both the chasers and the peloton. They lead Howes and Delapace by 35 seconds and the bunch is now 3:30 down.


Howes and Delaplace are sticking admirably to their task of chasing down the three leaders but for all their efforts, they don't seem to be making any particular inroads into that deficit just yet. 


171km remaining from 188km

Barta and Voss take it in turns to attack Leigh Howard, trying to work the Australian over to take the mountains classification point on offer at the Cote d'Avranches. 


Voss duly goes clear alone, while a visibly unimpressed Howard turns and gives Barta a withering stare.


169km remaining from 188km

Voss continues his effort alone towards the Cote d'Avranches, while the peloton is now some four minutes behind.


167km remaining from 188km

Voss leads over the summit of the Cote d'Avraches, though it remains to be seen whether he opts to knock off his effort and wait for his erstwhile companions or continue to press on alone. Howard, understandably, has stayed locked on Barta's wheel all the way up the climb.


Voss had 40 seconds in hand over Barta and Howard at the summit but he has slackened his pace slightly over the top to wait for his two breakaway companions. The next categorised climb is just 16 kilometres away, mind, and Howard will be braced for further games from the Bora-Argon 18 pair.


165km remaining from 188km

Thomas De Gendt leads the peloton for Lotto Soudal, and the Belgian is content to tap out a sensible rhythm on the front. The bunch is 4:43 behind the lone leader Voss over the top of the climb.


Voss remains alone in front, incidentally, having upped his pace once again. The German clearly feels that he might as well try to stay out there and pick up the point on the Cote des Falaises de Champeaux for good measure. Howes and Delaplace, meanwhile, are still trapped in the no man's lead between the break and the peloton. They were 1:27 behind Voss over the top of the day's opening climb.


160km remaining from 188km

After a leg-stinging chase, Howes and Delaplace have finaly bridged up to Barta and Howard - only to find that the solo Voss is a further 50 seconds ahead of them on the road...


Lotto Soudal may doing the bulk of the work in the peloton right now, but the blue jerseys of Etixx-QuickStep will surely be very prominent indeed in the finale, as Marcel Kittel chases stage victory and the first maillot jaune of the race. "The feeling in the team is one of stress but it’s the right portion of stress. Everyone knows what they need to do today. If they don’t know it know then they’ll never know," says Etixx-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere. "Everyone will work for Marcel today and the climbers they’ll be on his back wheel to make it harder for the others. Dan Martin will also try to be in the leadout. He’s more skinny and I’ve confident that he’s happy with the team. He has lost 3 kilos without even having a special diet. If we can bring him safely to the mountains then he will be very good."


Indeed, Lotto-Soudal and Etixx-QuickStep occupy the front positions in the main peloton, but there are platoons from the GC contenders' teams lined up just behind them. Nairo Quintana is ensconced in a phalanx of Movistar riders, while Aru and Nibali pedal as though in a cloud suffused with sky blue Astana jerseys.


155km remaining from 188km

Delaplace set out this morning targeting the king of the mountains jersey and the Frenchman is visibly the most determined of the four chasers on the approach to the Cote des Falaises de Champeux, but it seems as though he might run out of road as Voss continues to lead alone.


151km remaining from 188km

The four chasers are just 25 seconds down on Paul Voss on the approach to the day's second climb. Further behind, the Thomas De Gendt-led peloton, meanwhile, has shaved its deficit back to four minutes.


150km remaining from 188km

Voss climbs out of the saddle with a little over a kilometre to go to the summit of the second climb. His lead is down to just 16 seconds and both Howes and Delaplace seem especially keen to peg him back.


Paul Voss (Bora-Argon 18) will wear the polka dot jersey tomorrow after he leads over the summit of the Cote des Falaises de Champeux.


149km remaining from 188km

Howard, Howes, Barta and Delaplace crest the summit barely 15 seconds later, cheered on by the sizeable crowds that came out line the roadsides on the climb. The conditions remains overcast and gusty, but the rain, mercifully, has held off for now.


Voss sits up and receives a tap of congratulations from teammate Jan Barta as he is caught by the four chasers. Leigh Howard, one imagines, will not be as forthcoming with praise... The quintet has a lead of 3:50 over the peloton.

146km remaining from 188km

As the race settles down slightly, the television director avails of the opportunity to showcase the striking Norman coast and the beach at Champeux. The break's lead drops slightly to 3:27.


Mark Cavendish's Dimension Data squad have been happy to leave organising the peloton to Lotto-Soudal and Etixx-QuickStep for now. The last time Cavendish lined up on the Tour's opening day with the yellow jersey in his sights, in 2014, his entire race was ended by a crash in the finishing straight in Harrogate. "The Tour is 21 days long and it’s important to be successful across 21 days," he told Eurosport at the start this morning.


Like most of his GC rivals, Chris Froome (Sky) will be aiming simply to survive this nervous opening day of action at the Tour. "It’s a big relief to just get started," Froome said at the start. "We’ve trained for a long time for this and it’s just nice to get the show on the road. Today the wind is going to be big factor. We just want to stay out of trouble. It’s all about protection today. I’ll just try and stay as close as possible to Ian Stannard."



138km remaining from 188km

The five leaders covered a brisk 42.2 kilometres in the first hour of racing. As they turn into a brief section of headwind, the lead drops to 2:50.


The sun has poked its way through the clouds as the five leaders make their way through Granville, which is packed with spectators for the occasion.


Tejay van Garderen began his day by tweeting the mantra "No more excuses." His BMC co-leader Richie Porte, meanwhile, told reporters at the start that he was simply glad to get his Tour underway. "Finally. Having sat in the hotel room for the last three days you almost forget what you’re here for. You question where you’re at so it’s nice to get this started," Porte said. "If you look at the wind and rain, although it’s meant to clear, it’s so unpredictable. I’ve got Rohan Dennis and some of the best guys looking after me. The plan is to stay near the front but that’s easier said than done."


131km remaining from 188km

There's no shortage of road furniture in this corner of the world, as the peloton hurtles through the towns and villages that dot the Channel coast, but that early Diego Rosa spill apart, there have been no further crashes to report as yet. And Rosa was quickly back on his back and returned to the peloton, seemingly without injury.


Thomas De Gendt continues his shift on the front of the peloton for Lotto Soudal. His leader Greipel won four stages a year ago, but the presence of an on-form Marcel Kittel complicates matters for him - and for all of the fast men here. "Like I always say, winning last year doesn’t help me now. The team and the condition are both good and we’ll be up there and will try to be there in the final to launch the sprint," Greipel said before the start. "The challenge is to be in the right position for the sprint. It’s going to be super fast. We have to be careful." 


127km remaining from 188km

Julien Vermote is the man contributing for Etixx-QuickStep on the front right now. QuickStep and Lotto Soudal have struck a working arrangement to keep tabs on the break's lead, which hovers around the three-minute mark.


A puncture for Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), who gets a quick change and rejoins with the convoy without any undue stress. 


118km remaining from 188km

Paced by Bernhard Eisel, Cavendish rejoins the main peloton, which trails the five leaders by 2:52.


Out in front, meanwhile, Alex Howes puts in a long turn on the front. After Bora-Argon 18's early agitating for king of the mountains points, the break has settled into a decent working alliance, as Voss, Barta, Delapace and Howard exchange turns. Their chances of staying clear to the finish are slim, by any measure, but getting jerseys up the road and on television is a bigger recompense than normal at the Tour de France.


113km remaining from 188km

Geraint Thomas (Sky) lines out as Chris Froome's key support in the mountains, and also harbours quiet ambitions of a high overall finish in Paris himself. Last night, however, Thomas had eyes only for the exploits of the Welsh team at Euro 2016. "After the Wales game last night it must have been around midnight before I dropped off," Thomas said at the start. "Today is going to be a miserable day by all accounts and a tough first week but I’m just looking forward to getting stuck into it. The plan is just to stay out of trouble and near the front but to do that you need to be protective and race aggressively. We need to be on the front foot so we’re not to catching up all the time. I’m just taking it day by day. I’m feeling good, I’m not feeling bad or anything but I’ll know a lot more after a few days of racing."


Shortly after full-time last night, meanwhile, a Belgian colleague had a succinct take on the national mood. "De Tour kan beginnen..." he wrote glumly. The Tour can begin...


109km remaining from 188km

The five escapees maintain a lead of 2:42 after 80 kilometres of racing at Montmartin-sur-Mer. The pace is brisk but manageable in the peloton for the time being, but we can expect the speed to start to ratchet upwards once the road turns inland towards the day's intermediate sprint at La Haye with 70 kilometres remaining.

A glum-looking Frank Schleck (Trek-Segafredo) drops back to his team car and seeks the assistance of a mechanic to extricate a plastic bag from his rear derailleur. 



103km remaining from 188km

Alberto Contador is maintaining a vigilant presence near the front of the peloton, surrounded by a phalanx of Tinkoff teammates. Our man in Spain Alasdair Fotheringham spoke with Contador earlier in the week, and the man from Pinto listed Froome and Quintana as "maybe equal favourites" but left the distinct impression that he fancied his own chances too. Read the full interview here.


100km remaining from 188km

Into the final 100 kilometres for our five escapees, whose lead has been cut slightly to 2:15.


Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) is the subject of a big spread in L’Équipe this morning under the headline "Pinot would really love to love the Tour." The Frenchman has certainly had a mixed relationship with the Tour to date, his sparkling debut in 2012 balanced by his troubled abandon the following here. Third place in 2014 was followed by a disastrous opening week a year ago, though he put a different slant on his race by winning at Alpe d'Huez on the final weekend. With six wins to his name to date in 2016, Pinot arrives at the Grand Depart with quiet confidence. “Whatever happens, my season will be judged on the Tour. That’s hard to accept because a season isn’t just the Tour,” Pinot told L’Équipe. “From the moment I’m at the start, sure, I’ve got a small chance, but I’m not going to announce that I’m going to win the Tour.”


94km remaining from 188km

Howes, Barta, Voss, Delaplace and Howard approach the feed zone at Gouville-sur-Mer with a lead of 2:07 over the peloton.


While mechanical doping has garnered headlines aplenty in the build-up to the Tour, it emerged yesterday that the French anti-doping agency AFLD reportedly has an improved test for EPO at this year's race, given that the use of micro-dosing in recent seasons had rendered existing tests less effective. Elsewhere, the use of the tramadol - which WADA monitors but has yet to ban - continues to cause concern, as Pierre Carrey (@pierre_carrey) of Liberation outlines in this fascinating piece.


87km remaining from 188km

Danger here, as the great George Hamilton would say... There is a sudden injection of pace in the main peloton in a section of crosswind and the bunch risks being split into echelons. 


Etixx-QuickStep, Movistar and Tinkoff are all prominent at the front of the bunch, and a group of riders has been jettisoned off the back of the peloton. Steve Cummings and Thomas Voeckler are among those caught behind, but the GC contenders all appear to be safely near the head of the bunch.


Etixx-QuickStep are gleefully setting the pace with Katusha eager to get in on the action, hopeful. Alexander Kristoff is hopeful, no doubt, that a few fast men could be shaken loose here. Cavendish, certainly, is losing a few teammates, including Bernhard Eisel, Cummings and Daniel Teklehaimanot.


83km remaining from 188km

The urgency in the main peloton has had the collateral effect of reducing the break's lead. The five escapees are now just 58 seconds up as they leave Pirou-Plages behind.


Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali, Chris Froome, Fabio Aru, Nairo Quintana, Thibaut Pinot, Tejay van Garderen, Richie Porte and Romain Bardet are all present and correct in the main peloton, but Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) is among those in the group caught behind. He might get back on provided the pace drops once the peloton changes direction and heads inland, but it won't be easy.


77km remaining from 188km

Contador comes down heavily in a crash as he emerges from a roundabout. He remounts quickly but the Spaniard has cuts and abrasions on his right shoulder. 


Contador has four Tinkoff teammates back with him and they are working to pace him back up to the main peloton. 


Geraint Thomas (Sky) also appears to have been caught up in that incident, and he radios the team car to seek assistance.


Contador's jersey is torn but he is pedalling smoothly as he is paced back up to the bunch. The Spaniard is fortunate that the pace abated slightly after his crash, and he is in convoy of cars just behind the peloton. Thomas is also part of this group latching back up to the peloton, while Luke Rowe was also involved in the same incident.


73km remaining from 188km

The break's lead, meanwhile, has dropped to just 44 seconds as they approach the day's intermediate sprint at La Haye. Voss has sat up, satisfied with his bounty from the king of the mountains competition, leaving just four riders at the head of the race.


71km remaining from 188km

The speed ratchets upwards again in the peloton on the run-in to the sprint. With Contador safely back in their midst, we can surely expect Peter Sagan to begin his green jersey challenge here.


Leigh Howard claims the sprint ahead of Jan Barta, Alex Howes and Anthony Delaplace. 


69km remaining from 188km

20 seconds later, Andre Greipel wins the sprint for fifth ahead of Marcel Kittel, Peter Sagan and Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie).


Contador, meanwhile, drops back to the race doctor's car to receive treatment on the wound on his right shoulder. His bodyguard Matteo Tosatto - who rode his first Tour for MG-Technogym back in 1997 - lingers just in front of him, ready to guide him back up to the bunch


Contador gets taped up as he soft-pedals alongside the medical car. His wounds seem nasty though the Spaniard does not appear to be in undue distress. Only time will how damaging this crash proves to be. Contador was a faller on the opening leg in 2011, too, losing 1:20 on the day - and, more importantly, picking up a knee injury that compromised him for much of the race. Though, it should be noted that it would all have been for nothing in any case. The following year, Contador was finally sanctioned for his 2010 positive test for clenbuterol, and all of his 2011 results were expunged from the record.


65km remaining from 188km

The pace slackens in the main peloton after the sprint, and the four leaders have seen their advantage yawn back out to 40 seconds.


Contador's crash is already making headlines and will continue to do so after the stage. Read the early story here. There will be much more to follow after the finish.


60km remaining from 188km

Some of the riders caught out by the crosswinds earlier on made it back into the main peloton after the Contador crash, incidentally, but we can expect a very fast and very jittery run-in to the finish at Utah Beach. There are plenty more pitfalls ahead...


We spoke earlier about the preponderance of road furniture on the route today, and it was indeed a traffic island that caused Contador's crash. The Spaniard needed a bike change and a shoe change, but, for now at least, is safely re-installed in the peloton.


The pace is now traversing the interior of the Manche departement. The escapees have just 28 seconds in hand as they pedal through Saint-Saveur-Le-Vicomte to raucous cheers from the roadside.


The sun is still out, incidentally, and with little more than an hour of racing still to come, it looks as though the Tour peloton might avoid the rain this afternoon.


57km remaining from 188km

The unity of the break fragments as Anthony Delaplace attacks on the drag out of Saint-Sauveur-Le-Vicomte and only Alex Howes can follow. 


55km remaining from 188km

Delaplace and Howes have a lead of 40 seconds over the peloton, and one imagines that the sprinters' teams would be happy to let them linger out there quite a bit longer.


The bloodied Contador is now defiantly installed near the front of the peloton, still surrounded by a cluster of Tinkoff jerseys. All of the other GC contenders are up there, but it's interesting to note that Katusha are now contributing to the work on the front with Lotto Soudal and Etixx-QuickStep.


53km remaining from 188km

Barta and Howard have been swallowed up by the main peloton, while Howes and Delaplace stretch their lead out to 52 seconds.


50km remaining from 188km

Into the final 50 kilometres for the peloton, and pulses quicken among the long list of sprint contenders this afternoon. Kittel may be the favourite, but the depth of competition is fiercer than any he's faced all season - André Greipel (Lotto Soudal), Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Sam Bennett (Bora Argon 18), Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie), Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) and John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) are among those harbouring dreams of the first maillot jaune of this Tour.


48km remaining from 188km

Howes and Delaplace have put their respective shoulders to the wheel and extended their lead north of a minute but they will soon turn into a headwind and - spoiler alert - the sprinters are not remotely likely to be denied.


A banner on the roadside says "Vive le Tour de France en Normandie" and it would be remiss not to remember Normandy's most famous cycling son, Jacques Anquetil, who rode his final Tour 50 years ago, in 1966.


43km remaining from 188km

Sam Bennett is a contender for stage honours this afternoon, and the Carrick-on-Suir man had this to say at the start. “I’m excited but also a little but also a little bit nervous because were not sure what to expect today. I’m not sure of my condition after not racing for a few weeks but I’m looking forward to getting tuck in. I’m in better shape than I was last year because I was ill before the race last year,” Bennett said. “I’ll be trying to get the best possible position for the sprint but there are a lot of big names here at the Tour. Not sure how it’ll work out but I’ll give it my best.”


41km remaining from 188km

Howes and Delaplace carry a lead of 43 seconds into Montebourg, with 41 kilometres remaining to the finish at Omaha Beach.


40km remaining from 188km

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) claimed a hat-trick of stage wins on his Tour debut in 2012 but has found victories harder to come by in recent years and has added just one in the intervening period, in 2013. “Everything is good so far. For the green jersey we’ll see how the classification is standing and then decide on our plans,” Sagan said at the start. “I want to win for sure. That’s why I’m here. I’m not nervous. Of course we have to see how the opening stages are raced and then we’ll know more about what the race will be like.”


38km remaining from 188km

Howes and Delaplace know they're fighting a losing battle but they beat on, 26 seconds clear of the peloton. 


35km remaining from 188km

Lotto Soudal and Etixx-Quicktep have been vigilant at the head of the peloton all day and they won't let this opportunity pass them by. 35 seconds the gap with a shade under 35 kilometres remaining.


As ever, Kittel was calm amid the maelstrom outside the Etixx-QuickStep bus this morning. The German has won four stages on each of his past two Tour appearances (he abandoned through illness in week one during his 2012 debut) and knows that he will be expected to hit similar numbers this time around. “The important thing is to stay calm and stay focused throughout the stage. With the strong winds that are expected, nobody really knows what’s going to happen, its going to be a surprise for everyone," Kittel said. “I think we have a strong team, not only in the sprint but in the case of cross winds. I’m happy I can have such strong guys around me.”


31km remaining from 188km

The race has hit the coast once more at Quineville and will stay on this road for 10 kilometres before turning inland once more. The race swings back towards the coast again in the final 15 kilometres, for what promises to be a rapid run-in to Utah Beach.


29km remaining from 188km

Howes and Delaplace are just 10 seconds clear of the peloton and their sortie off the front is about to come to an end.


The pace drops slightly at the head of the peloton at the sight of Howes and Delaplace, so our two leaders will have another few moments off the front of the race. Delaplace ups his pace accordingly.


27km remaining from 188km

A crash in the peloton, as Yukiya Arashiro (Lampre-Merida) comes down but the Japanese riders is on his feet quickly and does not appear to be injured.


25km remaining from 188km

The brief detente in the peloton has allowed Howes and Delaplace extend their lead once again to 25 seconds. 


24km remaining from 188km

The race doctor has reportedly told a French television crew that Contador is not likely to have sustained any fractures in his crash earlier, though the Spaniard will be examined more closely at the finish, of course.


23km remaining from 188km

The race has turned back inland and into a headwind, making for a painful few kilometres of riding for Delaplace and Howes, but also making for a decided lack of urgency in the main peloton. The two leaders hold a lead of 30 seconds.


The sprint lead-out trains have yet to take shape in earnest, but the GC contenders are all well-placed near the front of the bunch, including Chris Froome, who is tucked in behind Vasil Kiryienka.


20km remaining from 188km

Howes and Delaplace reach the final 20 kilometres with 30 seconds in hand over the peloton. The race swings back towards the coast with 15 kilometres remaining, and that ought to be where the endgame begins in earnest.


Quintana was caught out in crosswinds on the first road stage a year ago but he's been well-marshalled all afternoon by his Movistar team and he remains near the front of the peloton.


18km remaining from 188km

Delaplace accelerates in a bid to rid himself of Howes. The Frenchman has designs on the Prix de la Combativite at this juncture, rather than the stage win.


17km remaining from 188km

Howes manages to hold Delaplace's wheel and one imagines the American will be reluctant to come through and give him a turn on the front right away...


16km remaining from 188km

Now Howes sticks in an attack of his own and Delaplace fights to get back up to his wheel. The battle for the red dossard is breathing a bit of life into this finale, but as the peloton turns into a section of tailwind shortly, we can expect the finale to ignite in earnest.


14km remaining from 188km

The peloton swings left in Chef-du-Pont and, buffetted by a tailwind, the intensity skyrockets...


Lotto Soudal and Etixx-QuickStep are dominant on the front. Greipel beat Kittel to win the German title last weekend, but the Etixx-QuickStep man will be bullish about his prospects of reversing that outcome this afternoon.


12km remaining from 188km

Howes and Delaplace still have 24 seconds in hand and have survived out in front longer than they would have anticipated with 50 kilometres remaining.


11km remaining from 188km

There is a game of bluff and counter bluff between the sprinters' teams. No squad is willing to show its hand just yet, and with nobody minded to attack from the main peloton, the bunch clips along at a steady pace, 20 seconds down on Howes and Delaplace.


10km remaining from 188km

The sight of the 10 kilometre to go banner should stir things a little in the peloton. 19 seconds the gap to Delaplace and Howes.


9km remaining from 188km

An unflustered Chris Froome sits in third wheel, and there are still plenty of podium contenders in the front rows of the peloton for the time being. 


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A delegation from Lotto Soudal moves up on the right-hand side of the peloton, but no one team has taken up the reins just yet.


7km remaining from 188km

Howes and Delaplace still have 18 seconds in hand as the pace continues to pick up in the main peloton.


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Kittel and Cavendish have delegations from QuickStep and Dimension Data, respectively, moving them towards the front.


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Sky and Movistar remain resolutely in the mix at the head of the bunch in support of Froome and Quintana. The current speed is a rather brisk 57kph.


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The bunch's speed nudges above 60kph. The two escapees won't last too much longer in front at this rate.


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Etixx-QuickStep and Lotto Soudal take up arms in earnest at the front, and the break has just 10 seconds in hand on the bunch.


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The Etixx-QuickStep team has nudged ahead of Lott Soudal at the front of the bunch, and the two escapees Howes and Delaplace have finally been caught. 


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Lotto and QuickStep have competing trains on opposite sides of the road. 


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Etixx-QuickStep lead into the final three kilometres. A Dimension Data group tries to move up in support of Cavendish.


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Katusha, LottoNL-Jumbo and Lotto Soudal are all battling to get on terms with QuickStep.


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Katusha lead into the final 1500 metres.


1km remaining from 188km

Lotto Soudal take over inside the flamme rouge.


KIttel is quite a way back with 1,000 metres to go but moving up.


Peter Sagan opens the sprint from distance...


Kittel and Cavendish close in on Sagan in the final 100 metres...


Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) wins stage 1 of the Tour de France and takes the yellow jersey for the first time in his career.


There was a crash in the finishing straight, incidentally, but it had no impact on the front runners in the sprint.


Cavendish timed his effort perfectly and he came around Sagan in the final 100 metres to claim the win. Kittel battled to get on terms but he simply didn't have enough in his legs to get on terms with Cavendish in the closing metres. It's the first time he's lost a sprint of consequence to Cavendish, incidentally.


Cavendish was third wheel behind Sagan and Kittel in the final 150 metres. Kittel went around to Sagan's left, Cavendish went on the right between the world champion and the barriers, and he was an emphatic winner in the end.


Sagan held on for third on the stage, while Andre Greipel had to settle for fourth.



1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data 4:14:05
2 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx - Quick-Step
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team
4 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
5 Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
6 Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
7 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
8 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
9 Daniel Mclay (GBr) Fortuneo - Vital Concept
10 Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto Soudal


General classification after stage 1:

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data 4:13:55
2 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:04
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team 0:00:06
4 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal 0:00:10
5 Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
6 Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
7 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
8 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
9 Daniel Mclay (GBr) Fortuneo - Vital Concept
10 Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto Soudal 0:00:13


That's a hugely important win for Cavendish, particularly given his need to balance his track ambitions with his commitment to Dimension Data. No matter what happens from here, his - and their - Tour de France is a success, and the Manxman will be freer than ever to decide if and when he leaves the race early.


Not that any of that will be in Cavendish's mind right now, as he waits to don the maillot jaune for the first time in his career. And, lest it be forgotten, that win at Utah Beach is the 27th Tour de France stage victory of his career, a sequence that began in 2008.


The overhead shot shows that Cavendish was gaining ground on Kittel all the way to the finish. It was a win that brooked no argument. Kittel was perhaps a little too far back with a kilometre remaining, but that's all part of the game. Cavendish was well-marshalled by Dimension Data in the final kilometre and was well worth his win.


Mark Cavendish speaks before mounting the podium to take the maillot jaune, having missing out on similar stages in 2013 and 2014: "It’s phenomenal. It was my third opportunity, and my first without bad luck. I don’t know what to say. We wanted this. The yellow jersey is iconic. It's good to get recongiation for the sponsors and for the Qhubeka charity. I do this for my team and the continent of Africa, to put 5,000 kids on bikes."


Cavendish gives short shrift to a question about the importance of beating Marcel Kittel. "Regardless of who’s there, the Tour de France is the Tour de France. To win a stage is an incredible honour, that I’ve never had before. It’s a special emotion."


Tinkoff directeur sportif Steven de Jongh provides an update on Alberto Contador's condition after his crash on the stage. "It’s very unfortunate of course. Bookwalter crashed in front of him and took Alberto out.The first signs are good, he said he was fine, but right now he’s with the doctor and we’ll have more news later," he said. "When you crash you get back on bike and don’t feel pain, but then after the stage you might be in trouble. But hopefully he’ll be fine."


The provisional results sheet records time losses for several of the GC contenders, but it is not yet clear if they will be revised when the crash in the final kilometre is taken into consideration.


Froome and Quintana crossed the line 23 seconds down, van Garderen came home 45 seconds behind and Contador rolled home 55 seconds back. But, we stress, these are not officially ratified times just yet. The commissaires will have to assess whether the peloton was fragmenting before that finishing straight crash involving Michael Morkov (Katusha).



Geraint Thomas, already involved in a crash earlier in the stage, apparently fell while trying to avoid the finishing straight incidentally, but the early word from Team Sky is that the Welshman has emerged unscathed from the opening stage.


While there's no doubt about the stage winner and yellow jersey, we're still awaiting clarification the time gaps - if any - between the GC contenders. The Tour's official post-stage communique states that Contador "crossed the line in the same time as all the favourites" but then the results - for now at least - show the Spaniard as losing 32 seconds to Froome and Quintana...


Contador has updated reporters on his condition at the finish, and sounded a cautiously optimistic note: “I’m bruised all down along my right side from my ankle up but at least I don’t have to go home. Hopefully I can get through the coming days and recover before the mountains. There are some positions where my shoulder gives me some doubts but I want to be optimistic and recover. I was well placed [at the time of the crash]. I came into the corner, there was a traffic island and my front wheel hit it and then I fell back on the curb.”


Michael Morkov (Katusha) was the worst affected rider in that finishing straight cras and though he remounted a spare bike and crossed the line, he has since been taken to hospital for further assessment.


As we await final confirmation of the day's results, here's another post-stage comment from Mark Cavendish. Needless to say, he's had the last laugh... "“There’s a few guys who fucking hate me in the peloton. This is my tenth Tour de France and from the beginning I’ve had the pressure to win. I don’t know any different. From 2008 it’s been the end of me, that’s how it is and it’s something to talk about. I’ve made some incredible friends," says Cavendish. 


Second-placed Marcel Kittel felt that he was forced to launch his sprint too early but was magnanimous after the finish. "Because of that crazy finale, I had to start the sprint from left side and had to go really early, and that made the difference today, because Mark started his sprint later,” he said. “When you are in the wind and someone is coming from behind, there's no chance to keep up. I am disappointed, because it was my goal to win, but I must congratulate Mark; he's one of the fastest guys in the world and it's no shame to lose to him. On the up side, the team worked well, I am satisfied with how my legs felt and we are sure more chances will come in the next 20 days."


Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) placed fifth on the stage, which was enough to take the white jersey of best young rider. “It's a bit incredible. A year ago, I would have never thought I'd be at the Tour de France now,” he said. “I made a huge effort to stay on the wheels of the good sprinters. It was a bit hectic but I made it. I didn't have enough power to beat them but enough to follow them and I'm happy with my result.”


It appears that there have been some glitches with the timing system this afternoon but we should have confirmation of all of the time gaps on the stage shortly. We are, of course, still very eager to hear whether Quintana and Froome have indeed gained 32 seconds on Contador, as the provisional standings suggest... For now, we can only confirm that all 198 riders completed the stage.


And, of course, we can already confirm the top ten finishers on the stage:

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data 4:14:05
2 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx - Quick-Step
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team
4 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
5 Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
6 Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
7 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
8 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
9 Daniel Mclay (GBr) Fortuneo - Vital Concept
10 Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto Soudal


White smoke from the commissaires at Utah Beach - the first 176 riders across the line today have all been awarded the same time, meaning that Contador, Froome, Quintana et al have not conceded any ground to one another. As you were for the GC contenders.


General classification after stage 1:

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data 4:13:55
2 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:04
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team 0:00:06
4 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal 0:00:10
5 Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
6 Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
7 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
8 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
9 Daniel Mclay (GBr) Fortuneo - Vital Concept
10 Greg Henderson (NZl) Lotto Soudal


Thanks for joining our live coverage this afternoon. A full report, results and pictures are available here, and we'll have all the news and reaction from Normandy to follow. And as ever, we'll be back with more live coverage on Cyclingnews tomorrow.


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