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Tour de France 2018: Stage 1


The Tour de France peloton is lining up in Noirmoutier-en-l'Île for stage 1 of the 2018 edition. The neutralised start is due at 11am local time, with the bunch set to hit kilometre zero by 11.10. 201 kilometres of almost entirely flat racing then follow, and we can almost certainly expect a bunch sprint in Fontenay-le-Comte, where the first man across the line will be the first maillot jaune of this year's race. The trek along the Vendée coast is not without its complications, as Stephen Farrand points out in his stage preview, though reports indicate there is only the lightest of easterly wind on the route today.

The build-up to this Tour has been dominated by the Chris Froome salbutamol case, and though he was cleared on Monday morning, the cloud has hardly lifted. The UCI's decision-making process still remains rather nebulous, WADA's credibility has taken a serious blow, while the serious questions previously flagged by the Parliamentary Select Committee still linger over Team Sky. Froome and his Sky teammates were handed a frosty reception by spectators at Thursday's presentation, but there seems to be only warm applause for the peloton at large as it rolls out and begins to navigage the neutralised zone.

When Noirmoutier-en-l'Île was first named as the venue of the Grand Depart, it looked like the peloton would cross to the mainland via the infamous Passage du Gois, which played such a pivotal part in the 1999 Tour. The causeway has not been included, however, as the high tide at this hour of the morning would have prevented the race's passage. Remember, today's stage has an earlier than normal start to avoid a clash with the World Cup quarter-finals.


The intermediate sprint today is after 119.5km at La Tranche-sur-Mer, while the first of the new time bonus sprints - which feature on 8 of the first 9 stages - comes Maillezais with 13.5km to go. There are bonuses of 3, 2 and 1 seconds for the first three riders across the line, while the stage winner will get a 10-second bonus. 

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There is no flurry of attacks in the opening kilometres, and instead the day's early break has slipped clear with no resistance whatsoever. Kevin Ledanois (Fortuneo-Samsic), Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Jerome Cousin (Direct Energie) have opened an early lead over the peloton, and that seems to be that as far early aggression goes.

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There were reportedly some boos for Froome as he took his place on the start line. Nairo Quintana, meanwhile, was spotted in conversation with an arm draped around the Sky rider. Out on the road, Froome pedals alongside Luke Rowe in the middle of the peloton.

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Two years ago, Mark Cavendish claimed the first yellow jersey of his career by winning the opening stage of the Tour, the first of four victories on that year's race. Remarkably, the Manxman has clocked up just four victories in total - all in the United Arab Emirates - in the two years since. That, of course, is due to the wretched luck Cavendish has endured over the past two seasons. His 2017 campaign was ruined by illness and then his crash - caused by Peter Sagan - in the opening week of last year's Tour. Cavendish's season thus far has been hampered by the trio of crashes he suffered at the Abu Dhabi Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo, but he had a solid block of racing in June and will have designs on drawing closer to Eddy Merckx's record of 34 Tour stage victories. "The number is so close, but it's still far away. I always say that one stage makes a rider's career, let alone one a year, or multiple stages in a year. It's harder than it looks. I'll try and do it before the end of my career, that's for sure," said Cavendish. Daniel Benson has more here.

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Nairo Quintana lines up in a Movistar team that also features Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa. The Colombian has placed on the podium three times at the Tour - second in 2013 and 2015, third in 2016 - but, like his fellow South American Lionel Messi at the World Cup, it seems that nothing short of actually winning the race outright will satisfy the expectations that developed around him early in his career. “For me, this year is completely different to last year,” Quintana said. “I’ve arrived here fresh, in very good condition, and above all with a lot of motivation. I want to do well. I’m feeling good mentally and I’m ready to enjoy this Tour.” Patrick Fletcher has more on Quintana here, including his comments on the booing of Froome and his joking not joking remark about welcoming offers from other teams...

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The Tour de France is not the only major stage race taking place in July. The Giro Rosa got underway in Verbania yesterday, with Sunweb claiming the opening team time trial to put Ellen van Dijk into the overall lead. Full details are here.

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Although the break sallied clear without a struggle, the pace has still been very brisk indeed thus far. Ledanois, Offredo and Cousin covered some 46.2km in the first hour of racing.

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Van Avermaet opts for a change of bike after all, and wheels to a halt on the roadside. The Belgian is quickly back up to speed as he bridges up again to the rear of the peloton.

6th overall a year ago, Dan Martin will have designs on at least replicating that result this time out. After an ill-starred start to life at UAE-Team Emirates, a stage win and 4th overall at the Criterium du Dauphine was a welcome return to form for the Irishman. As ever, Martin begins the Tour with a pragmatic outlook. "I'm committed to the GC, but I'm just going to enjoy the race. It's a rollercoaster, and I'm bound to lose some time at some point, but I'll gain some time at others. It would be nice to come away with a stage victory, but there's not a single rider on the start-line who isn't thinking that. It's a tough field this year, but it is every year," Martin said. Read more here.

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Mark Cavendish is safely back in the main peloton after being paced back up by a group of his Dimension Data teammates.

Meanwhile, there is a puncture for Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step), who was the stage winner - and first yellow jersey - when the Tour began in these parts back in 2011. Today, his main duty will be to help Fernando Gaviria to stage victory.

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The break has passed through Les Sables d'Olonne, where Mario Cipollini won his first Tour de France stage back in 1993. His victory came on the opening road stage, a day after Miguel Indurain had claimed the prologue at Le Puy du Fou.

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Chris Froome is surrounded by Team Sky riders towards the front of the peloton. In the wake of the abrupt end to Froome's salbutamol case, Team Sky are not the most popular among roadside spectators, and the jeers aimed at Team Sky during Thursday's presentation echoed Alberto Contador's reception at the start of the 2011 Tour. Transparency's Dave Brailsford had this to say: "We have confidence in the French people. They will understand this is someone innocent. I think they're fair, the French." 

There is one classified climb on today's almost pan flat stage, incidentally. The category 4 Cote de Vix (0.7km at 4.2%) comes 28km from the finish, which gives the escapees a fighting chance of holding on to battle it out for the first polka dot jersey of the Tour.

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There is a distinct air of detente in the peloton for the time being, as Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) chats to his former teammate Michael Matthews (Sunweb) in the body of the bunch. The speed will ratchet inexorably upwards as we approach the finish, of course, and the finale will be fraught.

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This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Festina Affair and the 10th anniversary of the implementation of the biological passport, but it's hard to shake the dispiriting feeling that precious little has changed. The tone deaf wording of the UCI press release announcing the end of its proceedings against Froome - "The UCI hopes that the cycling world can now turn its focus to, and enjoy, the upcoming races on the cycling calendar" - certainly contributed to that impression.

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Lawson Craddock (EF-Drapac) was a faller in the feed zone. The American has a bloodied face and muddied jersey, but he is back on his bike. He is currently being treated by the race doctor at the rear of the peloton.

Meanwhile, Gaviria wins the sprint for 4th ahead of Andre Greipel and Arnaud Demare. Peter Sagan was a bit too far back, though he will have picked up some points at least. The world champion shares a joke with Bora-Hansgrohe teammate Maciej Bodnar - who actually crossed the line ahead of him - as the pace relents again.

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Craddock seems to be struggling with a shoulder injury, and, however it finishes up, this will be a most uncomfortable afternoon for the Texan. The 26-year-old is competing in his second Tour de France.

The result of the first intermediate sprint of the Tour, where Sagan, in fact, fell just shy of picking up any points. Last year's green jersey Michael Matthews, true to his word, also did not contest the sprint.

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Lawson Craddock is back in the peloton, but he is still suffering from his injuries, and his face is still bloodied. Simon Clarke drapes a consoling arm across his teammate's shoulder.

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Richard Ings, the former head of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, has called for Chris Froome, WADA and UCI to release all documents relevant to his salbutamol case. When science is proved to have exceptions, then those need to be provided to all athletes. WADA need to disclose the information on what it means to be over the limit but be shown to have only used a therapeutic dose. We've seen the decision at a top-line level, but there's no documentation behind the decision. Given this is a multi-time winner of the Tour and the event is about to kick off, I think we as a public deserve to see it. There should be no reason why the information can't be released if there's permission from the cyclist," Ings told Cyclingnews. Read more here.

Richard Ings, the former head of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, has called for Chris Froome and WADA to release all documents relevant to his salbutamol case. When science is proved to have exceptions, then those need to be provided to all athletes. WADA need to disclose the information on what it means to be over the limit but be shown to have only used a therapeutic dose. We've seen the decision at a top-line level, but there's no documentation behind the decision. Given this is a multi-time winner of the Tour and the event is about to kick off, I think we as a public deserve to see it. There should be no reason why the information can't be released if there's permission from the cyclist," Ings told Cyclingnews. Read more here.

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The break have 1:26 in hand on the peloton, and they'll hope to survive in front at least as far as the Cote de Vix, with 28km remaining. One would expect the trio to be swept up ahead of the bonus sprint in Maillezais with 13.3km to go.

Vincenzo Nibali is at the rear of the peloton, being paced back up by Gorka Izagirre after pausing to remedy a mechanical issue. The Bahrain-Merida rider expressed concern yesterday that the UCI's decision to drop its proceedings against Froome was a case of double standards, given that Diego Ulissi served a nine-month ban in 2014 and 2015 for returning a lower level of salbutamol in an anti-doping control. "I don't know why he was cleared, it's not very clear to everyone why he was cleared. We know there's a full written verdict but we've not seen why, in detail, he was cleared," Nibali said. "I witnessed what Ulissi went through because we're neighbours and friends. I saw it was a very difficult moment for him. I can only say that there's been a case of double standards in Froome's case." Stephen Farrand has the full story here.

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Lawson Craddock is at the rear of the peloton, but still hanging in there after his earlier crash as the pace begins to edge upwards.

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There is a strong delegation from Quick-Step Floors at the head of the peloton, as the stage's endgame begins in earnest. The GC contenders  brace themselves for the inevitably tense finale.

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The on-screen graphic from France Televisions  pegs the distance between the break and the bunch at 982 metres. Both break and bunch are hurtling along at 48kph or so.


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On the same rise, the unfortunate Craddock looks to be losing contact with the peloton, but Pierre Rolland is with him and his situation is not irretrievable.

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Craddock is back in contact with the peloton as the road flattens out. The American's shoulder injury appears to be hindering him from climbing out of the saddle.

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Now attention turns to the bonus sprint with 13km to go, where there are bonuses of 3, 2 and 1 seconds on offer - but no points towards the green jersey.

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Team Sky and AG2R La Mondiale are both present in numbers towards the head of the bunch on behalf of Froome and Romain Bardet, respectively.

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The break may have ghosted clear without much resistance this morning, but the average speed thus far has been anything but steady. After 180km of racing, the average speed was 45.36kph.

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Robert Gesink, Jay Thomson and Tim Declerq set the tempo in the main peloton on the approach, as they have done for much of the afternoon.

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Confirmation of the order and the bonuses allotted at that sprint:

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A crash midway up the peloton and a number of riders went down. Given the narrowness of the roads, a lot of riders will have been held up too, though there is time for any GC men caught behind to latch back on.

Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) was among the riders to come down, and he is now chasing back on. Even if he makes it up to the peloton, he will surely pay for this effort in the eventual sprint.

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Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) was also caught up in the crash and is chasing back on alone. Demare, meanwhile, seems resigned to his fate.

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Egan Bernal and Wout Poels (Sky) were both caught up in the crash. Bernal may have even come down. Either way, the Colombian looks set to lose some time on his maiden Grand Tour stage.

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Froome is 20 seconds behind the front group, or 381 metres according to the France Televisions graphic.

More drama! With 3.5km to go, Nairo Quintana punctures - and the Colombian waits for a change on the roadside as the Froome group trundles past him...

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Yves Lampaert leads with Richeze and Gaviria on his wheel.

Richeze leads out the sprint, then Gaviria goes... Sagan follows.

Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) wins stage 1 of the Tour de France.

Meanwhile, Chris Froome crosses the line in a group with Richie Porte (BMC), 50 seconds behind Gaviria...

Peter Sagan took second on the stage ahead of Marcel Kittel, but the surprising early gaps in GC are the story of the day.

Alexander Kristoff took 4th, ahead of Christophe Laporte (Cofidis), with Dylan Groenwegen taking 6th in front of Michael Matthews.

It was a most confident sprint effort from Gaviria, who had Sagan on his wheel. The world champion couldn't get on terms with the Colombian, who is the first Tour debutant to win on his opening day on the race since Fabian Cancellara claimed the prologue in Liege in 2004. David Zabriskie, of course, won stage 1 in 2005 but was stripped of that win in 2012.


Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) was also in the Froome group, together with Richie Porte (BMC), and they each concede 50 seconds to Nibali, Tom Dumoulin, Geraint Thomas, Mikel Landa, Alejaandro Valverde and Dan Martin. 

Nairo Quintana lost 1:10. One has to wonder why Quintana a) did not ride on the flat wheel to the 3k to go mark, and then take the change and b) why Movistar did not have a teammate waiting with him.

General classification after stage 1:


Fernando Gaviria speaks: "“It’s an incredible day for me and for our team. It’s amazing for everybody on the team. We were ready for it, ready for the sprint. The yellow jersey is one that everyone dreams of wearing and to get it on the first day is amazing. I’m so happy to wear it and we’ll try to keep it as long as we can. The last kilometre was very tricky and we knew some big riders were caught up behind us. But we were in front and out of trouble. We had a clear plan and we’re happy because we pulled it off.”

An overview of how the GC contenders fared today:

Gaviria won by a considerable distance from Sagan, and - given the strength of his Quick-Step team - the Colombian looks a solid bet for multiple stage wins on this Tour. That said, Kittel made up a lot of ground in the final 50 metres, but the German had to come from a long, long way back. 

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) had this to say at the finish line, according to EFE: “That’s the way it is. We have to keep going. The only consolation is that Chris Froome also lost time. We have to try to stay ahead and try to recover what I lost today.”

Mikel Landa's first thoughts were a little more dramatic. “It was a disaster and a catastrophe after things were controlled for three quarters of the stage," Landa told EFE, before settling on a more measured analysis. "In the end, there were nerves and the crashes came. It was the first stage and there were still a lot of riders in front at the end. Today it affected some riders and tomorrow it might affect others.” As Fernando Escartin used to say on reaching the Kelme camper van at the end of each stage in the Tour's opening week in the 1990s - another day less.

Chris Froome on his travails in the finale: "I came off in the last 10k there. I saw that there were a lot of crashes out there. It’s one of those things. We always knew that this was going to be one of those days that were going to be sketchy. We were right at the front part of the peloton, in the top third. It was getting quite chaotic there with some of the sprinters but that’s bike racing. I’m not injured in any way. There’s still a lot of road to cover before we get to Paris."

Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) and Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) also finished safely in the front group, and they have an early advantage on Froome, Porte, Adam Yates and Quintana.

Geraint Thomas finished in the front group and spoke to Cyclingnews after crossing the line: "Geraint Thomas The first 180 was fine. The last 20k just went bonkers. Saying that all of us where there. Then I got squeezed hit the curb, Bernal hit me and then crashed, which wasn’t great. Then Froome has his thing with about 4 or 5 k to. Not 100 per cent sure what happened but someone hit him in the corner and made him go off his line and onto the grass and crash. That’s certainly not ideal but at the end of the day his biggest rivals were behind him with Richie and Quintana behind him. I’ve spoken to him. He’s fine. He’s a bit pissed because we were right up there and missed the crashes for that to happen. It wasn’t ideal."

Lawson Craddock (EF-Drapac) came in last on the stage, 7:50 down on Gaviria. The Texan confirmed afterwards that he suffered a fractured shoulder blade. The Texan suggested that he will attempt to start stage 2, though he knows it will be a tall order. "I’ve had some x-rays and ultrasound and I have a small fracture to the scapula so it’s definitely not an ideal start to the Tour. I’ll see how I feel tonight and maybe get on the bike tomorrow to give it a feel. I’ve put too much work in…”

Richie Porte (BMC) had this to say after his concession of early ground: "It was pretty nervous there. It was not ideal but I think Quintana (Movistar Team) has probably lost more [than me], Froome (Team Sky) was there, and Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT) was there. That's the Tour. I was pretty close to coming down. I sort of rode Damiano Caruso, my teammate, into the ground and that softened the blow. I don't really know what happened to be honest, it's just one of those things. It's all ok and the next thing, there's a crash in front. There were a few more crashes after that."

Some clarification on Quintana's time loss. The Colombian broke both wheels when he rode into a traffic island with 3.6km to go, and although he did not crash, he needed to stop and wait for a replacement bike. As it was not a simple puncture, he was unable to ride to the 3k to go banner to limit his time loss before stopping for assistance.


General classification after stage 1:

Thanks for joining our live coverage of today's opening stage of the Tour de France, which saw Fernando Gaviria take the first yellow jersey of the race, while Chris Froome, Richie Porte and Adam Yates conceded 51 seconds and Nairo Quintana lost 1:15. A full report, results and pictures are available here, while you can also read reaction from Froome, Quintana and Yates. We'll be back with more live coverage from stage 2.

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