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Tour de France stage 1 - Live coverage

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The peloton is assembling in Place Masséna in Nice for the start of stage 1 of the most unusual edition of the Tour de France. Two months later than billed, the Tour sets off from Nice and all of the usual excitement at the Grand Départ is tempered by a sense of unease. With the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rising sharply in France, it is not at all certain that this race will make it all the way to Paris on September 20. While professional cycling at large has been eager – desperate, in fact – for the 2020 Tour to go ahead, it is unclear whether it really should. But, for now at least, the great bike race is on. The neutralised start of today's stage is at 14.00 local time, when the peloton due to reach kilometre zero at 14.15.

They used to say that Charles De Gaulle was president of France for eleven months of the year, but Jacques Goddet was president for the month of July. In this September Tour, there are no doubts about the division of power between the state and the Tour. Christian Prudhomme is race director and nothing more. After 7,379 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in France yesterday, the French government's inter-ministerial crisis unit ordered the Tour to restore its 'two strikes, team out policy', which means that whole teams will be excluded from the race if any two members of their riders or staff test positive for COVID-19 within the same seven-day period. “We remain with two cases out of 30 people in the same team over a period of seven days,” Prudhomme told AFP on Saturday, adding that the decision “had been taken by the inter-ministerial crisis unit.” Read more here.

Today's 156km opening stage comprises of three loops in the hinterland of Nice and includes two ascents of the category 3 Côte de Rimiez (5.38km at 5.1%) after 48km and 105km, but we can expect the sprinters to fight it out for the first maillot jaune on the Promenade des Anglais.

Sam Bennett is among the contenders for the first maillot jaune of this Tour. He would become the first Irishman since Stephen Roche in 1987 to wear the yellow jersey, and the fourth in history after Shay Elliot (1963) and Sean Kelly (1983) if he is first across the line this afternoon. Speaking in Nice this week, Bennett's mind was on more recent history - namely the successes of former QuickStep sprinters like Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish, Fernando Gaviria and Elia Viviani on the Tour. "I don't want to be the first sprinter in QuickStep's history who can't win in the Tour. That's the pressure I feel," Bennett admitted. Stephen Farrand has the full story here.

Another likely contender this afternoon is Caleb Ewan, though the Lotto Soudal man warned that the sprinters might have to battle their way back on after the race tackles the hills around Nice. "I think the benefit for the sprinters is there is a lot of time to come back even if you do get dropped on the climb," Ewan said. "There is a lot of time to come back in the valley, and usually at this time of year in the valley, there's a headwind, so that also makes it a bit easier to come back." Read more here.

Had the current coronavirus 'two strikes' rule been in place all week, incidentally, Ewan and his Lotto Soudal team might not have been permitted to take the start. Two staff members from the Belgian squad tested positive for COVID-19 (or 'non-negative' to use the team's parlance) during the week and both they and their roommates were sent home. At that point, the 'two strikes' rule had been - temporarily, as it turned out - adapted so that only two positive cases among riders (rather than the entire 'bubble' of riders and staff) could force a team out of the Tour.

There has already been racing in Nice this morning, by the way. Lizze Deignan underlined his form by beating Marianne Vos to the line in a keenly-contested sprint at La Course. Read more here.

The morning's other news concerns Deceuninck-QuickStep, who have decried the UCI's decision to order a CADF investigation into the contents of Remco Evenepoel's pockets at Il Lombardia. The team insists that directeur sportif Davide Bramati removed "a small bottle containing nutrition products" from Evenepoel's pocket following his crash "in order to help him to be placed more comfortably by medical staff on the stretcher." 

The peloton has rolled out from the start and is making its way through the line neutralised zone beneath overcast skies in Nice, with sparse, masked crowds watching them go by. The 2020 Tour de France is about to begin.

This is a neutralised zone of almost Vuelta a Espana-dimensions as the peloton climb out of Nice. There are still two kilometre of neutralised riding remaining.

Once the flag drops, the road continues climbing for 8km towards Aspremont, and we can surely expect a flurry of early attacks ahead of the more rugged terrain in the middle of the stage.

-156km

CCC-Liv, Total-Direct Energie and B&B Hotels-Vital Concept are immediately on the offensive within seconds of the start, and it looks as though our early break has formed without any kind of a struggle.

Michael Schar (CCC Team), Cyril Gautier (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) and Fabien Grellier (Total-Direct Energie) clipped away as soon as the flag dropped, and this trio has immediately established a gap over a peloton that seems more than happy to leave them to it.

-154km

This is Gautier's first Tour appearance since 2017. His team wasn't invited in 2019 and he wasn't selected in his final season with AG2R in 2018. The experienced Breton had previously raced eight Tours in succession, from 2010 to 2017.

-150km

Some drops of rain are beginning to fall over the race, and this stage could take on a rather different complexion if it ends up being raced on wet roads.

-146km

Egan Bernal (Ineos) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) have taken care to placem themselves near the head of affairs on this twisting early descent, though, mercifully, the peloton is not tackling the hairpins with any particular intensity.

-141km

-139km

The on-form Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and Fernandro Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) are high-profile absentees, as is Mark Cavendish (Bahrain-McLaren), but there is still a long, long list of contenders for the first yellow jersey of the Tour should the race come down to a bunch sprint this afternoon.

-135km

Situation

The rain is now falling steadily over the Tour de France, which might make the descent of the Côte de Rimiez rather treacherous later on. The temperature, meanwhile, is a pleasant 25°C.

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) told Eurosport (or at least, the television pool in the mixed zone at the start) that his hopes of contesting the sprint were dependent on team duties. "I will see in the final, it all depends on the race circumstances. If it’s controlled and Tony [Martin] and Amund [Grøndahl Jansen] are there for Primoz and Tom to keep them out of danger, then I can go for the sprint. But it really depends on how the race goes in the climbs. I think there will be tricky descents and it will be nervous. And maybe I have to work already there to keep Tom and Primoz in position. This is our priority."