Given the extraordinary circumstances, the race organisers have decided to award the whole peloton the same time at the finish.
Porto-Vecchio - Bastia
Tour de France - 29 June 2013
Tour de France – Follow this cycling race live with Eurosport. The action starts at 11:15 on 29 June 2013. Our live coverage lets you follow all the key moments as they happen.
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Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) was second and Danny Van Poppel of Vacansoleil took third.
Alberto Contador was one of the riders to crash towards the end – he loses a large slice of time today after hitting the deck in that pile-up that included Sagan and numerous others.
Kittel was perhaps the only major sprinter left by the time the main group hit the finish – and he’ll be the first yellow jersey of this race after a completely unexpected finish in Bastia. No one could have predicted any of that. And it will take a long time for the dust to settle after all those crashes and flashpoints…
Marcel Kittel (Argos Shimano) takes the win and the first yellow jersey!
It’s all back together now for this mini peloton ahead of the finish – surely Kittel is the favourite?
Argos Shimano appeared to have avoided that spill and they have numbers on the front. Cavendish is not there, but an Omega Pharma man has gone for a long solo…
Now Greipel has a puncture and is waiting for a new bike. This is utter chaos.
CRASH: A dozen riders come down near the front of the peloton, including Peter Sagan!
It’s back on! The bus has managed to reverse! The finish will be restored as usual.
This is farcical – the new finish looks like it comes right after a bend in the road.
That has changed everything! Cannondale are now driving the pace for their man Peter Sagan, looking to take advantage of that ridiculous turn of events. Omega Pharma are there now too.
The organiser are having to improvise and bring the finish forward by 3 kilometres.
CHAOS IN CORSICA: a bus is stuck on the finish line with its roof caught in the overhead barrier. It cannot be moved and the peloton is fast approaching…
CRASH: A dozen riders hit the deck near the back of the peloton, including Garmin’s Ryder Hesjedal! There’s a Sky man there too, but it’s not any of the big names – it’s Ian Stannard.
CRASH: Johnny Hoogerland – best known for his high-speed rendez-vous with a barbed wire fence – gets caught up in a soft barrier on the side of the road. The new Dutch national champion hits the deck and will have to fight back on.
The pace has come right down now, with the front of the peloton flat – a rarity in a stage so important with the yellow jersey up for grabs. It has got so leisurely that Jens Voigt even had the time to point to the sky and say: “Look at the flying boat!” He’s not lying: a dinghy just took off from the sea and is flying overhead…
Just spotted Richie Porte on Andreas Kloden’s wheel. You’d normally expect Froome to be right alongside Porte, but there’s no sign of the Briton. He must be there though because most of Sky are near the front. Cadel Evans’s BMC are there too, as are GreenEdge. This is where things will get critical for the finish today – any false move and there could be a spill. The pressure to be near the front is huge.
Sky, Saxo and RadioShack driving the pace – the dynamic has really changed: before this was a stage being controlled by the teams of the sprinters, now it’s the GC men coming out to play. Although, as I write that, Omega Pharma-Quick Step return to the front to restore some normality.
Sky come to the front now as the race joins the motorway – and there are splits appearing in the peloton! Interesting development here… Garmin are near the front too, as are BMC. Numerous riders have been tailed off – although it looks like it will come back together now they peloton leaves the motorway.
The pace has really ramped up now with RadioShack getting in the mix – they clearly want to form a selection before the expected bunch finish, in which they wouldn’t stand much of a chance against all the big guns. The Saxo Bank team of Alberto Contador are also right on the front, which is interesting. Now it’s going to get a bit nervous…
It’s all over for the break, who are swept up by a peloton led by RadioShack’s Jens Voigt, who at 41 is the peloton’s oldest rider.
Maxim Bouet needs a bike change after picking up a puncture. He’s now riding in the wake of a Lampre car as he bids to catch the peloton, which trails the four leaders by just 22 seconds now. This time, surely, the break will be reeled in – it would be too cruel to allow them to edge ahead once again.
French youngster Nacer Bouhanni will be motivated for the win today – this is the FDJ sprinter’s third Grand Tour and he’s yet to notch a win. The former boxer is renowned for his aggressive style and it’s not afraid of getting in the mix – but he does lack the raw pace of Messrs Cavendish, Kittel and Greipel. FDJ are sporting new jerseys for this year’s Tour – all blue instead of the usual all white.
The yo-yoing continues: the four leaders - Jerome Cousin (Europcar), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM), Lars Boom (Belkin) and Cyril Lemoine (Sojasun) – are now 1:50 ahead after the pace slows following that intermediate sprint.
Lobato is the first of the escapees to be reeled in by the peloton, the Euskaltel rider not interested in that earlier sprint and sitting up as a result. The remaining four escapees are back together and hold a one minute lead over the pack.
There’s a big ding dong battle for the remaining points from the peloton, with Greipel powering clear to take sixth place (after the five escapees) ahead of Cavendish and Sagan, who both eased up towards the end perhaps with the today’s big finish in Bastia in mind. Greipel, in the German national champion's jersey, looked very strong there...
Flecha jumps out of the saddle and goes with 500m to spare for the intermediate points. He looks a safe bet, but then Boom counters and passes the Spaniard with 200m to go to take the points.
The first 15 riders to pass through the intermediate sprints pick up points in this order: 20, 17, 15, 13, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. That means the main sprinters will be fighting out for the maximum 10 points following the five escapees.
There are five km to go until the sprint and the teams of the main sprinters are getting their houses in order, ready to work their magic.
The riders are now approaching the first intermediate sprint and now we see the Orica GreenEdge and Cannondale team-mates of Matt Goss and Peter Sagan finally coming to the front. So far, Omega Pharma have done 80% of the pace-setting, with Lotto Belisol doing 13% and Argos Shimano the remaining 7%. But the green jersey points will usher a new phase in this opening stage.
World Champion Philippe Gilbert chats to Frenchman Maxim Bouet of Ag2R-La Mondiale. The Belgian from BMC needed an early bike change right after the start today but otherwise is enjoying a calm day in the peloton. Gilbert won the opening stage in 2011 – the last time the race started without a prologue. The finish came on an uphill stretch at a time when Gilbert was the indisputable king of punchy uphill sprints.
The leaders pass by some vineyards as they continue pedalling 3:50 ahead of the pack. Corsica is renowned for its wine – an ideal accompaniment to the delicious local cheese and charcuterie. If this gets you going, then keep an eye out for the daily Blazin’ Saddles blog, which will discuss each day’s main talking points, look ahead to the next day’s action and, of course, discuss the regional delicacies of every part of France we pass through.
The road is wide and the surface is excellent at the moment, making this stress-free at the time being for the riders. Besides Froome’s slight spill in the neutral zone before the official start today, there have been no crashes and no major flashpoints – which is a relief. But as we approach the business end of today’s stage we can expect things to get more and more nervous. The favourites will want to keep out of trouble while the sprinters will be eyeing a win and the yellow jersey.
Cousin is enjoying a good season for Europcar: the 24-year-old was heavily involved in the spring classics and picked up his first major win in stage three of the Etoile de Besseges, which he finished second overall. He is one of three Europcar riders making their Tour debuts this summer – the others are Kevin Reza and David Veilleux, the Canadian who won the opening stage in the Dauphine before wearing the yellow jersey for four days.
Argos and Lotto have a man each on the front ahead of the whole roster of Omega Pharma-Quick Step man, with British champion Mark Cavendish third place in line. They trail the five leaders by 4:10 now, which is the biggest the gap has got. Who would have thought – half an hour ago, it looked like the break was already doomed.
With the peloton easing up, Cousin has now sat up himself to wait for his fellow escapees. The five leaders are reunited and now roll along the coast with a gap of well over three minutes.
It’s no surprise the escapees are edging further clear – the OPQS train is no longer on the front. Perhaps Mark Cavendish, tonight’s likely yellow jersey, has slowed to answer a call of nature.
On presses Cousin, thinking about the daily combativity prize for the peloton’s most aggressive rider. Lemoine pursues alone before being caught by Lobato, Boom and Flecha, who seems angry at having to make an effort once again. Cousin has 25 seconds over his pursuers with the yo-yoing peloton now two minutes back.
Flecha, the elder statesman of the break, is busy on his team radio. He then chats to fellow Spaniard Lobato, 11 years his junior, and it looks like the break is now prepared to sit up. Jerome Cousin is the only rider to continue giving it some welly, although his Europcar team are, of course, on the hunt for a new sponsor for 2014 and so that’s not too surprising.
The peloton passes through the feed zone, trailing the five escapees by 1:15.
Jerome Cousin and Juan Jose Lobato – the two men who battled for the solitary polka dot jersey point - are the only Tour debutants in this group. Cyril Lemoine, 30, and Lars Boomm 27, are racing their third Tours, while grizzled veteran Juan Jose Fletcha is riding his 10th Grande Boucle.
It's clouding up a bit here on the east coast of Corsica. The outlook is pretty bleak for the escapees: they have three minutes but are merely being held out by the pack, which will pounce when it matters. The only thing that will stop a mass bunch sprint is a pile-up towards the finish...
A lone rider from Lotto pulls the peloton, but his team-mates are sitting behind the whole of the Omega Pharma squad who are doing most of the pace-setting. There’s one Argos man in there too, sitting just behind Cavendish, but there’s no Orica Green Edge or Cannondale riders in the mix at the moment. The leaders have 3:20 over the pack.
The pace has dropped significantly in the peloton with the five leaders – whose gap was as low as 35 seconds at one stage – now enjoying a buffer of 3:30 and sharing out duties on the front.
After a period of fast riding by OPQS, the pace in the peloton has slowed – just as 2011 champion Cadel Evans stops to change his bike and answer a call of nature. It’s bunched up at the front, with numerous riders taking the chance to have something to eat, including Frenchman Pierre Rolland, 8th last year, who is nibbling on something and chatting to a Europcar team-mate. The gap has grown again to 2:10.
It looks like the break has sat up, with only Flecha willing to keep up the pretence of pace setting on the front. The gap has tumbled further and is now just 50 seconds as the riders near the coast that they will hug until the conclusion of this opening stage in Bastia.
Cavendish readjusts his bib shorts as he sits on the back of his Omega Pharma-Quick Step train on the front of the peloton, which trails the five leaders by just 1:30 now. The break formed from the outset of today’s opening stage and includes Frenchmen Jerome Cousin (Europcar) and Cyril Lemoine (Sojasun), Spaniards Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Juan Jose Lobato (Euskaltel), and Dutchman Lars Boom (Belkin).
Offset the diary head-rush with some slices of 'figatelli' - a little pig liver sausage marinated in wine, pepper and garlic, described by one Corsican culinary connoisseur as "simple and rustic in appearance as a Corsican mountain". Push the boat out and grill the sausage with chestnut paste and serve in a fresh baguette.
So, what are the spectators on the side of the road eating in their picnics? Well, one favourite cheese of south Corsica is 'sartinese' - a pressed goat's or ewe's cheese with a dry crust that is usually kept over the winter long enough for it to decay into a tangy, gooey mass whose texture is 'whipped' by live maggots. Needless to say, you won't find this one in the shops...
The gap is back up to 2:35 so perhaps the peloton has taken its foot off the gas – after all, it’s in no one’s interest for the break to be reeled in so soon. A second attack would feature men with fresher legs and would be more of a threat for the teams who want this opening stage to come down to a bunch sprint in Bastia.
Now that the first and only climb is out the way, it looks like the breakaways are going to throw in the towel. It’s a tough call – they certainly can’t kill the chances of a bunch sprint today, but their team sponsors would be happy with some TV time on the front, especially with the whole world watching on the 100th Tour’s opening day. They seem to be a bit hesitant, with the gap now 1:55.
One of the reasons why the Tour has not previously visited Corsica is the lack of infrastructure for such a large race: the roads are very narrow and are not of the best quality – and that much is evident from the live images. It is beautiful, but the riders will be looking less at the scenery and more on the roads – because a peloton of 198 riders on winding, narrow roads at a time when everyone is nervous at the start of a demanding three-week race, well, there’s ample scope for disaster.
Confirmation of the top three over the summit just then: 1. Juan Jose Lobato (Euskaltel), 2. Jerome Cousin (Europcar), 3. Lars Boom (Belkin). Just the one point was up for grabs on the fourth category climb and that went to the Spaniard Lobato, who will wear the race’s first polka dot jersey. That’s a good start for Euskaltel, who have performed badly in most races this year and will be looking to find new sponsors later in the season.
The peloton cross the summit of the Cote de Sotta just over three minutes down on the five leaders, with race favourites Chris Froome and Alberto Contador surrounded by their respective Sky and Saxo team-mates and keeping near the front and out of trouble.
Jerome Cousin makes the first move for the mountain points, but it comes back together as Cyril Lemoine launches a counter attack from the back. Flecha is instantly dropped, but the other four will fight it out… and Cousin goes again, veers right and almost takes out Juan Jose Lobato, but the Spaniard takes evasive action and then comes round the outside to take the solitary point over the top and secure the race’s first polka dot jersey.
The leaders approaching the Cat.4 Cote de Sotta – 1.1km at 5.9%. /// For those of you asking in the comment section, regular Eurosport TV commentator David Harmon will not be working during this year’s Tour but he hopes to be back in time for the Vuelta a Espana from 24th August.
Peter Sagan is another rider near the back of the pack. In fact, his Cannondale team are not helping out in the chase - they know that their man is better suited to the finishes in stages two and three.
The peloton is really strung out with several small gaps forming. Nothing serious for now, but the riders will be aware of the possibility of echelons forming later in the stage, with the pace higher and the wind coming off the coast. Joaquim Rodriguez, for instance, is right on the rear – not an ideal place for the Katusha leader to be.
The gap is back to three minutes after coming down to the 2:40 mark for a while. Lotto, Argos and OPQS are sharing out the pace setting duties in the pack. Of the escapees, Juan Antonio Flecha is the only rider to have won a stage previously in the Tour – the Spaniard having picked up a victory in stage 11 of the 2003 Tour. Can he repeat the feat 10 years on? Perhaps, but certainly not today.
Mark Cavendish is wearing the British national champions jersey for the very first time. Later he’ll be hoping to don a maiden maillot jaune. But the Manxman will face stiff opposition from the likes of Andre Greipel, Marcel Kittel, Matt Goss, Nacer Bouhanni and, of course, last year’s green jersey, Peter Sagan.
Reports coming in that Chris Froome actually crashed earlier in the neutral zone after hitting the curb. He’s said to have a few cuts but nothing serious. Still, his race hasn’t started under the most auspicious of circumstances if that’s true…
The aerial images of Corsica show just why the organisers were so keen to come here: the town of Bonifacio, with its pretty stone buildings perched right on the edge of vertical, white cliffs, 40m above the sea, is sight of astounding beauty. Incidentally, the aerial images are being recorded by drones this year in some stages for a Tour first.
The Argos-Shimano team of sprint duo Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb have come to the front of the peloton to take up pace-setting duties. They are joined by Lotto Belisol and Omega Pharma-Quick Step teams of Andre Greipel and Mark Cavendish. After a very scenic opening along the coast – with turquoise water, white sand and jagged cliffs – we’re now onto a bit of a barren plain ahead of some rolling terrain.
We started in such a rush this morning, I didn’t get the chance to introduce myself. My name is Felix Lowe and I’ll be taking you through every stage of this 100th edition of the Tour de France. You can contact me, ask questions and join the debate on Twitter with the handle @saddleblaze.
The gap is up to three minutes for the five leaders. They're heading towards the Bonifacio cliffs on a loop south before the race will hug the east coast and head up towards Bastia. In about 35km there will be the only climb of the day, the Cote de Sotta, a Cat.4 climb that will decide the first of the race's polka dot jerseys.
Philippe Gilbert, the world champion, has a mechanical problem and needs attention from his team car. Not the best start for the Belgian from BMC. Andy Schleck is all smiles – he’ll be happy to be back at the race he loves best after missing out last year and struggling with injury.
The five riders ahead are Jerome Cousin (Europcar), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM), Lars Boom (Belkin), Juan Jose Lobato (Euskaltel) and Cyril Lemoine (Sojasun).
ATTACK: Straight away there's an acceleration from Europcar debutant Jerome Cousin. The Frenchmqn takes four riders with him and the first break of the 2013 race forms.
Christian Prudhomme waves the flag and the 100th edition of the Tour de France is under way!
As the riders approach the official start, the French airforce perform an acrobatic aerial fly-by. Tour de France debutant Kevin Reza of Europcar is on the front of the pack - he's edging to get going...
Interestingly, Froome was talking to Eurosport yesterday about his fears that something like a puncture could be the undoing of his race: "The thing that I fear most is something that happens outside of our control. I'm not personally worried about my condition - I am perfectly ready for this race - but if something, for example, a crash or a mechanical at the wrong moment in the race, happens then it could potentially cost you minutes."
Puncture for Chris Froome! The hot favourite and bib No.1 will start the race towards the back of the pack after needed a back wheel change before the race gets officiqlly under way. He's surrounded by team-mates and then, once back on his way, stops once again for a bike change. Ominous start for Team Sky and Froome...
It's a sunny day in Porto Vecchio as the riders line up for the start. The temperature is in the mid 20s and there isn't a cloud in the sky. We're under way for the neutral zone...
The big favourite for today's stage is Mark Cavendish, who had a chance to wear the first yellow jersey of his career. Since 1967, the Tour usually starts with a prologue time trial. But in recent years there have been a couple of road stages - in 2008 and 2011. Both finishes were on punchy uphill climbs and won by specialists Alejandro Valverde and Philippe Gilbert. This is the first time we may see a bunch sprint since 1966 - and Cav, the fastest man on two wheels, is the logical favourite.
Britain's Chris Froome comes into the race as favourite, and the Team Sky rider believes he is perfectly placed to follow-up on Bradley Wiggins's triumph last year. He said: "It’s pretty daunting. But I think we are in a good position. We are lining up certainly as one of the strongest teams and having the support structure there around us gives us a lot of confidence.”
Welcome to our live coverage of the 2013 Tour de France! The action gets under way at 11:15 UK time as the riders take on a 213km from Porto Vecchia to Bastia in Le Tour's first ever visit to Corsica.