Tour de France 2021 - Stage 1 LIVE: Froome, Roglic caught up in crashes as Alaphilippe takes spoils
Stage 1 runs from Brest to Landerneau as the 2021 Tour de France gets underway in Brittany. There are a sea of storylines: Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic resume their rivalry, Geraint Thomas hopes to make the GC a party of three, late addition Mark Cavendish bids to win a Tour stage again and Chris Froome continues his quest to return to the top of elite cycling. It promises to be a belter!
‘Stupid! Chaos!’ – Fan causes huge crash that brings down entire peloton
But poor Tony Martin finished 17 minutes down, while Froome was the best part of 15 minutes down. As for the GC favourites, Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar) conceded two minutes and Tao Geoghegan Hart a whopping five minutes on his debut for Ineos.
Three riders also abandoned...
Thanks for joining me today and be sure to visit the website for the highlights, stage report and all the news. See you tomorrow for Stage 2!
Froome back on his bike
Better news for Chris Froome, who is back on his bike and riding up the final climb. He will lose a lot of time today but he may live to fight another stage after that crash. It will take some time for the dust to settle on that one...
Victory for Julian Alaphilippe!
What a ride from the world champion! From destruction comes beauty - the Frenchman has pulled off a massive coup and he will swap the rainbow stripes for yellow. The Frenchman wins by about 10 seconds as Michael Matthews and Primoz Roglic led the small chasing pack over. What a day of drama - there are going to be some huge time gaps and some very sore bodies tonight...
1km to go: Latour leads chase
Pierre Latour of Total Energies is trying to bridge over to his fellow Frenchman. Behind, Roglic and Pogacar knock it off and are joined by some of the other big-hitters, including Van der Poel and Van Aert. But Alaphilippe is over the hardest bit of the climb and, even though he's shaking his head, it looks like he's pulled this one off! Under the flamme rouge...
2km to go: Alaphilippe attacks
Dries Devenyns digs deep for Alaphilippe, who makes his move just over 2km to go. It's an early move from the world champion and no one responds... until Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar lead the chase!
3km to go: Onto the climb
Deceuninck-QuickStep lead the riders onto this final climb, the Cote de Fosse aux Loups. Alaphilippe, Colbrelli and Van Aert are in the mix but Van der Poel is quite a bit back.
Chris Froome down... and out?
The four-time winner is on the deck and not coming up. He sits up but is shaking his head - after all that, his race could be over. So many others are still on the floor. Meanwhile, the race continues for those still in it...
7.5km to go: HUGE CRASH!
Oh no! That is absolutely sickening... It's a huge pile-up after one of the B&B Hotel riders turns round and then comes down, causing an almighty high-speed pile-up behind taking out about half the peloton. Worse than the last one because of the speed - and we will have many, many DNFs from this.
10km to go: Tense approach to finale
The washing machine effect is coming into play now as the riders jostle for positions on the front of the pack. Many have been tailed off and some are already well out of it following that crash, the fallout from which will take some time. Ineos and Jumbo-Visma are starting to fight - but QuickStep are also right up there, while Alpecin-Fenix have taken a drop back.
Wout van Aert is very much in the mix so the Belgian champion must be okay after he came down in that crash. Sonny Colbrelli, too, is right in the mix. But surely Mathieu van der Poel is the man to watch - him and Julian Alaphilippe.
20km to go: Second bike change for Cosnefroy
Benoit Cosnefroy changes his bike for a second time since that big spill. The Frenchman was one of the riders who was caught out in the melee - and he's some people's tip for an outside bet today. So he wants to make sure his equipment is working!
Here's the moment a fan brandishing a placard dedicated to their grandparents caused a massive pile up after taking out Tony Martin...
‘Stupid! Chaos!’ – Fan causes huge crash that brings down entire peloton
22km to go: Gruppetto back on
That group containing Ewan and Greipel is back with the main peloton now. Dylan Teuns was there as well. Tony Martin, who came off the worst in that crash, is still off the back and riding for survival. Alpecin-Fenix, Groupama-FDJ, Ineos Grenadiers and Deceuninck-QuickStep are on the front. Michael Matthews is back on after picking up a puncture. He's yet to win since returning to the Australian BikeExchange outfit - today would be the perfect place to start...
25km to go: Calm before the storm
Marc Hirschi also went down hard and so he'll forfeit the finish today for UAE Team Emirates, which is a blow. Already a gruppetto has formed as those who took knocks or don't stand a chance today have decided to cut their losses and ease up. Ide Schelling, the last man standing from the break, was caught with 28km remaining.
30km to go: Bike change for Martin
The bloodied Tony Martin stops to change his bike - during which a handful of fans gather to wish him well. It's uncertain whether they actually know what just happened to the German veteran - if they did, you'd think they'd give him a bit of space. Remarkable constraint from the Jumbo-Visma road captain not to lose his temper. He'll be in a lot of pain for the next few days.
Meanwhile, things are settling again after the drama and fallout from that huge crash. Schelling has just 20 seconds to play with while riders are still off the back seeing the medical car or chasing back on. Many will have to change their plans for today - Colbrelli, Van Aert, Matthews, Ewan and Sagan, for example, all looked to have taken knocks there and so may not contest the finale.
38km to go: Sutterlin withdraws
As a result of that pile-up, German domestique Jasha Sutterlin (Team DSM) has been forced out. Cameras caught him in tears on the side of the road - what a cruel way to have to leave your second Tour. That's the first time in five Grand Tours that the 28-year-old has abandoned.
Peter Sagan, meanwhile, is still off the back of the peloton after being held up in the spill. The race appears to be back on now with Deceuninck-QuickStep taking things up again with Schelling still 1'30" ahead.
42km to go: Big fall out from that crash
Those who missed the crash have taken their foot off the gas and sat up - this includes a lot of Deceuninck-QuickStep and Ineos riders. The impact was right on the front, on the right-hand side of the road (from the riders' perspective) and it meant that pretty much the entire peloton came to a sudden standstill. Oblivious to the mess behind him, Ide Schelling continues on his way, the lone leader given a reprieve by that idiocy from the young fan on the side of the road.
47km to go: HUGE CRASH!
Oh no, oh no... this is not what we want to see. There's a huge pile-up in the pack after Tony Martin is hit by the placard being held by a spectator on the side of the road. The result is pretty sickening - the German veteran hits the deck hard and is soon covered by bodies, with riders left sprawling across the road and in the ditch. This will take quite some time to unpick. Wout van Aert looks like he went down badly, as did Sonny Colbrelli and Marc Soler of Movistar.
This is how it started...
49km to go: Schelling in polka dots
Ide Schelling goes over the top of the Cat.4 Cote de Saint-Rivoal and punches the air as he takes the solitary point that should put him into polka dots tonight - provided he finishes today's stage. What a debut Tour for the Dutchman.
61km to go: First blood to Ewan in green skirmish
Ide Schelling takes maximum points with a theatrical dig over the line at the intermediate sprint - something which causes him to laugh out loud. When the peloton arrives two minutes later, it's the Australian Caleb Ewan who is led out well by one of his Lotto Soudal teammates - Jasper De Buyst, I think - to take the points for second place ahead of Peter Sagan, Michael Matthews, Bryan Coquard, Arnaud Demare, Nacer Bouhanni and Sonny Colbrelli. Mark Cavendish takes a distant 10th place but didn't contest that one. Ewan did go all in - but then, he probably doesn't expect to be there at the finish. Sagan and Matthews, meanwhile, do - ditto Colbrelli - so one of those three could be in green tonight, if they're not already in yellow...
69km to go: Schelling kills breakaway
The move by Ide Schelling has effectively sounded the death-knell for the breakaway, which is about to be caught by the peloton. That puts the Dutch debutant from Bora the odd-on favourite for the polka dot jersey: there's another Cat.4 climb before the final Cat.3 ascent and so he can move onto an unassailable three-point lead which will secure him the overnight lead. Chapeau.
That's it - the breakaway is swept up with 67km remaining. So, just the one may out ahead now. It will be interesting to see if we have any counters before the finish. Intermediate sprint up next.
72km to go: The Wolfpack sharpen their claws
There are now six Deceuninck-QuickStep riders on the front, tucked in just behind former QuickStepper Petr Vakoc. Perhaps that's because they want to close the gap on lone leader Schelling - who is still 2'45" ahead as the rain stops start to fall - or because the intermediate sprint is coming up and they want to pave the way for Sam Ben... Hang on! Last year's green jersey is not here! A knee injury has ruled him out and so that surely scuppers the team's ambitions of green - unless Mark Cavendish wants to roll back the years, or Davide Ballerini perhaps?
78km to go: Paret-Peintre receiving attention
The 25-year-old Frenchman - who won the first race of the season, the GP Cycliste la Marseillaise, back on 31st January - is with the medical car and receiving some attention to a cut knee after that crash. He won't remember his first day on the Tour de France in a hurry.
Schelling, meanwhile, is still out ahead on his own after that bullish solo attack. He has 1'30" on the five other chasers and 2'45" on the peloton.
84km to go: Schelling attacks!
The Dutchman from Bora-Hansgrohe zips clear early on the Cat.4 Cote de Stang ar Garront (2km at 3.4%) and that's caught his fellow escapees by surprise. He crests the summit in pole position to pick up the point that puts him level with Perez in the KOM standings - although, as things stand, the Frenchman will be in polka dots by virtue of winning the superior category climb.
Meanwhile, there's been a crash behind in the peloton as the pack passes through a small riverside town. It's not high speed but Aurelien Paret-Peintre (Ag2R-Citroen) and Casper Pedersen (Team DSM) take a knock and need a little while before getting back on their way.
98km to go: Feed zone
The peloton goes through the musette pick-up point 1'40" down on our six leaders. It's interesting: had today's stage been a one-day race it would have been ridden very differently because of the potentially challenging parcours. As it is, being the first of 21 stages in a Grand Tour, it's been a rather tame affair - but we still hope to have a fiery finish.
112km to go: Under two minutes
The gap drops below the two-minute mark for the six leaders as they continue the long slog towards the fourth climb of the day, which precedes the intermediate sprint. Remember to follow the #TourSwimmingPools hashtag for water-related fun during this year's race.
Here's a good snippet of info from our friends at The Road Book in the event that the world champion Julian Alaphilippe ends up swapping his rainbow bands for yellow later today...
128km to go: Crash!
Julien Bernard hits the deck towards the back of the peloton after a touch of wheels in the feedzone. He had three gels in his back pocket, which fall out onto the road. It doesn't look serious but that's the kind of incident upon which Grand Tours can change - the kind of thing which ended, for instance, Geraint Thomas's Giro bid last year.
130km to go: Van Poppel battles back
Dropped on that previous climb, the Dutchman - who is probably the fastest finisher of these escapees - manages to fight back on after a bit of a struggle, making the connection at the top of another sweeping uphill grind. Vakoc is now on the front of the pack giving Declercq a well-earned break. Behind Ineos and UAE ride in full team formation - until Dylan van Baarle darts clear to pick up a musette in front of the peloton. Some snacks for his teammates...
136km to go: Perez wins tussle for KOM points
The break goes onto the short but sharp Cat.3 Cote de Locronan (0.9km at 9.3%) and after Van Poppel pops, it's Perez who rides clear of Shelling to take the 2pts going over the summit, which puts the Frenchman in pole position for the polka dot jersey today. The gap is still 2'30" back to the peloton, which is still being driven by Declercq and Vakoc. Actually, make that 2'55" because it seems to have crept up all of a sudden.
140km to go: Third climb coming up
No change, really, as Tim Declercq continues to front the peloton as it approaches the third of six categorised climbs with a deficit of 2'25" on that leading six-man group. The escapees are: French duo Frank Bonnamour (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) and Anthony Perez (Cofidis), the Spaniard Christian Rodriguez (Total Energies), Dutch duo Ide Shelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Danny van Poppel (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert), and Englishman Connor Swift (Arkea-Samsic).
Van der Poel: 'It's not going to be easy'
His Alpecin-Fenix team are staying in Landerneau during the grand depart and so the Dutchman has been able to recce today's finish on the Cote de Fosse aux Loups. He told Cyclingnews: "The first stage should suit me very well but it’s harder than it looks, so I’ll have to be on top of my game to try to win on a finish like this.
"We rode the last 30km of the stage on Thursday and it’s a really hard stage. There’s a good three kilometres of climbing and it never goes flat entirely. It’s steep at the start, above 10 per cent in parts. I’m going to try to do everything I can to try to win a stage, if it’s the first one or the second it’d be very nice. But this is my first Tour and I’m also here to discover the Grand Tours. For sure I’ll go for it but it’s not going to be easy."
If he wins the stage he'll take the yellow jersey which always eluded his grandfather Raymond Poulidor, whose iconic Mercier team have been remembered in a limited edition Alpecin-Fenix team kit which Van der Poel and his teammates have been given the green light to wear today - but today only.
Mathieu Van der Poel, con el maillot del Alpecin-Fenix en homenaje a Raymond Poulidor
Image credit: From Official Website
Who will wear the first yellow jersey?
Six lower category climbs – including the punchy ramp to the finish in Landerneau – make the opening 198km stage unlike your usual Tour de France opener. One thing is certain, the final 3km climb of the Cote de la Fosse aux Loups (which averages at 5.7%) will do away with all the pure sprinters.
It’s a finish that suits the likes of debutant Mathieu van der Poel, his long-standing rival Wout van Aert, and the home favourite Julian Alaphilippe. The world champion won the second stage of last year’s Tour to swap his rainbow stripes for the yellow jersey – and the name of the climb (Fosse aux Loups literally means “Wolf Ditch”) should be extra motivation for the leader of the so-called Wolfpack.
But so often the Tour curtain-raiser springs a surprise: look no further than Alexander Kristoff winning last year in Nice, or Mike Teunissen the year before in Brussels. With this in mind, there’s every chance that the first man in yellow might well be someone like Michael Matthews (who hasn’t won since joining Team BikeExchange) or the new Italian champion Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Victorious) or even the Basque livewire Alex Aranburu of Astana.
Kristoff in yellow after brilliant late burst on Stage 1
Heck, if he’s feeling greedy, it wouldn’t be inconceivable for Primoz Roglic to get off to a running start – although you’d think he’d be more in favour of letting his Jumbo-Visma teammate Van Aert take the early glory to feed his personal ambitions before he switches focus to being a super domestique.
These roads in Brittany are relentlessly up and down - while there are no huge climbs today, the succession of rolling hills is really leg-sapping. With the gap coming down to under three minutes, many riders in the pack took the opportunity to stop on the side of the road to answer a call of nature. They're right down on the Atlantic coast now riding on a road that hugs a wide expanse of sandy beach.
The Alpecin-Fenix rider on the front riding behind Tim Declercq is Petr Vakoc who will know the Belgian well: the Czech used to be a QuickStep rider himself. They have a chat and Declercq tells Vakoc to knock it off a little because the gap was coming down too quickly.
159km to go: Shoe change for Van der Poel
The man who would be in yellow this evening has stopped to change his shoes, oddly. Better now than at the foot of the final climb, I guess. The gap is still 3'15" for the six leaders - and the Brittany fans are out in their droves, which is nice to see after all the troubles of the past year or so.
165km to go: Deceuninck and Alpecin lead chase
Tim Declercq of Deceuninck-QuickStep - aka the Breakaway Killer - takes up his usual position on the front of the pack as he leads the chase. It's unlikely the Belgian is working for Mark Cavendish today - the steep finish is ideally suited to Julian Alaphilippe, who will hope to pick up the race's first yellow jersey with a win.
Alpecin-Fenix are also there because they want Van der Poel to win on debut, while the Ineos Grenadiers team of 2018 champion Geraint Thomas are riding en masse right behind - doing their best to keep their man (and other GC candidates) out of trouble.
170km to go: Van Poppel takes KOM point
Danny van Poppel takes the single point over the top of the Cat.4 Cote de Rosnoen (3km at 4%). So he's level with Campenaerts at the top of the nascent KOM standings - although the Belgian isn't in this six-man break despite his active start. The gap back to the pack is still around three minutes although the UAE Team Emirates squad of defending champion Tadej Pogacar have come to the front - surely the Slovenian can't be eyeing the win today? It wouldn't be a surprise - although Marc Hirschi is probably a more likely candidate.
La Course: Vollering victorious
Earlier today, Demi Vollering secured a sensational success for Team SD in the one-day La Course event, that culminated in a nail-biting finish. The Team SD star powered home in a thrilling sprint finish that saw Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) coming home in second and Marianne Vos (Team Jumbo Visma) third.
Vollering victorious after sesational La Course finish
175km to go: Swift makes it six
The British rider manages to close the gap and so the break is now up to six riders as they approach the second categorised climb of the day. The peloton, meanwhile, is now three minutes in arrears so it looks like they're happy to let this one go - for now.
180km to go: Five clear
Frank Bonnamour (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) is joined by compatriot Anthony Perez (Cofidis), the Spaniard Christian Rodriguez (Total Energies) and Dutch duo Ide Shelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Danny van Poppel (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert). They have one man - Connor Swift of Arkea-Samsic - in pursuit. The peloton is almost a minute back now so this could be the one which sticks.
184km to go: Bonnamour takes it up
Local rider Frank Bonnamour puts in a dig on the front to open up a gap. He's part of a all-French B&B Hotels p/b KTM team 37.5% of which are called Cyril. Bonnamour sparks a response from around a dozen riders but they are reeled in. His gap is small and he will be joined soon by some others...
188km to go: Campenaerts takes first KOM point
There's just the single point up for grabs over the first categorised climb of this Tour - the Cat.4 Cote de Trebeolin - which is snaffled up by Victor Campenaerts, who is a man on a mission today. That mission is probably the polka dot jersey because there's no way the burly Belgian will win at Landerneau. That climb was just 0.9km long at an average gradient of 5.1% - the kind of hill that makes the roads in these parts so draining for the cyclist.
195km to go: CRASH!
Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo) took things up on the front as the fast start to the stage continued - and then, entering a dangerous chicane, two riders came a cropper with a padded piece of road furniture (from Trek and TotalEnergies) while another two tangled up their bikes. An ominous beginning - but it didn't look too serious, thankfully.
‘We have had the first crash!’ - Dangerous chicane causes first pile up of Tour
198km to go: They're off!
Christian Prudhomme emerges from the sunroof of his red Skoda, whips out his flag, gives it a wave - and the 108th edition of the Tour de France is under way! There's a flurry of attacks from the outsets sparked by the Belgian Victor Campenaerts, whose Qhubeka-Assos team are also in a special kit this year. He's joined by many other riders - and it's clear that the Brittany-based French teams B&B Hotels and Arkea-Samsic want to get in the mix today...
Van der Poel the favourite today?
Most people think that Mathieu van der Poel will be in the mix for the victory today as the rangy Dutchman makes his eagerly anticipated Tour debut. It's also his Alpecin-Fenix team's first appearance in the world's biggest bike race - and today, they have been given special dispensation to wear a special kit paying homage to Van der Poel's grandfather, Raymond Poulidor, and his Mercier team of old.
Some info here about today's opening stage of the Tour...
Distance: 197,8 km
Points for the polka dot jersey: 8
Points for the green jersey: 50
Bonus time: 10-6-4 seconds for the first three riders at the finish
The last time the Tour came to Brest was only 13 years ago and winner that day of the opening stage from Brest to Plumelac in 2008 was none other than Alejandro Valverde, who is part of a strong Movistar team this year as he makes his 15th appearance in the Tour. That year also marked the first Tour appearance for three future winners of the race: Chris Froome, Andy Schleck and Vincenzo Nibali - two of whom are here again this year...
Bonjour le Tour!
Hello and welcome to live coverage of the 2021 Tour de France. The long wait is over. Not quite the usual 11-odd months - coronavirus and the Olympics means it's just over nine months since the last Tour ended - but that's all the better for us fans. The riders are currently edging their way through the 11km neutral zone in and around the Breton coastal town of Brest, so stay tuned for all the action.
Here's what we can expect from today's 198km stage - which includes six lower-category climbs as the race gets under way not with the usual bunch sprint finish or prologue, but with a punchy uphill ramp at Landerneau.
The ultimate reads ahead of the 2021 Tour
Missed out on the build-up? Need something to get you ready for the Tour? Look no further than Felix Lowe's extensive previews on all things France 2021.
‘They will fear it’ – Mont Ventoux double set to strike fear into GC contenders
Re-Cycle: When Wagtmans denied teammate Merckx to become the accidental Yellow Jersey
Imagine feeling regret, fear, perhaps even a bit of shame, for having fulfilled a childhood ambition. This happened to Rini Wagtmans in the Swiss city of Basel on the morning of Sunday 27th June 1971 on a crazy day that would see the young Dutchman and the rest of the Tour de France peloton ride three legs through three different countries from the crack of dawn until tea time.
“Like many young people, I always dreamed of wearing the Yellow Jersey,” Wagtmans, now 74, tells Re-Cycle. “But when [Félix] Lévitan [the organiser of the Tour de France] came with the jersey and said it was for me, I was really shocked.”
Wagtmans’ reasoning was quite clear. He’d been selected on the new Molteni team to ride in the service of Eddy Merckx, who had ambitions of wearing yellow from start to finish on his way to a third consecutive Tour win. But just one day in, this quest had been derailed – quite inadvertently – by one of his domestiques.
“It was a real surprise for us,” Wagtmans recalls. “Later, Eddy wasn’t angry with me, and he told me to enjoy my time in the jersey. But he did say to me: ‘Rini, why are you doing this? You know this isn’t a game – it’s a real job that I’m busy with.’”
Wagtmans would go on to be a key member of the Molteni team that weathered a storm to deliver Merckx to a third triumph of a race that is, as Merckx’s biographer William Fotheringham declares in Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike: “now famous for a single day, the stage to Orcières-Merlette in the southern Alps, when Merckx was tested as never before”.
Wagtmans’ accidental Yellow Jersey came a week before that fateful 11th stage where Luis Ocaña crushed Merckx – on the first day of action following the opening prologue. It was a ridiculous three-part split stage that crossed three European borders and saw the Yellow Jersey change hands twice – and the Green Jersey on three occasions. Not only did it set the tone, but it introduced the upcoming Wagtmans as one of the key players in the Cannibal’s eventual grinding down of his great Spanish rival.
This is the tale of how one plucky Dutchman unknowingly denied his teammate the Yellow Jersey for a third of a day, before restoring order to the race, winning a stage of his own, and then fighting tooth-and-nail once Merckx lost the Maillot Jaune off his own back.
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