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Alexander Kristoff pulls on first 2020 Tour de France yellow jersey after Stage 1 victory

Rain creates chaos on the opening stage in Nice

Alexander Kristoff (Norway/UAE-Emirates) earned his fourth Tour de France stage win Saturday in Nice on the French Riviera, but it was the most important one, as his victory in the Tour’s first stage earned him the first yellow jersey of the 107th edition and the first of his career. Hugo Houle, the sole Canadian in the race, placed 15th on a day marred by crashes.

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The Course

Riders had three laps around Nice to negotiate: two of 50-km and one of 60-km. Three times–although the first would be neutral–riders would ascend the Cat. 3 climb of the Cote de Rimiez, followed by a longer, uncategorized drag up to Aspremont. Rain would make things difficult.

Crashes Galore

After the first, neutralized passage of the Rimiez, three riders bolted to form the first breakaway of the 107th edition. Crashes involved riders like Sam Bennett, Dominico Pozzovivo, Pierre Latour and Pavel Sivakov.

Fugitive Fabien Grellier of Team Total Direct Energie took the maximum KOM points atop the Cote de Rimiez as the rain fell harder.

A few sprinters were in difficulty on the climbs and everyone gingerly made his way down the slick descent. Julian Alaphilippe and Nairo Quintana also crashed.

Sivakov was not enjoying his Tour debut, crashing again after making contact with the back of the peloton.

Michael Schär (Switzerland/CCC) was first over the first intermediate sprint point as his breakaway started the bell lap.

Race radio could barely keep up with the crash updates.

Bell Lap

On the last climb of Rimiez, the breakaway was brought to heel, but not before Schär took enough KOM points to make an interesting situation for the finish: the best placed between the Swiss and Grellier would wear the polka dots on Sunday.

The discussion at the front of the peloton was about backing off the pace. The third descent would take a different route that the first two. Astana decided to forge on ahead on the drop and Angel Lopez promptly aquaplaned into a road sign.

Astana was more observant of the peloton’s self-neutralization, but tiptoeing down the descent didn’t mean there were no more crashes. Jumbo-Visma’s George Bennett came a cropper.

The final 29 km were flat. Benoît Cosnefroy (France/AG2R-La Mondiale) skipped away to act as a rabbit. Colour blocks formed at the front of the peloton.

It was announced that the times would be taken at the 3 km to go point, leaving the sprinters to scrap it out without the GC men. Right at the 3 km remaining mark there was a huge crash, taking down Thibaut Pinot, Lopez and Marc Soler.

Bora-Hansgrohe led under the red kite. In the conclusion Kristoff found Peter Sagan’s wheel and then came whipping in from the right hand side to overcome world champion Mads Pederson and nab the famous victory.

Sunday’s route around Nice features even bigger climbs and the first of the 2020 Tour’s bonus-second climbs peaking 11-km from the finish line.

2020 Tour de France, Stage 1
1) Alexander Kristoff (Norway/UAE-Emirates) 3:46:23
2) Mads Pederson (Denmark/Trek-Segafredo) s.t.
3) Cees Bol (The Netherlands/Sunweb) s.t.
15) Hugo Houle (Canada/Astana) s.t.