Cavendish in yellow; Contador's crash; Sky's hard start; and the other talking points from stage one of the 2016 Tour de France
- Photos by Graham Watson
Cavendish takes yellow at last
Before the Grand Depart, Mark Cavendish himself played down the importance of winning the opening stage of the 2016 Tour de France, and with it the yellow jersey of race leader – which would be the first of his career.
However, after his convincing victory over sprint rivals Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), it was plain to see exactly what it meant to Cavendish.
There are few things that Cavendish hasn’t achieved in his amazing career, but wearing the Tour’s yellow jersey was one.
The victory means the 31-year-old has now won 27 stages of the Tour during in total, and moves him within one victory of matching Bernard Hinault’s tally of 28.
Stage two features a tough uphill finish in Cherbourg, and Cav may face a tough call to retain the yellow jersey – particularly as the stage would suit Sagan. But that will not change the fact that Cavendish has now led the world’s biggest bike race.
Watch: Highlights of Tour de France stage one
A heavy crash for Alberto Contador mid-way through the stage saw him come away with a pile of dressings on his right shoulder. The Spanish contender fell with BMC’s Brent Bookwalter and Sky’s Luke Rowe just after the bunch had navigated a roundabout.
Although Contador got up quickly and remounted his bike, he looked to have scraped his right shoulder extensively, with his jersey ripped to pieces.
He subsequently got patched up by the race medic and finished in the bunch, and was taken off for further medical examination at the finish – where he came home in the peloton.
After the adrenaline fades at the end of a race, it’s often only several hours after that the true extent of an injury reveals itself. It would be a huge shame to see one of the leading contenders taken out of the running by such an innocuous incident at so early a stage.
Difficult start for Team Sky
Although defending champion Chris Froome managed to keep out of trouble during the nervous opening day of the Tour, a coupe of his team-mates weren’t quite so lucky.
Welsh pair Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe were brought down in two separate crashes, being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Rowe fell alongside Contador with 80km to go while Thomas was caught up in a crash in the final kilometre after Tinkoff’s Michael Mørkøv clipped a barrier.
Team Sky reports that both riders were unscathed, but it shows how easily a team can fall foul to events out of their control.
Crosswinds and peloton etiquette
The weather forecast prior to the opening stage from Mont-Saint-Michel to Utah Beach in Normandy was pretty grim. Thankfully, the heavy rain never materialised but the crosswinds blowing off the sea were present.
There were no splits in the peloton, though, partly due to Contador’s crash, which led the bunch to purposefully agree to slow down and let the riders caught in the incident catch back up. No one wants to see a silly incident affect the overall outcome of the race.
Dan McLay’s impressive top 10
French team Fortuneo Vital Concept elected to bring along up-and-coming British sprinter Dan McLay, and he did not disappoint in his very first stage of his very first Tour de France.
Seemingly unfazed by the company he was keeping in the final charge to the line, McLay finished in ninth spot behind stage winner Cavendish.
McLay told Cycling Weekly that he wants to finish the race in Paris on July 24, despite never having raced for three weeks.
“I’ve never done a race more than eight days so after that we’ll see,” McLay told Cycling Weekly. “But your legs are still going to hurt after day two, that’s not going to change because the race is three weeks, you’ve just got to get your head around it.”