Analysis from the opening stage of the 2018 Tour de France
Froome crashes, but it could have been much worse
Chris Froome definitely wouldn’t have been planning to ride head-first into a ditch with five kilometres to go, but in the end things didn’t turn out to be as bad as they could have been for the defending champion.
Froome seemingly ran out of road as he went off the right-hand side of the road close to the finish, and looked set to lose time to the other main contenders.
That meant that although Froome finished 51 seconds behind the front of the race, he didn’t actually lose much time to some of those who will be challenging him in the mountains.
Nairo Quintana is the day’s biggest loser
While other GC contenders were losing time in crashes, Nairo Quintana found a different way to put himself on the back foot with an extremely unfortunately timed mechanical with 3.5km to go.
Quintana got a wheel from a neutral service motorbike, but the wheel change was slow and he then found himself without team-mates and forced to chase all the way to the line, eventually finished at 1-15, 26 seconds behind the Froome group.
However the good news for Quintana is that this time loss doesn’t look as serious as what he lost in the crosswinds of stage two of the 2016 Tour which ultimately cost him the race.
Fernando Gaviria delivers at the first attempt
While Nairo Quintana and Egan Bernal lost time, Fernando Gaviria gave Colombian fans something to smile about as he won his first Tour de France stage at the first attempt to move into the yellow jersey.
Gaviria put the finishing touch to an excellent Quick-Step Floors effort, with his team riding towards the front throughout the day keeping the break on a very short leash to ensure a bunch sprint in Fontenay-le-Comte.
As you would expect, Quick-Step put Gaviria in a perfect position with the finish in sight, with Maximiliano Richeze making sure that the 23-year-old was in the best position to take the win.
And win he did, doing an excellent job of holding off Peter Sagan, who never looked like coming around Gaviria, with the Colombian not only taking the yellow jersey and the stage win, but also taking an early lead in the points classification.
Rival sprinters left reeling by Quick-Step
While Fernando Gaviria made serene progress towards the stage win and the first yellow jersey, the rest of the sprinters looked powerless to resist the Quick-Step rider’s top-end speed.
With around 500m to go Katusha-Alpecin attempted to get in on the action and push Quick-Step off the front, but Richeze was able to impose himself to make sure Marcel Kittel wasn’t able to launch his sprint from the front.
Kittel seemed to lose some momentum and was unable to kick again, while Sagan was forced to just sit in the wheel of Gaviria, unable to come through in the wind.
Meanwhile the chaotic finish didn’t work for some, with André Greipel finishing in 26th and Mark Cavendish 10 place further back, while Arnaud Démare was caught up in an earlier crash and rolled home more than six minutes back.
Yoann Offredo gets up to his usual tricks
On the first road stage of the 2017 Tour de France into Liège, Yoann Offredo got himself in the day’s break and, alongside Taylor Phinney, came very close to upsetting the sprinters, only being caught in the final two kilometres.
Fast forward 12 months and Offredo was on the attack again, this time having fellow Frenchmen Kevin Ledanois (Fortuneo-Samsic) and Jérôme Cousin, but once again missing out on the opening polka dot jersey of the race which went to Ledanois.
However despite the small gap back to the peloton, Offredo had his eyes on a bigger prize and duly launched a series of attacks from 28km to go and going clear with Cousin
Unfortunately for Offredo he wasn’t able to hold off the peloton in the same way he managed last year, being caught with 10km to go, but expect to see him up the road plenty more times in next three weeks.