“It was not ideal, my ribs are a little bit sore…but the sun is shining and we’ll try to make the best of it today,” Poels said before the start of the stage, putting on a brave face.
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If Poels’ condition worsens, Mikel Landa could face losing a second valuable domestique before the GC battle even begins after Rafael Valls fractured his right femur in a crash and withdrew from the race.
“Speedy recovery for Rafael, a shame that we have to miss him already after one day,” Poels added.
The crashes are said to have been caused by Nice experiencing rain showers for the first time in months during the race, the water lifting layers of vehicle fuel and rubber off the roads, making the surface slippery. Riders even decided to neutralise one of the descents as they looked to protect team leaders on day one of the 2020 French Grand Tour.
There had been rumours the slipperiness of the road had been caused by the publicity caravan and that a detergent company had blown soap all over the course, but this theory was quickly debunked.
The crash-marred opening stage of this year’s race also claimed Lotto-Soudal’s Philippe Gilbert, who suffered a broken kneecap, while his team-mate John Degenkolb finished outside the time limit, having also fallen.
Thibaut Pinot’s key domestique David Gaudu crashed alongside his team leader in the closing kilometres of stage one and was already off the back early on day two, receiving medical attention as he struggled on.
At the 2018 Tour, Lawson Craddock suffered a fractured collarbone in a crash also on the first stage, managing to make it through to stage 21 in Paris, becoming the first rider to hold the last place after every stage, raising $200,000 for charity in the process.