Julian Alaphilippe wins the first stage of the Tour de France

LANDERNEAU, France – The massive comeback of Tour de France fans coincided with chaos and crashes as world champion Julian Alaphilippe dodged most of the carnage to win stage one with a hard-hitting attack.

The Frenchman was involved in the first pile-up caused by a fan which knocked down a large part of the peloton but he remained on his bike. He edged out the main peloton on the last steep climb to the finish at Landerneau, crossing the finish line eight seconds ahead of Michael Matthews. Last year’s runner-up Primoz Roglic took third place.

With France coming back to life and almost all coronavirus restrictions lifted, the Tour started from the port city of Brest in the west in a festive atmosphere, returning to its traditional place in the calendar after the year’s edition last was postponed to September due to the pandemic.

Throughout the day, enthusiasts roamed the streets of picturesque villages and thousands of them walked along the lush green roads of the Breton countryside. But some were also careless.

The first big spill was caused by a fan who held up a cardboard sign and leaned into the path of veteran Tony Martin, who fell off his bike and dragged many more in his wake. The Tour warned fans to “respect the safety of the riders” and “Don’t risk everything for a photo or to be on TV! “

The second pile-up involved dozens of competitors – including four-time circuit champion Chris Froome – driving at full speed near the finish.

“It was stressful,” said former Tour champion Geraint Thomas. “I was just focusing on staying on my bike. Happy to get out of it. “

The battle for stage victory began just after in the Fosse aux Loups, a three-kilometer ascent that included a 14% gradient. On a pitch perfectly suited to his punchy style, Alaphilippe was untouchable.

He took the plunge with two kilometers to go to leave behind Roglic, the Tour favorite, and defending champion Tadej Pogacar.

“I can already say that my tour is a success,” said Alaphilippe.

He became the third French world champion to take the yellow jersey on the opening day of the race after Georges Speicher in 1934 and Bernard Hinault in 1981.

Alaphillipe wore the yellow jersey for 14 days two years ago and had it for three more stages last year. He recently became a father and put his thumb in his mouth in celebration as he crossed the finish line.

“It’s huge to share this with my family. I miss them, ”he said. “I did my best for them and I enjoyed it myself. Trade the rainbow jersey for the yellow jersey.”

Thanks to the time bonus, Alaphilippe was 12 seconds ahead of Matthews in the general classification, Roglic in third, two seconds later. Pogacar is sixth, 18 seconds behind Alaphilippe.

“I’m happy that the first day is over and we hope for a quieter stage tomorrow,” said Pogacar after winning the best young rider’s white jersey. “But after what we’ve seen with all the crashes, there’s not much to celebrate.”

Thomas finished the stage in 10th place and limited his overall losses to 18 seconds, but two of his best assistants, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Richie Porte, were held up by the first crash and were caught in the second. Porte lost 2 minutes and 26 seconds, while Geoghegan Hart was at 5:43.

The first stop was a 198 kilometer (123 mile) hike.

A small crash involving two riders spoiled the start of the stage before six riders formed the first breakaway. At 100 kilometers from the end, the sextet led the peloton for about two minutes.

Ide Schelling moved away from the leading group and prolonged his effort to widen a small gap on his former breakaway companions. They were braked by the peloton 68 kilometers from the end as the Dutch rider drove alone in the lead.

Schelling seemed to enjoy the experience, all smiles as he pedaled through the village of Brasparts surrounded by cheers from enthusiastic supporters.

Schelling was the first at the top of the Côte de Saint-Rivoal and raised his fist in celebration. Behind the peloton’s chase came to a screeching halt when Martin, an experienced Roglic teammate, fell from his bike after hitting the brandished cardboard sign beside the narrow road.

Martin’s accident caused a huge pile-up involving half the peloton. Once the confusion cleared, German Jasha Sutterlin was the first rider to retire and Martin was bloodied but was riding.

The Deceuninck-Quick Step riders restarted the pursuit at a rapid pace to catch up with an exhausted Schelling about 28 kilometers from the finish.

Julian Alaphilippe wins Tour de France stage 1 crash-score that appeared on NBCSports.com

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