Tour de France 2013 - stage one report: Marcel Kittel (Argos Shimano) wins to take yellow jersey

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Marcel Kittel wins stage one of 2013 Tour de France to take yellow jersey

Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) won a chaotic opening stage of the Tour de France to take the first yellow jersey of the 2013 race after a huge crash wiped out a number of sprinters.

Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) wins stage one of the 2013 Tour de France to take the yellow jersey

The finish line was moved forward by three kilometres after the Orica-GreenEDGE team bus got stuck under the original finish line but, with the bus removed at the last minute, the line was once again re-drawn.

The confusion contributed to a crash in the closing stages which held up Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and saw Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling) hit the deck, while, having come through the carnage, Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) suffered a mechanical.

That left a severely depleted bunch to contest the finish and Kittel outsprinted Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Danny Von Poppel (Vacansoleil-DCM) to claim victory.

“This is the greatest day of my life,” said Kittel. “This is absolutely something that’s outstanding.”

Cavendish, who missed out on the stage to wear the yellow jersey, called the stage “carnage” but was thankful he escaped the worst of the crash.

“I didn’t crash luckily, I was just behind the crash,” he said. “The stage wasn’t too bad, not too different from what is normal at the Tour de France. What caused the problems is there was a change in the finish. We heard it on the radio with literally 5km to go that the sprint was in 2km. About a kilometre later when heading to the finish it was just carnage.

“I think the majority of the favourites for today’s stage were caught up. Luckily I didn’t go down. I was behind it. I’d seen my teammates end up a lot worse off. Tony Martin is in a bit of a state here. I can count myself lucky. It’s not as bad as it could be for me, but my bigger concern is my teammates who were not so lucky.“

Meanwhile, Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) was among the general classification contenders to go down in the crash and the two-time winner initially looked to have lost time but Tour de France race director Jean-François Pescheux later confirmed all riders would be awarded the same time.

The 100th edition of the Tour de France started under blue skies and in relative calm, with the flat opening stage presenting the sprinters with a rare chance to pull on the maillot jaune.

While pre-race favourite Chris Froome (Team Sky) avoided the main crash of the day, the 2012 runner-up did go down in the neutralized zone at the start of the stage and required a bike change.

Cavendish, making his first competitive appearance in the British national champion’s jersey, went into the stage as favourite and, once the five-man break went up the road, his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team set about controlling the peloton.

Jerome Cousin (Europcar), Juan Jose Lobato (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Lars Boom (Belkin), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Cyril Lemoine (Sojasun) formed the escape group and soon built up a lead of around three minutes.

The sole categorised climb of the stage, the Cote de Sotta, came after 45.5km and Lobato won the sprint to the top to win the single King of the Mountains point on offer and secure the first polka dot jersey of the race.

Photographers clamber for a view of the, erm, action

The intermediate sprint came with 63km to go and Boom edged Flecha to take maximum points from the break, while Greipel won the kick from the bunch ahead of Cavendish and Sagan.

The teams of Cavendish, Greipel, Kittel and Sagan all then set about bringing back the break and the five riders were caught with 37km to go.

The combination of the yellow jersey on offer for the stage winner, a nervous peloton and narrow, technical Corsican roads made for a fierce pace once the catch was made, with the teams of the sprinters and general classification contenders both coming to the fore to try and keep their men out of trouble.

That resulted in the bunch being strung out, prompting Team Sky to come to the head of the peloton to put the brakes on and slow what was an unsustainable pace to bring the race back together.

However, with the finish line fast approaching, Matt Goss’s Orica-GreenEDGE team came to the head of the bunch to drive the pace while, ironically, news began to filter through with less than 20km of the race remaining that their bus had become trapped under the finish line gantry.

That prompted the race organisers to move the finish forward to the three kilometre mark, however, once the bus was freed, the original finish was reinstated – although stage winner Kittel later revealed he had not heard news of either change.

“I heard my directeur sportif shouting but I didn’t understand what he was saying,” said Kittel. “It was too frantic in the finale.”

As the red-faced Orica-GreenEDGE driver finally reversed his bus away from the finish line, a large crash brought down a host of riders. Cavendish’s Omega Pharma-QuickStep team-mate, Tony Martin, was among the worst affected but the German will start stage two after being cleared by the team doctors.

What was left of the peloton went on to contest the finish, with Cavendish’s team-mate, Niki Terpstra, having a brave solo dig off the front inside the final kilometre, before being caught, leaving Kittel to record the first Tour de France stage win of his career – and with it take the race lead.

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Tour de France 2013 – stage one – result

1) Marcel Kittel (GER) – Argos-Shimano – 4:56:52 hours
2) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha – same time
3) Danny Van Poppel (NED) – Vacansoleil-DCM
4) David Millar (GBR) – Garmin-Sharp
5) Matteo Trentin (ITA) – Omega Pharma – QuickStep
6) Samuel Dumoulin (FRA) – Ag2r La Mondiale
7) Greg Henderson (NZL) – Lotto-Belisol
8) Jurgen Roelandts (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol
9) Jose Joaquin Rojas (SPA) – Movistar
10) Kris Boeckmans (BEL) – Vacansoleil-DCM

General classification

1) Marcel Kittel (GER) – Argos-Shimano – 4:56:52 hours
2) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha – same time
3) Danny Van Poppel (NED) – Vacansoleil-DCM
4) David Millar (GBR) – Garmin-Sharp
5) Matteo Trentin (ITA) – Omega Pharma – QuickStep
6) Samuel Dumoulin (FRA) – Ag2r La Mondiale
7) Greg Henderson (NZL) – Lotto-Belisol
8) Jurgen Roelandts (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol
9) Jose Joaquin Rojas (SPA) – Movistar
10) Kris Boeckmans (BEL) – Vacansoleil-DC

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