Fernando Gaviria sprinted to victory on the first stage of the 2018 Tour de France after a superb lead-out to claim the first yellow jersey of the race on his debut in a dramatic finale.
Chris Froome was the highest-profile rider to crash in the third of three incidents on the run-in – all outside the final 3km mark – as several GC contenders lost time. Froome’s crash was one of the most dramatic as he skidded off the road behind a barrier, narrowly missing a post.
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Richie Porte (BMC Racing) were among those held up by the incidents to lose time and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) also missed out after breaking both wheels when he hit some road furniture.
Back up the road, QuickStep Floors led the sprinters on to the final straight, with Max Richeze dropping Gaviria off at the front, and the Colombian did the rest to win on his Tour de France debut and claim the first yellow jersey.
Peter Sagan, the world champion, was second and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) pipped Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates) to third place, but Gaviria was never going to lose the sprint once he kicked.
Before the dramatic finale, the opening stage played out largely as expected for the most part – a small breakaway going clear which posed little concern to the peloton.
Three of the four wildcard teams were represented, with Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Kevin Ledanois (Fortuneo-Samsic) and Jerome Cousin (Direct Energie) up the road.
Stage one analysis
A chaotic finale threatened to overshadow Fernando Gaviria's achievement of winning a stage on his Tour de France debut to take the yellow jersey. Chris Froome's crash over the barriers is the big talking point, of course - not all is lost, with Richie Porte and Adam Yates finishing in the same group but Geraint Thomas could be an early winner having stayed safe; is the Welshman now Team Sky's plan A?
Back to the stage win, and despite the late chaos take nothing away from Quick-Step Floors' lead-out. Executed to perfection, they are masters of their art and Gaviria's first Tour win could well be the first of many.
Back in the peloton, however, the sprint teams rotated turns on the front of the bunch and the stage passed at a sedate pace – give or take the obvious nerves the opening day of a Grand Tour brings.
Those nerves were justified, even, when Lawson Craddock (EF-Drapac) took a tumble in the feed zone, suffering abrasions on his face and visiting the medical car with his collarbone the concern.
Gaviria called for action at the intermediate sprint and underlined his ambitions for the race by winning the kick from the peloton ahead of Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal).
Harmony in the breakaway ended on the day’s only climb – Offredo led the way up but had nothing for the sprint as Ledanois picked his pocket to claim the soliatary point and the polka dot jersey.
Cousin and Offredo were still clear at the new bonus sprint to pick up three and two seconds respectively, while Olivier Naesen (Ag2r-La Mondiale) jumped from the bunch to snaffle the final bonus.
As the peloton wound up for the sprint, however, pinch points in the road caused crashes – Arnaud Demare (FDJ) the most high-profile victim of the first as his hopes of a stage win evaporated.Tweet
Egan Arley Bernal (Team Sky) was next to hit the deck, as his white jersey ambitions took an early hit, but the biggest victim was Froome as he took a tumble onto the grass - losing 51 seconds, as did Porte and Yates.
The front of the bunch looked to kick on, but Quintana suffered an ill-timed mechanical – still outside the safety of the 3km to go mark – to eliminate his hopes of taking advantage.
With groups all over the road, it soon became apparent Porte and Yates would also be losing time after being caught behind the carnage too.
Gaviria finished QuickStep’s superb lead-out to claim the stage win and the first yellow jersey but it had almost become a secondary point by the time he crossed the line…
Tour de France 2018: stage one - report
1) Fernando Gaviria (COL) - Quick-Step Floors - 4.23.32hrs
2) Peter Sagan (SVK) - Bora-hansgrohe - ST
3) Marcel Kittel (GER) - Katusha-Alpecin
4) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) - UAE-Team Emirates
5) Christophe Laporte (FRA) - Cofidis
6) Dylan Groenewegen (NED) - LottoNL-Jumbo
7) Michael Matthews (AUS) - Team Sunweb
8) John Degenkolb (GER) - Trek-Segafredo
9) Jakob Fugslang (DEN) - Astana
10) Rafal Majka (POL) - Bora-hansgrohe
1) Fernando Gaviria (COL) - Quick-Step Floors - 4.23.22hrs
2) Peter Sagan (SVK) - Bora-hansgrohe +4"
3) Marcel Kittel (GER) - Katusha-Alpecin +6"
4) Oliver Naesen (BEL) - Ag2r-La Mondiale +9"
5) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) - UAE Team Emirates +10"
6) Christophe Laporte (FRA) - Cofidis - ST
7) Dylan Groenewegen (NED) - LottoNL-Jumbo
8) Michael Matthews (AUS) - Team Sunweb
9) John Degenkolb (GER) - Trek-Segafredo
10) Jakob Fugslang (DEN) - Astana