It was a dramatic finish to the opening stage of the Tour de France. Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) took the win in Bastia ahead of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Danny Van Poppel (Vacansoleil-DCM). A crash inside the final kilometre eliminated Matt Goss from contention.
A five rider breakaway dominated the early action. The peloton allowed the quintet an advantage but kept them on a short leash. The gap never grew much beyond the three minute mark. With just under an hour left to race, the field overtook the break at 37km.
While the peloton prepared for the projected bunch sprint, another race unfolded at the finish line. The ORICA-GreenEDGE team bus had become stuck under the finish line gantry, and ASO was working frantically to dislodge the vehicle ahead of the field’s arrival. As the kilometres ticked down, race organisers made the decision to move the finish line. Shortly thereafter, the bus was freed, and the finish line was returned to its intended place.
Sport Director Matt White answers questions below about today’s action in Corsica.
Q: What was the plan today?
We obviously knew that the stage would end in a bunch sprint, and our tactics involved getting Gossy [Matt Goss] up for the win.
Q: Nothing about the end of the stage unfolded according to plan, what about the early action?
No, I wouldn’t say the early action was what we would have expected either. It was quite a weird stage. The first attack of the day sparked the breakaway of five riders, but they were never allowed much of an advantage. There was a lot of cat and mouse today between the breakaway and the bunch. That’s unusual for the first road stage of the Tour. The break nearly got caught a few times. It was very negative in that regard.
There wasn’t too much for us do given the way the stage unfolded. We put Cam [Meyer] on the front for a little bit towards the final.
Q: Our fans have been asking a lot of questions about the bus incident at the finish line. Can you describe what happened and how things could have gone wrong in the way they did?
Obviously, this was a really unfortunate situation. The bus was led under the finish gantry, and it we took for granted that there was enough clearance. We’ve had this bus since we started the team, and it’s the same bus we took to the Tour last year.
Our bus driver was told to move forward and became lodged under the finish gantry. He followed all instructions in the process that followed thanks to the hard work by ASO that allowed him to remove the bus before the finish. It was the best possible outcome given the situation.
Q: What was communicated over race radio regarding the situation?
It was hectic there in the final. Over the radio, we received information that the finish line had been brought forward 3km due to the fact that our bus was still lodged under the finish line. The frantic efforts to clear the bus proved successful, we had a few minutes notice that that finish line had been moved to its original place.
Q: What happened after that?
Well, there was a massive crash 5km from the finish that involved a lot of riders. It took guys like Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) out of contention. André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) made it through the crash but punctured. Some of the overall contenders were involved, too. It sounds like Alberto Contador (Saxo Tinkoff) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Sharp) both hit the ground. We always knew the sprint would be hectic. Robbie McEwen had a close look at it this morning. We just didn’t anticipate it being hectic in exactly this way.
Gossy managed to escape the first crash, but he clipped the barriers and went down about 500m from the line. The bunch had spread quite wide, and he ran out of road. He lost a bit of skin, but he should be fine other than. Obviously he’s not happy about crashing on the first day of the Tour, but he wasn’t the only one.
Q: The jury awarded everyone the same time today. Was that the right decision?
Absolutely. It’s always a fair decision to make if something completely outside the riders’ control impacts the race the way it did today. It was a very good decision, and it’s the safest thing for the riders.