Unfortunate crash for Matthews and ORICA-BikeExchange on stage one of the Tour de France

Sat 2 Jul 2016

A heavy crash involving Michael Matthews in the finale of today’s first stage of the 2016 Tour de France disrupted what was otherwise a textbook performance from ORICA-BikeExchange.

Michael Morkov (Katusha) hit the barriers in the finishing straight as around thirty riders geared up to contest the sprint, taking with him Matthews and a few others. Fortunately Matthews escaped injury and was able to remount and finish the stage.

Mark Cavendish (Dimension-Data) avoided the crash and sprinted to the stage victory and the race leader's yellow jersey ahead of Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff).

2016 Tour Down Under winner Simon Gerrans was the best finisher for ORICA-BikeExchange in 46th place with South African Daryl Impey alongside Gerrans in 48th.

Sport director Matt White praised the efforts of the team on a nervy opening stage.

“We thought that today was going to be fairly nervous and stressful in the bunch,” explained White. “So our main objective was to stay up near the front and out of trouble. A lot of the nerves were nullified due to the windy conditions and we were able to achieve our aim.”

“The guys rode really well today and we held our positions nicely. Michael (Matthews) got caught up in the crash just before the sprint, which was unfortunate, but thankfully he is ok.

“The only real surprise today was that Sagan jumped and gained some time bonuses which makes trying to win the yellow jersey even harder, but we are certainly going to try.

“There are no easy days at the Tour de France but tomorrow is a stage that suits us with the finish being slightly uphill after a lumpy and quite technical parcours.”

How it happened:

The clouds parted in Mont-Saint-Michel for the start of the 103rd Tour de France this morning as the peloton rolled steadily through the neutral zone along the Normandy coastline.

Three riders attacked immediately on the drop of the flag with Jan Barta and Paul Voss (Bora-Argon18) breaking away with Leigh Howard (IAM-Cycling).

The trio developed a lead of four minutes after 20kilometres of racing with Alex Howes (Cannondale) and Antony Delaplace (Fortuneo-Vital-Concept) trying to bridge across.

Howes and Delaplace made contact and the quintet pushed on ahead. With 90kilometres to go their lead was just below three minutes.

Lotto-Soudal, Etixx-Quickstep and Katusha were controlling the chase behind the leaders with strong crosswinds also a factor to contend with, causing a few splits in the field as the speed fluctuated.

A crash in the peloton involving Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) occurred with 75kilometres remaining, but the Spaniard was quickly back on his bike and back in the bunch.

The breakaway quintet had just over a minute’s advantage with 65kilometres left to race.

Twenty kilometres later and only Howes and Delaplace remained out front with the fast moving peloton only 35seconds behind.

Brilliant sunshine shone down on Utah Beach with 20kilometres to go and the peloton holding steady 30seconds behind the duo out front. Not wanting to bring the race back together too soon, the sprinters teams tapped out a steady tempo as the race swung back inland.

Howes and Delaplace were finally caught with only five kilometres to go with the head of the peloton instantly speeding away as Katusha and Etixx-Quickstep swarmed at the front.

The bunch sprint was now inevitable and the run in to the finish was fast and frantic. A heavy crash involving several Katusha riders and Matthews split the front of the bunch, with around twenty riders avoiding the mayhem and continuing ahead to contest the sprint.

Sagan started his sprint early and long followed closely by Kittel and Cavendish. The world champion could not hold on to the line as Cavendish went wide and gained a bike lengths on Kittel to take the stage win and the first yellow jersey of the 2016 race.

The race stays in Normandy for stage two which covers 183kilometres along the coast from Saint-Lo to Cherbourg-en-Cotentin. A technical, undulating route ideal for the puncheur, the stage includes four short but categorised climbs before a sharp ramp up to the finish.

Tour de France stage one results:

1. Mark Cavendish (Dimension-Data) 04:14:05
2. Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep) ST
3. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) ST
46. Simon Gerrans (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00:00:42

General classification after stage one:

1. Mark Cavendish (Dimension-Data) 04:13:55
2. Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep) 00:00:04
3. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) 00:00:06
46. Simon Gerrans (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00:00:42