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Tour de France 2018: Fernando Gaviria wins Stage 1 to take first yellow jersey

Stu Bowers
7 Jul 2018

Gaviria wears yellow after a frenetic final 5km and bunch sprint closes out the opening day.

In fairly predicatble fashion Stage 1 of the 2018 Tour De France went to a bunch sprint, won in the end by Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step), to pull on the first yellow jersey of the race. Although it was what happened further back that seemed to be more important as key GC riders lost big chunks of time due to crashes and misfortune.

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) crossed the line second with Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) completing the podium.

The story of Stage 1 of the 2018 Tour de France

Bonjour Le Tour - here we go again, with the 105th edition of La Grand Boucle.

The 201km stage from Noirmoutier-en-l'Île to Fontenay-le-Comte rolled out under clear blue skies.

In a first for the Tour, the race director pulled forward World Champion, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) together with any present National Champions to lead out at the front for the neutralised zone.

All expectations were for a typical bunch sprint finish to decide the first yellow jersey, given the mostly flat route.

The only exception was a 4th category climb coming 28km from the finish, which would be the only opportunity to decide the Polka Dot jersey.

In predictable fashion there were attacks from the moment the flag dropped, with the wild card teams looking for some early TV coverage.

Almost immediately a group of three Frenchman – Kevin Ledanois (Fortuneo-Samsic), Jerome Cousin (Direct Energie) and Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) - pulled a gap that stuck.

The trio quickly gained a 3 minute advantage over the field, and looked set to spend a good portion of the stage away.

As the gap for the leaders increased to beyond 4 minutes the teams of the sprinters who would have their eyes on the prize in Fontenay-le-Comte started to appear at the front of the peloton to control the pace.

There was a additional bit of work to do for Mark Cavendish’s Dimension Data teammates, after he suffered a puncture at around 70km, and needed a helping hand to chase back on.

With Cav safely back in the group, and with his faithful lieutenants back in control at the front together with help from Quick Step, looking after their man Fernando Gaviria, the bunch started to eat steadily into the breakaway’s advantage.

At the halfway point, with 100km to go, the gap to the leaders was down to just 2m 30sec so it looked like the peloton had the measure of them and things were all under control.

The first intermediate sprint came at aroud 119.4km. The breakaway trio did not contest the points, just riding through in formation, however behind them the peloton was shaping up for the battle between Andre Griepel (Lotto-Soudal), Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ), Cavendish and Gaviria.

Notably missing was the Bora-Hansgrohe train and Peter Sagan, although the man himself did appear near the sharp end by the time they crossed the sprint line, although scored no points.

Gaviria took the sprint ahead of Griepel, with Demare not far behind. Cavendish did not pose a challenge, perhaps saving himself for the final dash.

With 75km to go, the breakaway still had close to a 2 minute advantage.

Over the next kilometres the bunch merely managed the breakaway's time gap, not seeming to be too fussed about stepping things up a notch to contest the upcoming 4th Cat climb to decide the Polka Dot jersey.

The breakaway arrived at the bottom of the climb of the Cote De Vix (just 0.7km long at an average of 4%) still with around a one minute advantage.

Offredo looked to have burnt a few too many matches having tried to escape earlier, as he couldn't match the pace of the other two - Ledanois and Cousins.

In the end Ledanois crossed the summit first, closely followed by Cousins, therefore earning himself the polka dot jersey, to wear for at least tomorrow's stage. That was enough for Ledanois to call it a day soon after and he sat up to slip back into the chasing pack.

Inevitably now the remaining two out front - Cousins and Offredo - were now being chased hard by the pack, bearing down on them, although they were still ahead to take the sprint points at 190km, with Cousins taking the maximum, and the pack now at just 20 seconds behind.

Decisive final 10km

When it is so fractious and nervous at the beginning of a Grand Tour crashes are a distinct possibility and with just over 10km to go, the first crash saw the first bunch pile up.

The notable casualty was Arnaud Demare, who was gapped after the crash, leaving a massive task if he were to have any chance to try and rejoin the race and contest the sprint.

With the break now caught, at 6km everything looked to be setting up for a textbook finish. Of the main contenders only Demare was missing after the crash, seemingly not able to make the juncture back to the main field.

At 5km to go Bora-Hansgrohe were the major driving force, looking to set up Sagan.

But more drama was about to unfold, as Chris Froome (Team Sky) seemed to get nudged off the road on the outside of a left hand bend and end up cartwheeling over the barriers.

As the race still had 5km to go, Froome had to give chase in order not to lose time, but inevitably at the sharp end of the day, the pace of the group was so high it was an almost impossible mission.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) too suffered misfortune, picking up a puncture with around 4.5km to go, so he too found himself with a monumental chase.

At 1km to go Cavendish was in good position but was massivley outgunned. Strongman Gaviria, in his debut tour, unleashed a perfect sprint to take the spoils and in doing so becomes the first rider to win on his debut tour stage since 2004. Cavendish eventually finished 36th.

Sagan and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) rounded out the opening podium.

The sprint though was almost overshadowed by the big time gaps behind that could prove critical to the outcome of the overall race.

Froome ended the day a whopping 51 seconds in arrears, in a chase group that also contained Richie Porte (BMC), which is a small blessing for the Sky leader, but it's still not the way he would have wanted to start his race and a nightmare start for the defending champion.

Nairo Quintana's untimely puncture, though, cost him even more and he ended the day even further behind Froome and Porte.

Day one then has produced an unexpectedly dramatic shake up and now there's all to play for in the coming days.