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Tour de France 2019: Jumbo-Visma's Mike Teunissen pips Sagan to win Stage 1

Pete Muir
6 Jul 2019

The first yellow jersey goes to the surprise Dutch winner

Jumbo-Visma’s Mike Teunissen won Stage 1 of the 2019 Tour de France to take the first yellow jersey of the race.

While his teammate Dylan Groenewegen was caught up in a crash in the final few kilometres, Teunissen managed to out-sprint Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) by a tyre-width to take the stage.

Sagan took second place (and will wear his favourite green jersey as a result of Teunissen being in yellow), followed by Caleb Ewan of Lotto-Soudal.

On a mostly flat stage from Brussels to Brussels, there was little to challenge the GC contenders, all of whom made it safely across the line in the bunch.

Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang was suffering from injuries caused by a crash earlier in the race, but still claimed the same time as his main rivals.

The polka-dot jersey went to CCC’s Greg Van Avermaet, who led over the stage’s early ascent of the Muur van Geraardsbergen.

After the stage, Teunissen said, 'You dream about these things, but it will take a few days before it becomes real.'

 

The story of the stage

The start of the 2019 Tour de France was all about honouring the greatest cyclist the world has ever known, and the country that spawned him.

It has been 50 years since Belgian legend Eddy Merckx won his first Tour de France with a display of cycling so dominant that he finished 17min 54sec ahead of the second-placed rider and collected the full spectrum of jerseys on offer: yellow, green, polka-dot and combination.

As such, Stage 1 of the 2019 Tour was a 194.5km loop starting and finishing in the Belgian capital and carefully connecting the Flanders region in the north with the Wallonia region in the south. It also passed through the Woluwe neighbourhood of southeast Brussels where Merckx was raised as a child.

As the peloton cruised through the streets of Brussels in the neutralised section before the official start, Merckx was at the head of affairs in the commissaire’s car, standing up through the sunroof and waving to the crowds.

With the only real climbs coming 140km from the finish, the day was always going to be one for the sprinters. And with a yellow jersey at stake, this was sure to be a hard fought contest.

Favourite for the win was Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma), although he would have stiff competition from the likes of Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates), Michael Matthews (Sunweb) and André Greipel (Arkéa-Samsic)

Missing from the list of sprinters was Mark Cavendish, who was surprisingly left off the Tour team by Dimension Data. Also missing was Marcel Kittel, who had recently parted ways with Katusha, and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Emirates), who won the opening sprint stage last year.

From the wave of the flag, a break of four took off up the road, including Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet (CCC), who plainly wanted to give the Belgian fans a treat on the first day of the Tour. The other riders with him were Natnael Berhane (Cofidis), Mads Würtz Schmidt (Katusha-Alpecin) and Xandro Meurisse (Wanty-Groupe Gobert).

The peloton was happy to watch them go, and within 10km the break had established a gap of over two minutes, rising to 3min 30sec after 20km, at which point the peloton decided the gap was big enough. Led by Deceuninck-QuickStep and Jumbo-Visma, the pack started to control the race and hold the break at around three minutes.

With 152km still to go, the biggest climb of the day arrived – the famous Muur van Geraardsbergen (or Mur de Gramont, as the French know it). Its inclusion in the route was designed to celebrate the history of Belgium’s most revered race, the Tour of Flanders.

As the locals’ favourite, Van Avermaet wasn’t about to disappoint, and he surged to the front on the category 3 climb to take maximum points at the summit.

Following the Muur was the Bosberg, another classic from the Tour of Flanders, which saw Meurisse summit first, followed closely by Van Avermaet.

With that, Van Avermaet put himself into the first polka-dot jersey of the race and, job done, he dropped back to rejoin the main peloton.

The remaining three breakaway riders continued to push on through the Belgian countryside, with the peloton holding them at around two minutes.

With around 75km to go, the route headed across a long section of cobbles – another nod to the history of Belgian bike racing – which had the effect of whittling away the break’s gap to under 20 seconds and causing splits in the main pack.

In time for the intermediate sprint at 69km to go, the break was swallowed by the chasing peloton. At the sprint, Bora’s Peter Sagan took the maximum points at a canter to begin his green jersey campaign. 

After that, things calmed down a bit, although Deceuninck-QuickStep were obliged to control the speed of the pack to allow their main sprinter, Viviani, to get back after a brace of mechanicals.

With 60km to go, Cofidis’s Stéphane Rossetto pressed ahead of the peloton, and gained about a minute on the pack. This had the effect of sending Ineos to the front, to control the pace.

While the British team had no intention of contesting the stage, it was keen to keep its GC hopefuls out of trouble in the event of a crash in the pack.

Even without Chris Froome, Ineos is still home to the two main favourites for the overall – last year’s winner, Geraint Thomas, and 22-year-old prodigy Egan Bernal – so the team were keen to prevent any foul-ups in the early stages.

By the time the peloton hit the 20km-to-go mark, and with Rossetto still a minute up the road, the sprinters’ teams started to get themselves organised at the front of the pack.

As the pace picked up, a small crash towards the rear of the peloton resulted in one of the GC favourites, Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang, hitting the deck and having to race his way back with blood running down his face and arm.

With around 10km to go, Rossetto was mopped up by the front of the pack, while Fuglsang made it back onto the rear.

On the run-in to Brussels, the wide roads allowed the teams to line up, with each lead out train working shoulder-to-shoulder against their rivals. A series of 90° turns helped to stretch things out a bit, and as the road narrowed towards the final two kilometres, it was Deceuninck-QuickStep leading the pack.

With 1.5km to go a crash took out Groenewegen, although most of the other sprint favourites stayed upright.

Michael Matthews led out the sprint, closely followed by Sagan, Ewan and Viviani. As the line approached, Jumbo-Visma’s Mike Teunissen came out of nowhere and managed to pip Sagan to the line.

In the end, despite losing its star sprinter in a crash, the Dutch team still managed to scoop the first yellow jersey of the 2019 Tour.