It was a fast and chaotic beginning for the 105th Tour de France on Saturday, but Team KATUSHA ALPECIN’s Marcel Kittel stayed the course and produced a strong third place in a group sprint.
“It was a super hard sprint today, but the good thing is it played out just like we expected it to. I think this is a good result – we came to win but I think we are still able to win, so this was a good situation for today,” said Marcel Kittel. QuickStep’s Fernando Gaviria earned top honors and the first yellow jersey with world champion Peter Sagen (BORA – hansgrohe) in second place. The front group was all on the same winning time of 4:23:32 (45.76 km/h).
The long 201k opening stage began in Noirmoutier-en-l'Île and ended in a group sprint in Fontenay-le-Comte. On paper it looked simple enough, but narrow roads and a nervous peloton brought about a number of crashes and a split in the group, making for a difficult first stage of le Tour.
Kittel, however, read the race correctly and looks forward to more chances for a win.
“I gambled in the end. I knew I needed to come late on this uphill finish but I was just a little bit too late. The power is there and that’s the most important thing. The speed is here. I have it in my legs to get a win in the next few stages,” said Marcel Kittel.
The next chance comes tomorrow in stage two. At 182.5k, the stage begins in Mouilleron-Saint-Germain and ends most likely in a sprint in La Roche-sur-Yon.
Team KATUSHA ALPECIN's leader Ilnur Zakarin finished in the main group while some of his competitors lost time, due to crashes or flat tire. Froome, Yates, and Porte 51 lost seconds to Zakarin; Quintana and Bernal 1.15.
Photos © Tim De Waele/Gettysport