Tour stage 1: Kittel takes yellow as Cav crashes out

From Jens Voigt taking the polka dot jersey to Fabian Cancellara trying to sprint his way to victory in the final kilometre, the first stage of this year’s Tour was full of surprises. Not least that the Duchess of Cambridge didn’t award the yellow jersey to Mark Cavendish but to Marcel Kittel, the big German with hair like Vanilla Ice. 

TdF 2014 St 1 profile

Crazy sprints

Some gruelling climbs gave the peloton a day of hard racing but once they went under the 10km banner, it was fast and furious with sprint trains from Lotto-Belisol, Giant-Shimano, Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Cannondale all vying for position. It was a bit of a stalemate until the Lotto boys moved from one side of the road to another at the 5km mark, which gave Tony Martin the opportunity to put in a huge pull to get the OPQS train on the tracks.

But then, in the last kilometre with a nasty incline, who should make a surprise bid for sprint glory but Fabian Cancellara (Trek). The surprise of Spartacus’s attack and the bite of the climb meant that he got a small but tantalising gap but no amount of me screaming at the top of my lungs was going to keep the sprint trains from scooping him up. Just as all the big sprinters were going at full tilt for the line, Mark Cavendish (OPQS) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) became entangled and both went down hard, miraculously not bringing down the entire peloton.

Left in front were Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) and Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) vying for the stage victory – but Kittel proved too strong and took the first stage and yellow jersey for the second year running.

After picking himself up and riding over the finish to thunderous cheers, Cavendish went to hospital for x-rays – no broken bones but a dislocated shoulder. Whether he continues on this year’s Tour will be determined by the amount of ligament damage that he has suffered but, without further detail from OPQS themselves, Chris Boardman’s expert view was that it’s unlikely we’ll see the Manxman again.

Gerrans, who did not go to hospital, is reported as just bruised and road-rashed (a miracle considered how hard he went down on his head) and is confident of being at the start for tomorrow’s stage.

Cavendish Stage 1 2014 Tour

The côtes of Yorkshire

A few big-name riders seemed to have been taken by surprise by the difficulty of the climbs in this first stage. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) was one who seemed to continually make his way to the back of the peloton when the road went up, while Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida) seemed to spend a lot of time drafting behind his team car. Tomorrow is not going to be any easier with its nine categorised climbs so it’ll be interesting to see if today took more of a toll on riders than anticipated.

And the biggest surprise of all? The ratio of stupid naked men running alongside the riders to normal people who didn’t attempt to interfere with the race was significantly smaller than usual. I saw one guy in tidy whites and arm warmers(!) but none of the mankini swarms of high mountain stages. Long may that trend continue …

VeloVoices rider of the day

Jens KOM jersey Stage 1 Tour 2014

Has to be Trek’s Jens Voigt, really, doesn’t it? Once he’d had a word with the Cambridges and the spare at Harewood House, he jumped off the front of the peloton as soon as the flag was waved.

That’s no surprise, but his dedication to winning the first King of the Mountains jersey certainly was. His breakmates were Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and Benoit Jarrier (Bretagne-Seche) and it seemed that after Edet took the single point on the first categorised climb, Jens just became infuriated. He took off on his own at the intermediate sprint and never looked back, making sure that his last Tour wasn’t going to be a gentle royal walkabout but a race filled with passion and guts.

Stage 1 result

1. Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) 4:44:07

2. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) same time

3. Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) s/t

4. Bryan Coquard (Europcar) s/t

5. Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) s/t

General classification

1. Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) 4:44:07

2. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) same time

3. Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) s/t

4. Bryan Coquard (Europcar) s/t

5. Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) s/t

6. Chris Froome (Sky) s/t

7. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) s/t

8. Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) s/t

9. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) s/t

10. Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t

Points leader: Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano).

King of the Mountains leader: Jens Voigt (Trek).

Best young rider: Peter Sagan (Cannondale).

Team classification: Sky.

Links: Official website, cyclingnews.com

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