As Alberto Contador so succinctly put it upon finishing Stage 1 – his jersey a little worse for wear – “The Tour is the Tour”.
The Tour de France made quite a statement by choosing not to run the typical Prologue time trial as the Grand Depart. Instead, they opted for a Sprint stage as the first finish of the 2013 edition on the beachfront of the Corsican roads. Think about that for a second. 198 riders have relatively equal opportunity (as equal as they’d ever have anyway) to pull on the golden fleece. Fabian Cancellara opted out of this Tour for that very reason. He owns 5 prologue TT wins which garnered him yellow. This year, no.
There were a few whispers that the Tour was doing something regrettable. There was talk of a mistake. The risks the riders would take, both in breakaways and in the final sprint would result in catastrophe. And, barring Chris Froome’s awkward curb hit and light crash in the first 1km, it appeared they were wrong.
The stage was like any other, a small break which Flecha (VAC) and Boom (BEL) used to sprint for intermediate points with Boom coming away with the Lion’s share. Juan Jose Lobato (EUS) gained the mountain points for the polka dot jersey, likely just to keep them in his teams hands and protect Igor Anton’s grand ambition. There was a small crash which saw Ryder Hesjedal hit the ground, but all told the boo birds were far too nervous and their predictions of trouble seemed overly paranoid… until the Orica GreenEdge bus crashed into the finishing arch.
Apparently, Orica has a big bus. Somewhere between accusations of not getting the go ahead from the staff and organizers to proceed, and the bus driver misinterpreting hand signals, we had our first Orica GreenWedge. The peloton was quickly approaching with just 13km remaining and the bus was stealing the spotlight. Fans were evacuated, tires were bled, #fiasco was the most trending term on twitter (ok I made that up), but disaster was descending upon the Tour. In a last ditch effort to not neutralize the finish, race radio made a quick decision to change the finish to the 3km mark, conveniently 10m after a roundabout. The peloton surged as they entered the final 5km….er, 2km. See what that does? Everything went into madness as Cannondale hammered on the front for Peter Sagan. Then, suddenly, no bus problem. The bus was out, and race radio decided that finish they chose was in retrospect, a very bad one. So, they announced the finish was back to the original. Seriously? right? Some riders slowed, others like Greipel, not so much and seconds later about 30 riders hit the ground in a massive crash.
Tony Martin was taken to hospital. Alberto Contador was banged up but ok. Peter Sagan lost half his jersey with road rash, Greipel lost a derailleur and Cav was stopped up. The peloton was split into chaos and Marcel Kittel, who would’ve been up there anyway outsprinted Alexandre Kristoff for the win and yellow, green and white jerseys. All times were neutralized to the winning time.
“The Tour is the Tour” Stage 1
1. Marcel Kittel (ARG)
2. Alexandre Kristoff (KAT)
3. Danny VanPoppel (VAC)
4. David Millar (GRM)
5. Matteo Trentin (OPQ)