The opening stage of the Tour de France was a wild one. The feared crosswinds of northern France did not split up the race and produce time gaps between general classification contenders like they did last year. Heavy winds can make it impossible for riders that come unmoored from the peloton to fight their way back up, and they can produce serious time gaps. During last year’s first road stage, heavy winds shredded the peloton and took the eventual second-place finisher, Nairo Quintana, out of the race (he finished the Tour 1:12 behind the overall winner, and he lost 1:26 to the crosswinds). Today’s chaos was of a different sort.
With about 79 kilometers to go, the peloton accelerated to go catch the remnants of the day’s breakaway. While making a slight right hand turn towards an elevated roundabout, Alberto Contador slipped out and slammed into the curb, taking out American rider Brent Bookwalter. Contador is one of the main favorites to win the race overall, and his high-speed fall recalled his race-ending crash two years ago.
Another angle of the crash:
Both Contador and Bookwalter finished the stage with superficial injuries, although Contador’s shoulder appeared pretty torn up.
At the finish, there was another crash, when Katusha’s Michael Mørkøv got clipped by a barrier foot and spun to the deck at high speed. Mørkøv has no broken bones but said it is impossible to walk (also his bike got chewed up). Dimension Data’s Mark Cavendish won the sprint by a bike length, earning his first yellow jersey and the first yellow jersey for an African-registered team in modern Tour de France history.
Here’s a better angle of Cav’s win:
Tomorrow’s stage ends with a Category 3 climb, so Cavendish will most likely not hold onto the yellow jersey for long, even if the climb doesn’t look like it will induce large time gaps between general classification contenders.