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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, July 7, 2019

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties. - John Milton

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Tour de France stage one team reports

We'll start with the report from stage winner Mike Teunissen's Jumbo-Visma

Mike Teunissen has taken a surprise win in the first stage of the Tour de France. In Brussels, the Dutchman just kept ahead of Peter Sagan. As a result, he became the first Dutch rider to wear the yellow jersey since Erik Breukink thirty years ago.

Mike Teunessen

Mike Teunissen in yellow. The gent with the stuffed lion, Eddy Merckx, was a pretty good racer in his day.

Teunissen was supposed to lead-out Dylan Groenewegen but Groenewegen crashed and he seized the opportunity. The Dutch rider was brought into position in the last kilometre by Wout van Aert.

For Teunissen, it is his fifth victory of the season. It is the thirty-sixth victory for Team Jumbo-Visma.

The stage from and to Brussels went according to plan for the formation of manager Richard Plugge. The stage was controlled by George Bennett in particular. In the final two kilometres, the team had to change plans quickly after Dylan’s crash had disrupted the original plan. Groenewegen, however, still finished the stage, suffering some superficial abrasions.

“This is truly bizarre. Unreal”, Teunissen said. “It’s all very special. We worked hard for months to do a sprint with Dylan here. After his crash, we switched plans very quickly. The riders in front of me were struggling to keep their pace and I could only just outsprint Sagan. The fact that I win a stage by beating these guys in the Tour is amazing. This is what you dream of as a little boy. Now it has happened, it has become reality ... I can’t find the words for it.”

Manager Richard Plugg concurred with Teunissen. “For the first time in history we have the yellow jersey in the team and it’s the first Dutch yellow jersey in thirty years: that is really fantastic. It is an incredible season for us.”

Second-place Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

The biggest race of the year had finally arrived, and in honour of Belgium hosting Le Grand Départ, there was a Classics feel to the race’s opener, with cobblestones and short steep climbs on the parcours. The first road stage of the 106th Tour de France would follow a circuit out of the Belgian capital and back again, following an anti-clockwise 194.5km route that covered two categorized climbs early on, before heading over rolling hills to the finish for the predicted bunch sprint.

The first day of La Grande Boucle is always a frenetic and tense affair, with the racing full-on from the very start, and the entire peloton wanted the bragging rights that being first into the breakaway would bring, and four riders made their move straight away. Quickly building up a lead, this quartet hit 3:20 at their peak. With some Belgian representation in the break, the escapees tackled the Mur de Grammont with ease, in spite of its 13% maximum gradient, but it was once the climbs were out of the way that the peloton ramped up the pace, with BORA-hansgrohe taking to the front and reducing the advantage, knowing that there would be some valuable points available at the intermediate sprint. Closing the gap to less than two minutes before making the catch with 71km – just before the sprint point.

Outpacing everyone, Peter Sagan took the sprint and the points in his quest for his seventh Maillot Vert. There was still a long way to go before the finish though and a second break was quick to take advantage of this distance, a solo attack going ahead with 55km to go, but the sprint teams weren’t going to be denied the glory on stage 1, slowly reducing this lead as the kilometers ticked by, but this didn’t stop them trying their hardest to stay out in front.

As the race dipped below 10km to go for the first time, the peloton was just metres behind, with it all back together shortly after. From here it was all business for the sprinters, with huge crowds lining the winding streets of Brussels to see who would wear the first Maillot Jaune of 2019. The German powerhouse, Marcus Burghardt, ramped up the pace for Peter Sagan who, in third wheel in the uphill drag to the finish, kicked late, holding his rivals at bay to the last centimeters. The Slovak rider was cruelly denied the win by a tire's width, but even second position showed that he was in good form for the coming three weeks of racing.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan looks over at Mike Teunissen just after finishing the sprint. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line:
"As always, the first stage of the Tour de France is hectic. There was an early break of four riders and our guys worked to keep them under control. In a critical point a few km before the intermediate sprint, BORA-hansgrohe put the hammer down as we entered the pavé section, split the peloton and caught the break, giving me the opportunity to take the full 20 points there. We then kept a strong pace with the final kilometers being nervous with some crashes in the group. I was well positioned for the bunch sprint and in good form. It was a bit unusual as it seemed 300m to the finish everybody was stopped. I accelerated, gave my best but was edged out in a photo finish, by a few centimeters. That's part of the race and the sprints, you can win or lose by a very small margin. The Tour de France has just started, we have three long weeks ahead of us and we will fight in every stage." – Peter Sagan

"I could say the team did a perfect job today, throughout the day. We were always in a very good position when it mattered and avoided all the dangerous moments of the race. We also saw that the team, and especially Peter, were very strong today. In the end, stage victory slipped by just a few centimeters but these things happen. We look forward to the rest of the Tour de France and I'm convinced we are strong enough to win a stage in the next days.  Unfortunately, Emanuel Buchmann had a crash but luckily it appears he only suffered a few scratches. The team doctor will check him but I think we have nothing to worry about." – Enrico Poitschke, Sports Director 

First King of the Mountains Greg Van Avermaet's CCC Team sent me this:

06 July, 2019, Brussels (BEL): Greg Van Avermaet’s Tour de France opened with a trip to the podium with the Belgian animating the first stage of the Tour de France with an attack in the opening kilometers that saw him claim the King of the Mountains jersey on home soil.

Greg Van AVermaet

Greg Van Avermaet puts on the King of the Mountains' poka-dot jersey. Sirotti photo

Van Avermaet, who had the unique honor of being the most recent Belgian to wear the Maillot Jaune at the Grand Depart in Brussels, had his sights set on the first polka dot jersey of the race and attacked as soon as the flag dropped at the start of the 194.5-kilometer stage.

In somewhat of a surprise, the peloton allowed Van Avermaet and three riders (Bernae - COF, Meurisse (WGG), Würtz Schmidt (TKA) to quickly gain a three-minute advantage to all but ensure the King of the Mountains jersey would be won by one of the quartet, with both climbs, the Mur de Grammont and the Bosberg, coming in the first 50 kilometers.

The quartet’s advantage settled at three minutes, twenty seconds as they reached the Mur, the 1.7-kilometer climb with an average gradient of 7.8 percent, that Van Avermaet has tackled on countless occasions.

Berhane attacked at the foot of the climb but Van Avermaet’s familiarity on the cobbles saw the Classics specialist overtake him and power ahead to claim the KOM sprint in front of an enormous crowd on the Mur, this time in July instead of spring.

Meurisse was second to Van Avermaet on the Mur and with Bernae and Würtz Schmidt dropped, they reached the Bosgerg ahead, where Meurisse took the honors and Van Avermaet crossed the line in second place, to secure the polka dot jersey.

With his first goal of the Tour de France achieved, Van Avermaet dropped back to the peloton where things settled with 140 kilometers of racing still to come.

Apart from a moment of chaos when splits in the bunch formed and the breakaway was caught approaching the intermediate sprint, where Van Avermaet sprinted to third place, the race restarted with Stéphane Rossetto (COF) attacking solo in the final 50 kilometers.

The sprinters’ teams took control of the chase and slowly brought Rossetto’s advantage back to eventually catch him with 10km to go, to set the stage for the bunch sprint, won by Mike Teunissen (Jumbo Visma).

Van Avermaet crossed the line in the peloton to secure the polka dot jersey on CCC Team’s first day at the Tour de France, as the first Polish WorldTour team in the history of the race.

Greg Van Avermaet:
"I was very motivated to do something on my home soil. It’s probably the only time in my career when the Tour de France includes the Mur, which is close to my home and it’s always special when you get to race in front of your home fans, friends, and family. The Mur itself was very nice, with a lot of people and a great atmosphere but, you still have to go first over the top. It was not as easy as it may have seemed on the TV. Meurisse is a strong rider and I was worried about him. I’m happy that I was able to take the first KOM and get the jersey for at least the next two days. It was good to have a plan and I knew that if I pass the Mur first it will be enough to secure the jersey after the stage and I was focused on that. To be honest, that caused a little bit of stress for me at the start but, everything went well and tomorrow some people may be surprised to see me in a jersey like this.

It’s always good to start the Tour with something. A stage win is nice, but the jersey is also special. My goal was to do something in Belgium. I got the jersey which I will try to keep for a few days and then focus on stage wins. We are very motivated for tomorrow’s team time trial and even though it’s not the same team as in the past, I still believe that we have a strong group of riders who specialize in TTT. Winning may be impossible, because of the level of other teams in this race, but finishing in the top five would be a very good result for CCC Team."

Fabio Baldato, Sports Director:
"That was the plan, to go for the polka dot jersey. We wanted to have something from the beginning, especially in Belgium, where Greg wanted to showcase himself in front of his home fans. He was one of the first ones to attack and fortunately, that move went clear. We are aware that we won’t be able to keep the jersey until the end but it was our way of showing everyone that we are here and ready. We also wanted to give Greg the opportunity to ride aggressively on his home soil. He is a Belgian and an Olympic champion so, it was a special moment for him and for us. It’s a very nice Grand Depart for CCC Team.

“Was I surprised that other teams let him go clear? Yes, and no. It was only a four-man group and if it was a bigger one, then probably the opening kilometers would have played out in a different way. It was a sprinters’ stage and some other guys wanted to save energy for tomorrow’s team time trial, which is important for the GC teams."

Team Ineos had this report about Geraint Thomas' crash:

Geraint Thomas was able to remount and finish the opening stage of the Tour de France following a late crash on the run into Brussels.

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas is OK after crashing. Sirotti photo

The Welshman was edged into the barriers in the final metres, flipping over his handlebars as a large pileup held up the peloton. Thomas quickly got up to cross the line, with Egan Bernal also finishing the stage after being forced to stop behind his team-mate.

Team INEOS had been well placed throughout the day, setting up behind the motivated sprint teams in the peloton and ushering the duo of Thomas and Bernal into the final three kilometres – ensuring the pair will not lose time despite the crash.

The team were also alert as the peloton split into three groups briefly following a cobbled section.

Despite his sprint leader Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) among those to go down in the crash, it was Mike Teunissen who prevailed at the finish, edging out Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) to win the stage and pull on the first yellow jersey of the race.

Geraint Thomas:
"I’m fine. It was pretty slow by the time I hit them. I gave myself enough space and avoided the actual crash but with the barriers there was nowhere to go. It’s just one of those things. The main thing is that it didn’t do any damage – the bike took the hit and I just toppled over.

"It was good to get back in the groove with the boys. We were riding really well together, always at the front. Communication was good and we started on the front foot. We’ll try to continue that now. This first week is all about just getting through.

"It’s a big day tomorrow – the team time trial. Hopefully we can all rest up well tonight and give it a good go tomorrow. We’ll go 100% to try and win the stage but there’s a lot of other good teams."

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