LA ROCHE-SUR-YON, France (AP) — A year after leaving the Tour de France in disgrace, Peter Sagan earned the race’s yellow jersey on Sunday after doing what he does best: Powering past the competition to reach the finish line.
The three-time defending world champion took the overall lead of the Tour on Sunday after he bettered about a dozen other sprinters to win Stage 2.
The Slovakian rider’s ninth career win at the Tour came just over a year since he was disqualified from cycling’s most prestigious event by race officials who ruled he had caused a crash that broke Mark Cavendish’s shoulder.
Sagan, however, said there was no revenge factor in mind, and that just wearing yellow was reason enough to celebrate.
“Revenge? I already forgot about last year,” Sagan said. “I’m just happy I can be in the Tour de France, the biggest race in the world.”
Defending champion Chris Froome, who fell into a ditch near the end of Saturday’s Stage 1, arrived safely with most of the peloton.
Sagan came up short in the opening stage’s sprint when he crossed second behind Fernando Gaviria, who won on his Tour debut. And the second stage looked like it would feature another duel between the veteran Sagan and new star Gaviria.
But Gaviria was involved in a group pileup inside the three-kilometer zone that neutralizes the impact of accidents and could do nothing to stop Sagan from claiming a six-second overall lead.
“We expected some crashes in this tricky final and moved up early,” said Enrico Poitschke, sports director of Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team. “This proved to be important as we were able to avoid the last crash. Everything turned out perfect.”
Sagan moved to the front of the small bunch hunting for position, reaching a speed of 57.6 kph on the final 500 meters on his way to the finish line. With Sonny Colbrelli about to catch him, Sagan thrust forward to ensure victory.
“It was really a hard sprint. It was climbing a little bit in a headwind and already the last five kilometers were up and down. It was a mess,” Sagan said. “I was a bit scared because Sonny was coming back strong.”
Sagan won the mostly flat 182.5-kilometer (113.4-mile) leg from Mouilleron-Saint-Germain to the department capital of La Roche-sur-Yon in 4 hours, 6 minutes, 37 seconds.
Froome is 1:07 behind Sagan’s leading time as he pursues a fifth Tour title. Despite being cleared of doping allegations on Monday, some skeptical fans have jeered the Kenyan-born British rider since his Sky team arrived in France.
Title contenders Vincenzo Nibali, Tom Dumoulin and Romain Bardet are 16 seconds behind Sagan, giving them an early advantage over Froome.
BMC’s Richie Porte is level with Froome with their respective teams looking to do well on the upcoming team time trial.
Two-time runner-up Nairo Quintana is 1:31 back after he lost time following the puncture of both his tires near the end of Stage 1.
After the first stage that hugged the Atlantic coast, the race rolled inland through green pastures, forest groves and yellow wheat fields baked by the summer sun.
Sylvain Chavanel, who is making a record 18th Tour appearances, went on a long breakaway and soaked up the applause from the French fans before being absorbed with 13K left.
Ethiopia’s Tsgabu Grmay became the first rider to abandon the race. His Trek-Segafredo team said he was suffering “intense abdominal pain.” Astana climber Luis Leon Sanchez later called it quits after he fell and bloodied his left arm.
The Tour remains in western France for Stage 3 on Monday with a 35.5-kilometer team time trial that starts and finishes in Cholet.
The three-week Tour ends July 29 in Paris.
AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf contributed.
More Tour de France coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/TourdeFrance
FONTENAY-LE-COMTE, France (Reuters) – It was supposed to be a relatively quiet day for the overall contenders on the Tour de France, but defending champion Chris Froome and other big guns lost significant ground in a nervy finale to Saturday’s opening stage.
The Team Sky rider escaped unhurt from a fall but he is already in a chasing position as his main rival, France’s Romain Bardet, ended the 201-kilometre ride from Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile safe in the main bunch.
Froome went over a safety rail and onto the grass with five kilometers to go and even though he quickly got back on his bike, he could not make it back to the peloton and finished 51 seconds off the pace.
Australian Richie Porte faces a similar deficit after being held up behind a pile-up and it was even worse for twice runner-up Nairo Quintana as the Colombian lost one minute 15 seconds after suffering a puncture 3.5-km from the finish.
“There were a lot of crashes out there today just one of those things,” Froome, who is looking to become the first rider in 20 years to achieve the Giro d’Italia-Tour double, told reporters.
“We always knew the first few days were going to be tricky, sketchy and that’s part of the game unfortunately.
“We were riding in the top third of the peloton, there was not much more the guys could have done it was getting chaotic with the sprinters’ teams, but that’s bike racing.
“I’m just grateful I’m not hurt or injured in any way.”
At least, Froome got a regular welcome from the crowd before the start, unlike on Thursday when he was booed during the team presentation by fans upset he had been cleared of wrongdoing following a positive test for Salbutamol in last year’s Vuelta.
“You hear boos in every football stadium every weekend,” said Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme.
“But of course we are not used to it in cycling. It’s best for everyone, including Froome’s rivals, if the atmosphere is serene.”
Froome will be hoping to get some time back in Monday’s team time trial, where Sky are expected to tame most of their opponents.
His former team mate Porte, who crashed out of the Tour last year, was equally philosophical about his poor start.
“I don’t know what happened,” the BMC rider told reporters. “It’s one of those things, one minute you’re okay and next thing there is a crash in front. It’s the first day of the Tour it’s not ideal but it’s a long race.
“Guys took time today but they could lose time tomorrow.”
According to his AG2R-La Mondiale team manager Vincent Lavenu, Bardet was all smile on the team bus.
“We knew there would be narrow roads and there would be a lot of tension,” said Lavenu. “Romain is happy, he’s got the feeling he got away with it.”
The mood was different in the Movistar camp after Quintana suffered a front wheel puncture when he hit a traffic island.
Had Quintana changed his wheel inside the three-kilometre mark, he would been credited with the same time as stage winner Fernando Gaviria in accordance with the regulations.
“If he could have reached the three-kilometre mark obviously he would have done it,” said team manager Eusebio Unzue.
“Alejandro (Valverde) and Mikel (Landa) are co-leaders so it was out of the question that they would wait for him.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot, editing by Nick Mulvenney)
I adore the Tour de France, but it can be a lot. The world’s most famous cycling competition will begin with 176 riders this year hoping to survive nearly 2,100 miles over the course of 23 days. Stages often start at 5 a.m. and finish around noon, and in that time the action comes in fits and spurts, and you have to rely on the dulcet tones of announcers Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen to keep you occupied.
But I’m not everyone, and I would understand wanting just the good stuff, the straight shots of mayhem, legendary climbs, and history-in-the-making moments that also make the Tour one of the best and most compelling competitions in the world.
And what a Tour we have in store. Chris Froome is as vulnerable as he has ever been since his yellow jersey dominance began in 2013, with his Giro d’Italia win still sitting in his legs from May and a doping scandal looming over him. Romain Bardet of France, Vincenzo Nibali of Italy, Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands, and Nairo Quintana of Colombia lead the favorites capable of stopping Froome from winning the general classification for a fourth straight year.
Then there’s the course itself, an absolute monster that features six mountains stages, three mountain top finishes, and the return of cobblestones and all the chaos they contain.
If you were me, you’d watch every second of it. But you’re not, so let me help you. Below is the all killer, no filler experience: the eight stages you absolutely have to watch if you want to catch the biggest moments of this year’s Tour de France. Allons-y.
The 8 stage you absolutely shouldn’t miss during the 2018 Tour de France
Stage 3 — A team time trial to raise the stakes
Monday, July 9. 35.5 kilometers in Cholet
Yeah, you can skip the opening tipoff of the Tour de France.
There is something special about the buzz of Stage 1, and the winds off the coast of Brittany could wreak havoc early. But the first stage that should have a significant impact on the general classification is Stage 3, when each of the Tour’s 22 teams race against the clock.
There aren’t massive amounts of time to be gained on a 35-kilometer course, mind you, but yellow jersey contenders on weaker teams could wind up in an deficit.
The best part of team time trials is the death pull. Each team has eight riders, but the team’s time is recorded after the fifth rider has crossed the line. That means that late in the course, three riders can take turns sacrificing themselves by riding to the front of the train and pedaling as hard as their massive hearts can stand while their teammates save their energy by drafting behind them. The death pullers then peel off the front at the moment when their legs might actually explode.
Stage 9 — COBBLESTONES
Sunday, July 15. 156.5 kilometers from Citadelle to Roubaix
Cobblestones mean chaos. Have you ever ridden your bike over an unpaved or gravel road? It sucks, right? Well at the end of the longest week of the Tour, what’s left of the peloton will ride over 22 kilometers of pavé, including much of the famed Paris-Roubaix course, cycling’s most famous, and notoriously brutal, one-day Classic.
The last time Chris Froome didn’t win the Tour, it was because he crashed out on the early cobble stage in 2014. This year’s stage features the biggest total distance of cobble sectors of any of the Tour’s last five cobble stages. The types of riders who tend to win grand tours tend to be wispy little baby birds. They are going to hate this.
Whatever happens on Stage 9 will almost certainly be reflected in the final standings come Paris.
Stages 10, 11, and 12 — The Tour goes right to the Alps off a rest day and that’s terribly mean
Tuesday, July 17. 158.5 kilometers from Annecy to Le Grand-Bornand
Wednesday, July 18. 108.5 kilometers from Albertville to La Rosière Espace San Bernardo
Thursday, July 19. 175.5 kilometers from Bourg-Saint-Maurice les Arcs to Alpe d’Huez
I’m lumping these stages together for two reasons: 1) They are all hard and potentially Tour-defining, and 2) They are all lined up after the first rest day, which is particularly cruel.
From a physiological standpoint, the second week may be the hardest of the three-week Tour. Riding a bike as fast as you can for hundreds of miles on successive days is a shock to the body, and after the first week, Tour riders are in a state of near-trauma — they’re losing muscle mass, they can’t possibly put back in all the nutrients and calories they lose, their immune systems tank, and so their bodies quite literally fight back against them. It is common for many riders to abandon the Tour due to illness on the first rest day.
So imagine feeling like absolute shit — perhaps the worst you have ever felt in your life — then being told you have to climb this:
Followed by this:
Followed by this:
On back-to-back-to-back days.
I can’t tell you which of these three stage will be the most decisive. Any or none of them could swing the yellow jersey competition. And all of them are special in their own ways.
Stage 10 features a devilish new climb — Montée du Plateau des Glières — that averages an 11.2 percent gradient for six kilometers, and gets as steep as 20 percent. The cherry on top is the gravel road to greet riders at the summit.
Stage 11 is a shotgun blast — at 108.5 kilometers, it’s the second shortest stage of the Tour — with scarcely any flat road, which means that riders will have to be on constant watch for attacks from the outset.
Stage 12 completes the triumvirate with three of the Tour’s most iconic climbs: the Col de la Madeleine, Col de las Croix de Fer, and, of course, Alpe d’Huez for a :chef’s kiss: finish. Among the giants, however, is my favorite climb of the Tour, the Lacets de Montvernier. Lacets translates roughly to shoelaces, which makes sense once you take one look at the climb.
These three days are going to be as gorgeous as they are mean.
Stage 17 — A cannonball stage with an F1 start
Wednesday, July 25. 65 kilometers from Bagnères-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan
I called Stage 11 a “shotgun blast,” which fits. Most other years, it would have been the shortest stage of the Tour. This year, however, organizers decided to do something supremely weird.
Stage 17 is not only the shortest stage of this year’s Tour de France at 65 kilometers, it’s the shortest non-time trial stage in 30 years. Which, mind you, doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Riders will be in a constant state of ascending or descending, and given that it should be one of the last few decisive days of the Tour, expect a popcorn-worthy stage, complete with brave and/or foolish solo attempts towards the final mountain top finish at the highest point of the race.
And because somehow all that’s not enough, riders will be starting the stage in an F1-style grid, in which the yellow jersey will be given pole position at the front of a staggered start based on each rider’s ranking in the general classification.
It’s hard to tell what effect the grid will have on the racing. Will leaders wait for their teammates to catch up behind them so that they don’t have to tackle the opening climb alone? Will it favor the stronger teams that may have several riders among the top 20? Or will it favor the solo artists who won’t have to bother fighting through a pesky peloton to make their inevitable move? Isn’t this kind of stupid and potentially ruinous for sprinters who need all the help they can get not to miss the disqualification time?
Nobody knows! Cycling is big and stupid and wonderful, but above all stupid.
Stage 19 — The Queen Stage?
Friday, July 27. 200.5 kilometers from Lourdes to Laruns
The Queen Stage refers to the most demanding, and potentially decisive stage of the Tour, and at 200.5 kilometers with two Hors Catégorie climbs, it’s hard argue that Stage 19 doesn’t have bona fides. But I’ll be honest, I just got really excited writing about all of the compact fun of the last four stages, and I don’t know if Stage 19 can live up to that hype.
That said, get a load of this.
Stage 19 is an old school monster, with the long and steep and potentially llama-infested Col du Tourmalet smack dab in the middle. Col d’Aspin and Col d’Aubisque are nasty in their own right, and a descent finish could ensure a thrilling conclusion to the Tour’s last day of climbing.
With riders like Froome and Tom Dumoulin likely to take full advantage of the individual time trial the next day, expect the pure climbers — Bardet, Nairo Quintana, and the like — to go for broke to try to secure the yellow jersey with a healthy cushion.
Stage 20 — A time trial and a coronation
Saturday, July 28. Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle to Espelette
Yes there’s still one stage after this, but the champagne-sipping ride to Paris is for sentimentalists only. The yellow jersey competition of the Tour de France effectively ends on the last Saturday, and it should be decisive with gobs of time available in the time trial.
If Chris Froome is in the lead heading into the stage, it will be near impossible to rip the yellow jersey off of him. Last year, he finished fourth in the Stage 20 time trial, six seconds off the lead and well ahead of any general classification challengers, to win the Tour de France. If he is to be dethroned, he will have to have suffered in the mountains and be needing precious seconds back.
The good news for those challengers is that at 31 kilometers, this year’s time trial is very short, and an up-and-down parcours capped by a steep 900-meter climb near the finish should give the pure climbers a boost. (If you haven’t noticed, the French course designers may really want Bardet to win).
These solo final exams, after three very long weeks, are always compelling to watch. After thousands of miles of agony, the Tour comes down to a bunch skinny dudes, their bikes, and nothing else in their way except the will to push their screaming legs just a few more meters.
And then, mercifully, it ends.
Consider these the B-sides.
Stage 1, Saturday, July 7 — It’s the first stage, which is exciting! And though it’s flat, it takes place along the coast of Brittany, which means there’s a chance of crosswinds that could split up the peloton and make this day more decisive than anyone anticipated.
Stage 5, Wednesday, July 11 — A bumpy, Classics-style stage that, though it shouldn’t affect the yellow jersey standings much, should be pretty fun to watch in its own right. Lots of short climbs mean almost anyone has a chance to win.
Stage 6, Thursday, July 12 — Another Classics-style stage! And this one could actually be important to the final results. Riders will climb the famous Mûr de Bretagne twice at the end of the stage, a short but definitively no-fun climb that tends to sucker punch a few GC contenders whenever it is featured in the Tour. Plus, lots of Bretons will be out in full force.
Stage 14, Saturday, July 21 — Yep, another fun profile, but a stage that may or may not actually affect the yellow jersey. The Category 2 climb to the finish is no joke though — three kilometers at 10.2 (!) percent.
Stage 15, Sunday, July 22 — Climbier than Stage 14, but a long descent before the finish probably ensures that no one with GC aspirations is able to take much time. It should be a great day for a breakaway to go the distance, however, especially coming just before the second rest day.
Stage 16, Tuesday, July 24 — Two big climbs within the last 50ish kilometers make this a good stage to flip on late. Before that, though, is about 160 kilometers of … not much. There is an extant chance that a yellow jersey contender makes a move, but given what’s to come on Stage 17, most riders may opt to save their spray.
Stage 21, Sunday, July 29 — That’s it! It’s all over! Wake up early and drink champagne with the victor, enjoy the sights along the Champs-Élysées, work up a sweat during the 30 seconds at the end when the racing is actually interesting, then slip into a long, deep, and peaceful Sunday nap. You’ve earned it.
Riders on the EF Education First–Drapac p/b Cannondale team, like everyone else in the cycling world, are eager to get the 105th Tour de France underway on Saturday.Daniel McMahon/Business Insider
LES HERBIERS, France — Though the Tour de France starts Saturday with an opening flat stage suited to the sprinters, many cycling insiders are already talking about the day that could help decide the race, or at least meaningfully influence its outcome: the stage-three team time trial of 35.5 kilometers/22 miles around Cholet.
Unlike on typical days at the Tour — as on Saturday when the 176 riders will take the start en masse — the TTT is a unique discipline that pits team against team to see which is the strongest. Each of the 22 squads’ eight riders will race together in concert to try to set the fastest time over the course and position their general-classification leader strategically for the coming two and a half weeks of racing.
Britain’s Team Sky is expected to win the day, with the US-registered BMC squad of Australian Richie Porte another top candidate for glory. If Sky wins, its leader, Chris Froome, the embattled defending Tour champion, could put massive time into his rivals after just three of 21 stages — possibly a minute or two. That’d be a tough pill to swallow for his competitors, but as they like to say in racing, anything can happen.
Other teams will look to simply limit their losses and hope to stay within striking distance of the leader. Among them is another US-registered team, the EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale outfit that counts Colorado and Texas natives Taylor Phinney and Lawson Craddock among its fast men. Both are strong time-trial riders, and along with their other teammates they’ll be aiming to deliver their leader and last year’s race runner-up, Rigoberto Urán, quickly and safely to the line.
EF-Drapac has no illusions of winning the TTT, but with a great ride it could finish in the top five and, more important, keep “Rigo” close to Froome on GC.
Business Insider got the opportunity to see the team in action as it reconned the TTT course on Thursday, two days before the Tour’s start. Here’s what we saw:
More Americans than last year will race in the 2018 Tour de France. Of course, only three competed in 2017, and only five will take the starting line in Noirmoutier on Saturday. That said, while the US still seems to be stuck in a Tour-participation dry spell, we do have two debutants this year – and all five American riders are under 30. Here’s a look at who they are and how they might fare:
More than 175 riders from 22 teams have made their way to Europe’s Atlantic coast for the start of the 105th edition of the Tour de France. The race starts Saturday with a 201K ride from Noirmoutier to Fontenay le Comte, where the first yellow jersey will go to the day’s fastest rider. With 21 stages and plenty of records up for grabs, there’s no shortage of riders to watch in this year’s Tour. Here’s a look at 13 of the most interesting: