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Tour de France

Danny van Poppel animates an opening stage marred by crashes

The 108th Tour de France started this Saturday from Brest, in Brittany, for an inaugural stage of 197 kilometers towards the Côte de la Fosse-aux-Loups (3.2 km at 5.4%), the uphill finished supposed to designate the first yellow jersey of this Grande Boucle.

In addition to the final climb, which awarded 2 points for the mountain classification, five other climbs were listed, awarding a total of 8 points for the polka dot jersey. From the start, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert made their intentions clear to join the breakaway of the day, with Belgians Jan Bakelants, Loïc Vliegen and German Georg Zimmermann taking part in the first attacks.

But it was the Dutchman Danny van Poppel who made the decisive move, distancing himself from the peloton after about fifteen kilometers. The son of Jean-Paul van Poppel, green jersey of the Tour de France 1987, allowed the team led by Hilaire Van der Schueren and Steven De Neef to be at the front of the race for this opening stage of the Tour of France.

Accompanied by five other riders, van Poppel joined in the fight for the polka dot jersey, winning the second GPM at the top of the Côte de Rosnoën (3 km at 3.9%). His breakaway at the front lasted 100 kilometers, until the fourth GPM of Stang ar Garront, where Ide Schelling (Bora) decided to escape alone from the leading group.

The last 70 kilometers of the stage seemed to favor a fully controlled pursuit of the lone fighter, until a first massive crash caused by a spectator 45 kilometers from the finish forced almost the entire peloton to stop. Although no member of the team was involved in this incident, five Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert riders were struck by bad luck six kilometers from the finish, during a second massive crash.

This incident decimated the team’s chances of claiming the leading roles in this stage, and only Boy van Poppel tackled the final climb of the Fausse aux Loups, 3 kilometers long, in a peloton of about 30 men. World champion Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck) attacked in the last kilometer to win the stage and grab the first yellow jersey of the Tour. Fortunately, despite the incidents, all the riders of the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team were able to rally Landerneau.

Five of the team's riders were involved in the crash six kilometers from the finish. We were especially worried about Georg Zimmermann and Lorenzo Rota, who crashed hard at 70 km/h. Hit around the ribs area, Lorenzo luckily has no fractures, only bruises. After a shower and the first treatments, he is much better. Georg has several wounds, on his elbow, back and wrist. But for him too, the consequences are not heavy. All the riders are motivated to keep fighting and will start again tomorrow.

It was very difficult to get into the breakaway, but we fought and finally got there. I wanted to fight for the polka dot jersey because I was keen to give it to the team today. But I probably showed too much in the second GPM that I was the fastest in the group. Then they tried to dropped me in the third GPM, and the breakaway ended, which is a shame. It was important for the team to be up front today, and this is the path we intend to continue this Tour on.

General Classification


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