The Tour de France began on the first Saturday in July with a Brussels Grand Départ organized to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Eddy Merckx’s legendary first Tour de France victory.
The breakaway forged clear at kilometer zero. Four riders, including local favorite Greg Van Avermaet (CCC), slipped away. The quartet managed a maximum advantage of 3’30. After Van Avermaet snagged KOM points atop the Geraardsbergen for the first and only categorized climb in Mur de Grammont, he slipped back to the bunch. The three remaining early escapees were swallowed up by around the 70 kilometer to go mark, before the intermediate sprint.
With the all-important team time trial on Sunday, EF Education First Pro Cycling’s objective on stage one was clear: focus on safety and energy conservation.”
A crash near the front of the peloton inside the final three kilometers saw several of the pre-race favorites hit the floor or held-up by the fallers. Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma) beat out Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) in Brussels and pulled on the race leader’s yellow jersey. Tour of Flanders winner Alberto Bettiol was out top finisher. The Italian mixed it up with the sprinters, crossing the line in 12th place.
Comments from the team
Road captain Simon Clarke says:
“Today was relatively-low stress, by Tour standards, for most of the day. The first cobble section we did and the run-in to the finish both got a little hectic, but we were well-positioned and got through safely. The biggest win of the day is that we all made it to the finish and no one crashed. We have eight strong guys ready for tomorrow’s TTT.”
Tour de France first-timer Mike Woods says:
“I hyped up the Tour big time for myself, but rolling into Brussels, seeing all the fans, the excitement, everything — today certainly surpassed expectations. I was buzzing for the first 100 kilometers, getting overwhelmed by the fact that I was in the Tour. After those first 100 kilometers, I realized, wait a second, I’m a good bike racer. I belong here. And then I calmed down a bit, and it started to feel more like a normal bike race – but at the Tour de France.”
Alberto Bettiol. Simon Clarke. Tejay van Garderen. Tanel Kangert. Sebastian Langeveld. Tom Scully. Rigoberto Uran.…