Certainly not the start that organisers had hoped for the 100th edition of the Tour de France. Whilst the first four-and-a-half hours or so of the 213km route from Porto-Vecchio to Bastia was relatively uneventful, with riders less than 15km away from the finish it became clear that the team bus of Orica GreenEDGE had become wedged under the finish line gantry. Whilst officials worked frantically to dislodge the bus, the decision was made to bring the finish forward to the ‘3km to go’ mark – arguably this had the benefit of being both a bus-free spot and coming equipped with photo-finish technology, but it came at a dangerous bend and looked far from ideal for a sprint finish. With teams working hard to position themselves for the truncated distance, the Orica bus was freed and the finish reestablished at the full 213km mark in Bastia. Then things got worse…
With around 4km to go a crash took out many of the main sprint contenders including Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan with Lotto-Belisol’s André Greipel initially looking unscathed but left standing with mech failure by the side of the road moments later. With what was left of the field hastily reforming it was Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) who won through in a time of 4h 56′ 52”. Kittel later tweeted ‘I don’t know what to say. I will remember today forever. Thanks to my team mates (!!), family, friends and fans! This win is for you all!’
Orica GreenEDGE have been fined 2,000 Swiss Francs (£1,393) by organisers with Orica’s Sport Director, Matt White, saying: ‘Obviously, this was a really unfortunate situation. The bus was led under the finish gantry, and it we took for granted that there was enough clearance. We’ve had this bus since we started the team, and it’s the same bus we took to the Tour last year… Our bus driver was told to move forward and became lodged under the finish gantry. He followed all instructions in the process that followed thanks to the hard work by ASO that allowed him to remove the bus before the finish. It was the best possible outcome given the situation.’
Race officials neutralised finish time for those involved in the 11th-hour crash, a decision that has baffled and angered some – Cavendish tweeted: ‘I’d love an explanation from @UCI_cycling as to why time was neutralised on yesterday’s stage, but not points. Were only GC riders affected?’
The Tour de France continues (in less dramatic fashion?) today with the 156km route from Bastia to Ajaccio.
Want to know how the Tour de France began? Read the Cyclo feature Origins of the Tour de France here.
In the mood for more TdF? Tour de France 100th Race Anniversary Edition book review here.