Teunissen pips Sagan in photo finish to take Tour de France first stage

Nicolas Roche 40th and Dan Martin 112th as Thomas shrugs off big crash in Brussels

Netherlands’ Mike Teunissen (bottom) takes the first stage of the Tour de France in a photo finish ahead of Slovakia’s Peter Sagan. Photograph: EPA/ASO

Netherlands’ Mike Teunissen (bottom) takes the first stage of the Tour de France in a photo finish ahead of Slovakia’s Peter Sagan. Photograph: EPA/ASO

 

Geraint Thomas shrugged off an opening stage tumble at the Tour de France as Mike Teunissen claimed a shock victory in Brussels.

Thomas was among those caught in a big crash with around two kilometres of the 194.5km opening stage remaining, but the defending champion quickly remounted his bike.

Thomas fell into a barrier as the peloton ground to a halt but did not appear to suffer any injury, while Ineos co-leader Egan Bernal stayed upright.

“Typical,” Thomas said with a smile. “I’m fine though. I was pretty slow by the time I hit them so just toppled over. It’s all good.

“I gave myself enough space and avoided the actual crash. I was just at the barriers with nowhere to go. It’s just one of those things.

“The main thing is it didn’t do any damage. The bike took the hit and I just toppled over.”

Jumbo-Visma’s star sprinter Dylan Groenewegen appeared to come off worst in the incident, but Teunissen took victory for the team regardless as he held off Peter Sagan in a photo finish.

While it was no surprise to see Bora-Hansgrohe’s former world champion charging towards the line, it was Teunissen who edged him out by the width of a wheel rim, becoming the first Dutchman to take the yellow jersey since Erik Breukink in 1989.

The 26-year-old has already won Four Days of Dunkirk and the ZLM Tour this season, but this is the biggest win of his career by some margin and was a surprise even to him.

Mike Teunissen (R) takes the opening stage of the Tour de France ahead of Peter Sagan. Photograph: Guillaume Horcajuelo/EPA
Mike Teunissen (R) takes the opening stage of the Tour de France ahead of Peter Sagan. Photograph: Guillaume Horcajuelo/EPA

“I cannot believe it,” Teunissen said. “We were working months to bring Dylan here to the yellow jersey and then with 1.5km to go everything disappears because he goes down in a crash.

“I thought, ‘I am still here and I feel fresh, we can try it’. I saw everyone dying in the last metres. Sagan, I was catching up on and I just took him on the line. It is unimaginable.”

Lotto-Soudal’s Caleb Ewan came home third with Team Dimension Data’s Italian sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo — selected ahead of Mark Cavendish — finishing fourth.

None of those involved in the late crash will lose any time in the general classification, with the incident occurring in the last three kilometres of the stage.

It was the second significant spill in the final 20 kilometres of an opening stage around Brussels strong on references to local hero Eddy Merckx on the 50th anniversary of his first overall Tour victory but otherwise short on drama.

The other crash saw Jakob Fuglsang, among the favourites for the yellow jersey, go down hard just as the pace began to pick up.

The Dane did get back on his bike and made it back into the peloton with the help of his Astana team-mates, but only after a trip to the medical car as blood streamed down his face.

After the stage, Fuglsang went immediately to a medical truck for further treatment, later hobbling off and saying he had suffered a knee contusion and needed stitches over his eye.

Earlier in the stage, Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet was part of a four-strong breakaway and he crested the famed Mur de Grammont first and the Bosberg second to secure the king of the mountain’s polka dot jersey.

Attention now switches to Sunday’s team time trial. The 27.6km test over some rolling terrain, again starting and finishing in Brussels, will create the first openings in the general classification, though few expect it to be decisive.

“Big day tomorrow,” Thomas said. “Obviously we’ll go 100 per cent tomorrow and try and win the stage. There’s a lot of other good teams but we’ll see what we can do.”

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