2020 Tour de France
Kristoff emerges from Grand Depart carnage to win Tour opening stage
Rain in Nice meant the opening stage of the 2020 Tour de France almost descended into farce before Alexander Kristoff's brilliant victory.
Alexander Kristoff claimed victory in the first stage of the Tour de France after a chaotic Grand Depart in Nice.
Persistent rain turned the road in the city on France's south coast into something akin to a skating rink, with several riders involved in frequent falls in treacherous conditions.
In the circumstances, self-preservation became the primary concern until the weather cleared up with around 40 kilometres remaining.
Many of the usual suspects got themselves in position for the bunch sprint, overhauling Benoit Cosnefroy's lone breakaway.
Another crash three kilometres from the finish line – organisers ruled all timings would be taken from that point - and a frenetic, ragged sprint were entirely in keeping with what came before until experienced sprinter Kristoff emerged from the pack to seal glory for UAE Team Emirates.
World champion Sam Bennett found himself boxed in and Peter Segan was unable to craft an opening despite appearing well placed, meaning delight and the yellow jersey for 33-year-old Norwegian Kristoff.
The excitement earlier on was of a kind no one really wanted to see, with a who's who of the sport's leading names coming unstuck around tight corners and slick, painted roads.
Nairo Quintana, Caleb Ewan, George Bennett, Tom Dumoulin and Mikel Landa were among those to hit the tarmac, although Pavel Sivakov of Team INEOS and home favourite Julian Alaphilippe were arguably the worst affected.
Sivakov was forced to visit the medical car after falling twice, once on each side, while Alaphilippe went through two bike changes after going down on the descent – eventually regaining contact with the peloton.
Veteran rider Tony Martin took it upon himself to call for all teams to ease off in the conditions, with Astana refusing to heed his warning until Miguel Angel Lopez aquaplaned into a roadside sign before continuing unharmed. Primoz Roglic then gave Lopez's team-mate Omar Fraile a dressing-down to restore a semblance of order.
DREAM COME TRUE FOR KRISTOFF
"I always dreamt about wearing the yellow jersey and now this is a dream coming true," Kristoff said afterwards. "We have a team for the climbers, I did not expect to win a sprint early on but I felt really strong in the final kilometres. Going towards the line, I thought, 'I'm going to win'. It was an amazing feeling."
King of the Mountains
If Saturday's stage was an ordeal caused chiefly by the weather, then Sunday's already looks brutal on paper. Climbs up Col de la Colmiane and Col de Turini mean plenty of riders will be happy to see the back of Nice when the weekend is done in 186 kilometres' time.