Mike Teunissen pips Peter Sagan in Tour de France stage one photo finish

Mike Teunissen edged Peter Sagan by the finest margin in a sprint finish after Geraint Thomas fell in a crash on the final stretch

Geraint Thomas survived an early scare at the Tour de France, crashing inside the final 2km of the opening stage in Brussels among a group of other fallers before remounting and finishing the stage, an experience he described as ” typical “.

“I’m fine,” the defending champion said.” I was moving pretty slow by the time I hit them, so simply toppled over. It’s all good .” Team Ineos team leader Egan Bernal was also held up in the melee but stimulated it safely to the finish.

Thomas has only just recovered from a heavy fall in last month’s Tour of Switzerland which forced him to abandon the race.” I gave myself enough space and avoided the actual crash. I was just at the barriers. There was nowhere to go, so it was just one of those things. The main thing is it didn’t do any injury. The bike took the make and I merely toppled over .”

But one rider’s calamity was another’s joy as Mike Teunissen of the Netherlands took over the role of lead sprinter from his drop Jumbo-Visma teammate, Dylan Groenewegen, to become the first Dutchman to wear the yellow jersey in 30 years.

” Our scheme was ruined when Groenewegen crashed ,” Teunissen said.” I couldn’t clearly see if he went down but when I realised he did, I was still able to sprint. It’s a really strange day because our goal faded in a second. I hope Dylan smiles as I replaced him for the win .”

Thomas maintained that his accident would not hamper his performance in Sunday’s key team time trial.” It’s a big day, so hopefully we can all rest up tonight and go tomorrow. Obviously we’ll go 100% and try and win the stage. There’s a lot of other good teams but we’ll consider what we can do .”

Of the opening stage the Welshman said:” It was just good to get back in the groove with the sons. We’re ride really well together at the front, communication was good and we’ve started on the front foot. We will try and simply continue that. This first week is always just about get through .”

But as Thomas maintained his equilibrium, Mark Cavendish’s Dimension Data team seemed on the brink of collapse after his team’s management, and his wife, Peta Todd, became embroiled in a bitter public row over the sprinter’s non-selection. While Todd railed against the decision to omit her husband on Twitter, calling squad boss, Doug Ryder, a “coward”, the Dimension Data team’s sports director, Rolf Aldag, Cavendish’s long-time confidant, was believed to be so indignation that he was considering walking out.

Ryder, who surprisingly failed to appear at the South African team’s pre-race press conference, ultimately spoke to the media in the start area for stage one.

” Mark is a legend of the race and it is hard that he’s not here ,” he said,” but we had selected a team based on the course and the route. There was a difference of opinion but it was a team decision and our whole high performance team was involved in that. The race this year is so hard, so the team that we have in this race is representative of that and of our strategy .”

Ryder’s terms led to some fierce trolling on social media from Todd who described it first as containing a” fair quantity of fiction” and then added for good measure,” cowards can’t hide for ever “.

Jakob
Jakob Fuglsang remounts his bike after crashing Photograph: Jeff Pachoud/ AFP/ Getty Images

Aldag, who first worked with Cavendish over a decade ago, seemed certain that the rider was in form.

” I had physically insured him so I was probably one of the very few that had physically insured him ,” he said.” I followed him for quite a while, when I was in[ the Tour of] Slovenia, and I watched a Mark Cavendish that was about 300% better than he was in 2016 when he fell out on stage two and fell asleep in my car after 20 km because he was so tired.

” I insured him there and that was why I thought he was definitely in a good way and it was worth taking him. It’s not about the media, it’s not about simply dedicating him another Tour de France, I guessed for the stages that we have in this race, that he was a good choice .”

Cavendish has been stuck very firmly on 30 stage wins in the Tour since 2016, and his chances of winning again in the biggest event in his sport and of equalling or surpassing Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins now appear slim.

” If he’s not racing against the best, where he can sprint ,” Aldag said,” then it will be difficult for him to prove that he will be good again .”

Saturday’s opening stage looping around Brussels, marking the 50 th anniversary of Merckx’s first overall victory, had a processional feel, until the frenzied final kilometres reminded all involved that this was the Tour de France. Thomas may have played down Saturday’s tumble but his old habit of crashing at the incorrect moment will almost certainly already have his squad management living on their nerves.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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