Tour de France: Alexander Kristoff wins first crash-ridden stage

Tour de France: Alexander Kristoff wins first crash-ridden stage

The number of daily cases in France reached a new post-lockdown high of 7,379 on Friday, fuelling speculation among fans and media that the race, which starts on Saturday, would not reach Paris on September 20.

However, the first rain in the Mediterranean city since June turned the opening jaunt of the 21-day race into a lottery with one motorbike race official describing the road surface as an ice rink.

Spills punctuated the 156-kilometer (97-mile) stage throughout a grueling day.

The 30-year-old from Nelson first crashed on a tricky downhill with about 30km to go and was left sitting in the middle of the road nursing what appeared to be a shoulder injury.

Nicolas Roche was 24th, just 17 seconds behind Alaphilippe but Dan Martin was 18 minutes adrift in 100th and Sam Bennett, fourth yesterday, finished near the back of the field, nearly half an hour behind the winners.

Bennett was helped back to his bike by fellow Kiwi Sam Bewley, the Mitchelton-Scott team member. "I haven't won since the start of the season, so I've been working really hard".

After an early break away, spearheaded by Michael Schar, Cyril Gautier and Fabien Grellier, there was a crash down towards the finish line on the Promenade Des Anglais on the first circuit.

Ineos' defending champion Egan Bernal largely avoided the trouble and finished safely in the peloton.

Amador and Sivakov, who were included on the Ineos roster with the mission to support Bernal in the big mountain stages scheduled later in the race, even fell off twice.

Sivakov crossed the line more than 13 minutes off the pace.

Alexander Kristoff timed his sprint finish to perfection to win the opening stage of the Tour de France in Nice.

The government's interministerial crisis committee has ruled that a team should be pulled out if two or more of its members test positive within seven days, race organisers said on Saturday.

"I think everyone is going to be happy to get onto some dry roads and just get the first week done and just get this insane start out the way".

"I got to the last climb and gave it my all up that climb and having Adam Yates and Hirschi come up as well made me nervous, but we collaborated well into a headwind, which was tough, but I made it".

So, like many other things during this time of the corornavirus, the 107th Tour de France will break new ground - possibly marking the beginning, and not the end, of a new normal.

The most spectacular spill saw Astana leader Miguel Angel Lopez crash into a sign post after his team chose to accelerate in a downhill despite agreement in the peloton to slow down the pace. Astana said he escaped unscathed.

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