Tour de France 2019

Surprise winner after late pile-up

BRUSSELS • Dutch rider Mike Teunissen won a chaotic opening stage of the Tour de France yesterday, after a collision in the final kilometre blew the bunch sprint wide open in Brussels.

The Jumbo-Visma rider becomes the first yellow-jersey holder on this year's Tour and the first Dutchman to lead the race in 30 years.

Teunissen, who finished in 4hr 22min 47sec, edged out Peter Sagan in a photo finish at the winning line, with the Slovak taking the green sprint-points jersey after he won the early intermediate sprint.

The 26-year-old Teunissen was not expected to be fighting for the win, but he held off both Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) to take the stage by the narrowest of margins.

Defending champion Geraint Thomas was involved in the pile-up near the finish that also held up his Team Ineos joint-leader Egan Bernal but both finished safely.

That crash, however, took down Teunissen's teammate Dylan Groenewegen, one of the pre-stage favourites.

"Our plan was ruined when Dylan crashed. When I realised he did, I was still able to sprint," said Teunissen. "I was feeling fresh as we didn't do much before the sprint. It's a really strange day because our goal vanished in a second.

"But we have another big goal with the team tomorrow."

Thomas escaped injury, but the same could not be said of Astana's Jakob Fuglsang, one of the fancied riders for overall victory, after a heavy fall 17km from the finish left him groggy and with blood trickling down his face.

Initially, it looked as though the 34-year-old Dane might lose touch, but his teammates helped him recover and he worked his way back to finish in the peloton.

Belgian cycling great Eddy Merckx got the 106th Tour de France under way yesterday, as thousands of fans flooded to the first Grand Depart in Brussels for 61 years.

To chants of "Eddy, Eddy" from the massed ranks at the city's majestic Grand Place, the 74-year-old sent the 176 riders on their way for the first of 21 stages, a 194km trek around the Flanders countryside.

It is 50 years since Brussels native Merckx won the first of his joint-record five Tour de France titles.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 07, 2019, with the headline 'Surprise winner after late pile-up'. Print Edition | Subscribe