Julian Alaphilippe won the opening stage of the 2021 Tour de France on Saturday and captured the yellow jersey as a pair of crashes created havoc on the travel through Brittany.
The first crash, with about 27 miles remaining, occurred when German cyclist Tony Martin of Team Jumbo-Visma ran into a cardboard sign being held into the roadway by a fan who was mugging for the cameras and not looking at the oncoming pack. Once Martin hit the ground, other participants couldn’t avoid him and tumbled, one after another and about 60 in all.
A huge crash at #TDF2021 this morning was caused when a spectator held out a sign and struck a rider.
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) June 26, 2021
German rider Jasha Sutterlin of Team DSM was forced to drop out because of injuries sustained in the crash.
“We’re glad to have the public on the side of the road on the #TDF2021,” the official account of the Tour de France tweeted. “But for the Tour to be a success, respect the safety of the riders!
“Don’t risk everything for a photo or to get on television!”
A second crash occurred with less than six miles left. One of the cyclists impacted was Chris Froome (Israel Start-Up Nation), a four-time champion, who got back on his bike and completed the stage — but slowly. Reports said it was unknown whether he’d be able to continue.
Alaphilippe, from the Deceuninck-Quick-Step team, was able to avoid the second crash and powered to the finish on a steep part of the approximately 122-mile course along the final climb to the Cote de la Fosse aux Loups. The 29-year-old Frenchman is the reigning UCI World Road Champion but said after the stage that the opening-day performance was special.
“It’s a scenario I imagined and I really wanted to do it but of course I had to do it and it’s really super,” Alaphilippe said. “My team did a great job and controlled it all day. At the end I was caught in a crash but we got back and I really had to make the last climb. I had to get rid of the sprinters, it wasn’t easy but I gave my best and that was it.”
Alaphilippe concluded Saturday’s run in four hours, 39 minutes and five seconds. Australian Michael Matthews of Team BikeExchange and Slovenian Primoz Roglic of Team Jumbo-Visma trailed Alaphilippe.
The race continues Sunday with a hilly 114-mile ride. The 21-stage course is scheduled to conclude on July 18.
–Field Level Media