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Tour’14 St.1: Kittel Through The Chaos!
tdf14st1-kittel650 Race Report: Massive crowds, perfect weather and some beautiful scenery – Yorkshire sure put on a great show for the opening stage of the 2014 Tour de France. The riders too put on a show with a classic Jens Voigt attack and a spectacular sprint which turned to tragedy for some but nothing but glory for Marcel Kittel who claimed the stage and with it the yellow jersey.



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Massive crowds in Yorkshire greeted the riders at the start

A Royal Send Off
Under sunny British skies the royal couple the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge kicked off the ‘départ fictif’ from Harewood House in front of simply huge crowds – a theme that would continue all stage long. With all the jerseys on the line today this was sure to be a hard fought stage. Despite the fact that a mass sprint was predicted by one and all the day’s breakaway riders would still get some big publicity but more importantly the chance to wear the KOM jersey tomorrow with three categorised climbs on the menu.

stage1-profile
The profile that awaited the riders for today’s Stage 1


First Kilometer – First Break
With the official start finally given a few kilometers after the Royal send off there was no waiting around for Benoit Jarrier (Bretagne Séché) who became the first attacker of the 2014 Tour de France when he went clear after just 100 meters. He was quickly joined by Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and none other than the oldest man in the race, Jens Voigt (Trek).

Surprisingly nobody else tried to get in the group, there was no more fighting on the front of the peloton and the sprinter’s team were seemingly happy with the composition of the trio and they quickly built a lead of 2 minutes. With Jens Voigt in the group Lotto-Belisol, Giant Shimano and OPQS weren’t going to let them have too much time though so they put some riders on the front of the peloton to keep the gap around the 3 minute mark. Giant-Shimano had the first Chinese rider in Le Tour on the front, Cheng Ji, OPQS had Michal Golas and Lotto-Belisol had most of their team but they were just rolling through trying to keep the gap manageable rather than catch the break.


First Climb
With the chance of the break actually succeeding to the finishline today being minimal at best the trio up front were all interested in the Polka Dot jersey and their first chance for points came after 68km on the Côte de Cray a 1.6 kilometre-long Category 4 climb at 7.1%. With just 1 point on offer it would only be the first man over the line who would get the prize here infront of a huge crowd of British cycling fans. Normally it would be Edet who would be most favored for the points being the winner of the Vuelta Espana Mountains Classification in 2013 but he was up against the wily old dog Jens Voigt who you can never count out and Bretagne Séché’s team sprinter, Jarrier.

It was Voigt who led out the sprint before Edet and then Jarrier came around with 300m to go with Jarrier getting the nod for the points showing a very impressive turn of speed ahead of Edet.

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First Sprint
Next up for the break was the intermediate sprint of the day and this was expected to be less contested as realistically none of the three were serious chances to have the green jersey at the end of the day. Consequently when Jens Voigt sprinted away from the two Frenchman 220m before the line there was no reaction from the French – just until they realized that Voigt didn’t stop sprinting after he crossed the line but instead increased his pace. This wasn’t a sprint for the green jersey points from Voigt but instead a long range attack for the next KOM points a further 28km down the road!

tdf14st1-voigt
It’s time to go it alone legs!

Jens had seen in the first uphill sprint that he stood no chance against the two young riders half his age with their turns of speed so instead of waiting for the next sprint he set off on a long time trial to try and scoop up the points. By the time the other two realized the situation Voigt already had 20 seconds gap and despite the two working together the gap continued to increase. So much so that for every kilometer covered Jens was taking 5 seconds out of the two chasers and at the foot of the Category 3, Côte de Buttertubs a 4.5 kilometre-long climb at 6.8% Voigt had a lead of 2 minutes.


Huge Crowds And A Difficult Climb
Voigt was on a mission to scoop up the points, the race looked over for the two French chasers and the tempo had now increased in the still mostly Lotto led peloton with André Greipel’s crew not wanting to give too much time to a charging Jens Voigt who had now increased his lead over the peloton to 5 minutes.

Voigt easily took the two points on the climb with Edet taking 1 point a couple of minutes later but it was back in the pack where the narrow roads, the increased pace of the chase and the massive crowds were hampering those at the back of the peloton. Numerous times the last half of the race had to clip out as the pace came to a standstill thanks to a bottleneck on the climb and by the time the peloton got over the top the peloton had been split into numerous groups.

The biggest losers amongst the GC crowd were Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) who were paying for their poor positioning and also amongst the riders dropped was Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida) who had a mechanical incident after a run in with a spectator. This group was quickly more than a minute off the back and chasing hard but the pressure up the front from Cannondale and Lotto was making the chase back very difficult.


Last Climb – Last Points
The increased pace back in the peloton that was partly due to the chase of Voigt and partly from the nervousness of the riders on the narrow roads was having its effect on Voigt’s lead and approaching the final climb the, Category 3 Côte de Griton Moor a 3 kilometre-long climb at 6.6% Voigt’s lead was less than 2 minutes and the two chasers were being swept up.

Voigt was determined to get the points though and continued to push on hard infront of the Alpe d’Huez style crowd on the side of the road who were cheering him on like crazy. Meanwhile back in the peloton this same crowd were causing problems again for the riders at the back with numerous bottlenecks again occurring causing riders to stop on the hill. This was great news for the group of 20-30 riders who had been dropped on the first climb though and thanks to this stop/start nature of the climbing at the back of the peloton this group was able to rejoin the race. Some riders were still dropped though but the GC riders of Horner, Rodriguez and Pinot made it back to the pack with the likes of lead out men Delage (FDJ) for Arnaud Démare and Petacchi (OPQS) for Cavendish being dropped and in Petacchi’s case – never to get back on.

Back to the front of the race Jens Voigt finally made it to the KOM line with just a 50 second lead and he then immediately sat up, mission accomplished – Polka Dots tomorrow.


The Final Run In
With the break now caught and all the climbs finished the sprinter’s teams were controlling the front of the peloton and it was all set up for a mass sprint. 10km out it was Lotto-Belisol who had control through Adam Hansen until he pulled off at the 4km mark and OPQS massed on the front of the peloton leaving Greipel and his crew swamped.

They tried to fight back as did Giant-Shimano for Kittel and approaching the red kite the race was still anyones when all of a sudden a lone rider attacked – Cancellara! Spartacus gave it his all and quickly built up a lead and just for a moment it looked like he might win but with 350m to go the sprinters were quickly approaching when tragedy happened – Mark Cavendish collided heavily with Simon Gerrans sending both riders to the ground.

At the same time Peter Sagan and Marcel Kittel opened up their sprint on the other side of the road and they quickly passed Cancellara. It was Kittel who would prove to be the fastest powering away for the win and the yellow jersey ahead of Peter Sagan and the surprising Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp).

tdf14st1-kittel

Meanwhile on the ground 300m back Mark Cavendish was crying in pain and holding his right shoulder with what looked like a broken collarbone. A huge disappointment for the Manx Missile as he couldn’t win at home and will once again not be able to wear the famous yellow jersey.

tdf14st1-cav
Not the way that Cav was hoping to cross the line in Harrogate

No disappointment for Kittel though who repeated his yellow jersey feat from last year and will once again take the start of Stage 2 in Le Tour in yellow.

Keep it PEZ for much more from the Tour as Gord checks in later today from Roadside in Yorskshire, Daily Distractions, PeloPics and more!


Stage 1 Results:
1 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano 4:44:07
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale
3 Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin-Sharp
4 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Team Europcar
5 Michael Rogers (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo
6 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky
7 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
8 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
9 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team
10 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica GreenEdge

GC After Stage 1
1 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano 4:44:07
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale
3 Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Garmin-Sharp
4 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Team Europcar
5 Michael Rogers (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo
6 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky
7 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
8 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
9 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team
10 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica GreenEdge

 

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