Chris Froome’s bid for a record-equalling fifth Tour de France title got off to a bumpy start as the Team Sky rider crashed and lost time in a chaotic finish to the opening stage on Saturday.
The defending champion was squeezed out on a slight bend a little over five kilometres from the end of the 201km stage to Fontenay-le-Comte, which was won by Tour debutant Fernando Gaviria in a reduced sprint.
Colombian Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) held off world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) to become the first man to win his debut stage of a Tour since Fabian Cancellara in 2004, but Froome was 51 seconds behind.
“Thankfully I’m OK, I feel fine,” said Froome, whose jersey sported grass stains down the right side. “There were a lot of crashes out there today but it was just one of those things.
“These few days are going to be tricky and sketchy and that’s part of the game unfortunately.
“We were right at the front of the peloton in the top third, there wasn’t much more the guys could have done. It was getting quite chaotic with the sprint teams but that’s bike racing. I’m just grateful I’m not injured in any way and there is still a lot of road to follow before we get to Paris.”
I’m just grateful I’m not injured in any way and there is still a lot of road to follow before we get to Paris.Chris Froome
With time bonuses applied for the top three Froome headed to Sunday’s start line in Mouilleron-Saint-Germain 61 seconds off yellow, but it is the gap to his fellow contenders for the general classification which will concern him.
Froome was not the only contender to lose time. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) was caught in an earlier crash, while Richie Porte (BMC) was held up behind another before both came home alongside Froome.
It was even worse for Movistar’s Nairo Quintana who lost a further 24 seconds after breaking both wheels when he hit a traffic island inside the final four kilometres. That leaves them all facing a yawning gap to the likes of Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates), Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors), Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac), Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who all finished in the first group.