Marcel Kittel of Germany beat Norway’s Alexander Kristoff in a sprint finish to capture the opening stage of the 100th Tour de France.
Kittel, of the Argos-Shimano team, overtook Katusha’s Kristoff at the end of a 213-kilometer (132-mile) stage from Porto-Vecchio to Bastia on the island of Corsica that featured crashes and an incident with a team bus near the finish line.
“It was very hectic, you really had to stay focused,” Kittel, who finished in a time of 4 hours, 56 minutes and 52 seconds, said in an interview with Eurosport. “The team did an awesome job to keep me out of trouble. Congratulations to them.”
Danny van Poppel of the Netherlands was third, with Britain’s David Millar fourth as all the cyclists were awarded the same time for the stage.
The bus of the Orica-GreenEdge team became lodged under the banner at the finish line. Race organizers initially moved the finish line back three kilometers before restoring it to its original place after the bus was removed.
Two-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador of Spain and Slovakia’s Peter Sagan, last year’s opening stage winner, both fell in a crash late in the stage. British sprinter Mark Cavendish saw his chances end about six kilometers from the end as he was forced to stop to avoid a crash.
Defending champion Bradley Wiggins of Britain is not racing this year because of a knee injury, leaving countryman Chris Froome as the bookmakers’ favorite. Froome finished back in the pack in 41st place today.
Tomorrow’s second stage is a 156-kilometer ride from Bastia to Ajaccio. The 3,404-kilometer race ends July 21 on the Champs Elysees in Paris.