Tour de Farce as finish to first stage disrupted by errant team bus
(CNN) — The opening stage of the Tour de France in Corsica Saturday descended into chaos after a team bus became trapped under the finishing gantry in Bastia.
As organizers desperately tried to free the bus, the 213km leg from Porto-Vecchio was initially shortened to finish at the three kilometers to go mark.
With teams trying to bring their star sprinters to the front of the peloton earlier than expected, a big crash saw Britain’s Mark Cavendish and Slovakian Peter Sagan and some of the race favorites held up.
At the same time, the bus, belonging to Australian team Orica GreenEdge was finally removed and the original finish line was reinstated.
From the depleted pack, Germany’s Marcel Kittel won a frantic sprint to claim the stage honors for Argos Shimano — his first win on the Tour de France.
Orica GreenEdge’s Matt Goss took a tumble in that sprint to end his hopes with another top contender, Andre Greipel, the victim of a mechanical problem, to leave the way clear for the in-form Kittel to take the first yellow jersey of the 100th edition of the Tour.
He edged out Norway’s Alexander Kristoff with Danny Van Poppel of the Vacansoleil team in third place.
The bus incident also affected the race’s electronic timing function, but the official Tour de France website announced that because of the incident all the riders would be awarded the same time.
Among the favorites for the overall classification, Team Sky’s Chris Froome emerged unscathed, but arch-rival Alberto Contador of the Saxo-Tinkoff team finished with a torn jersey and time trial specialist Tony Martin of Germany suffered a reported broken collarbone.
Cavendish, who was looking to add to his 23 career stage wins in the Tour, was critical of organizers after seeing his hopes dashed in the crash.
“What caused the problems was changing the finish. We heard on the radio with literally five kilometers to go that the sprint was in two kilometers, and then one kilometer later they were like ‘No, it’s at the original finish.’ It’s just carnage,” he said.
The race continues Sunday with a 156 km second stage in Corsica from Bastia to Ajaccio.