The Belgian made a savvy move at the start of the 192km stage that wound through familiar spring classics roads including the iconic Mur de Grammont climb. Cheered on by the home crowd, Van Avermaet joined an early breakaway with Natnael Berhane, Mads Würtz Schmidt and Xandro Meurisse, working up a lead of 3:25 by the 20km mark.
Riding his special gold TCR Advanced SL team bike to honor his Olympic champion’s status, Van Avermaet attacked on the Muur and summited first, gaining enough mountain classification points to take over the polka-dot leader’s jersey.
“I was very motivated to do something on my home soil,” Van Avermaet said. “It’s probably the only time in career when the Tour de France includes the Mur, which is close to my home and it’s always special when you get to race in front of your home fans, friends and family.”
CCC Team sports director Fabio Baldato said Van Avermaet executed the team’s plan to perfection. “We wanted to have something from the beginning, especially in Belgium, where Greg wanted to showcase himself in front of his home fans,” he said. “He is a Belgian and an Olympic champion, so it was a special moment for him and for us. It’s a very nice Grand Depart for CCC Team.”
The 106th Tour de France continues Sunday with a 27.6km team time trial in Belgium. The three-week grand tour will finish July 28 in Paris.