The 107th Tour de France features one of the most difficult routes ever seen on the three-week grand tour. The opening weekend provided plenty of drama for race fans, with tough weather conditions and hard racing in and around the city of Nice on the Mediterranean coast.
Swiss rider Michael Schär kicked things off, launching a breakaway right when the flag dropped at the start of Stage 1. Riding his Propel Advanced SL Disc team bike with a CADEX WheelSystem, and wearing the Giant Rev Pro helmet, Schär was joined by two other breakaway riders and the three built a lead as rain began to fall.
“I knew the rain would make it unpredictable racing and it wasn’t easy with the downhills,” Schär said. “I was actually feeling very comfortable, and very confident with my tires and my tire pressure was perfect.”
Schär won the KOM points on the day’s second climb, but unfortunately a crash in the closing kilometers put him behind fellow breakaway rider Fabien Grellier, who took the polka-dot leader’s jersey for the Mountains Classification.
“Because we were on the same points, we had to sprint to the finish line to be the first over the line to get the jersey,” Schär said. “This is something I don’t like to do because I was in the spill with the sprinters in the worst possible position where the mess starts. With 3km to go, they went down and Colbrelli went down hard in front of me and I could brake but it was so slippery, so my wheel went sideways and I went over my handlebars.”
In the end, Schär was crowned “most combative” for the stage.
The following day saw another exciting race, with CCC Team leader Greg Van Avermaet coming close to the win. The Belgian was at the front of the action on a mountainous day that featured two Cat. 1 climbs plus two ascents of the Col d’Eze on the finishing circuits.
Toward the end of an aggressive day of racing, a significantly reduced peloton remained at the top of the final climb including Van Avermaet and his teammate Ilnur Zakarin. Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe launched an attack, with two other riders joining him, and the trio gained a lead of about 20 seconds.
In the final kilometer, Van Avermaet’s group was closing on the three leaders but ultimately came up 200 meters short. Van Avermaet won the bunch sprint to take fourth on the stage, but Alaphilippe ended up getting the stage win and the yellow leader’s jersey.
“I had it in my mind I could take yellow and the stage win so I would give it all like a one-day race,” said Van Avermaet, who rode his TCR Advanced SL Disc with a CADEX WheelSystem and Boost saddle “Unfortunately, three guys were in front and of course they were the best. In racing anything can happen. I played my cards and it’s a big disappointment.”
Despite the disappointment, Van Avermaet remained hopeful for opportunities ahead: “The legs are responding well I think. I hope this wasn’t the last chance for me for a stage win.”