Nice (AP) – Emanuel Buchmann was visibly relieved when he reached the finish line on the famous Promenade des Anglais in Nice after a hectic start to the 107th Tour de France.
For classic specialist John Degenkolb, on the other hand, the tour has already come to an end after a crash. The former winner of Paris-Roubaix remained outside the time limit and was therefore unlucky at the Autumn Festival on the rainy first stage of the Tour de France, which, accompanied by major corona worries, started the uncertain journey to Paris on Saturday.
The German tour hope Buchmann, on the other hand, reached the destination intact after 156 kilometers, which was a small achievement. “That was not an easy task. It was super dangerous, super smooth. The team did well. I made it to the finish safely, that’s important,” said Buchmann.
Time and again drivers went to the ground. A few kilometers from the finish line, one of the favorites, Thibaut Pinot, crossed the finish line with a torn jersey. France’s second favorite Julian Alaphilippe was also not spared. In the meantime, a smaller group sprinted to victory, from which the Norwegian Alexander Kristoff triumphed before the Danish world champion Mads Pedersen and the Dutchman Cees Bol of the German Sunweb team. Buchmann’s teammate and former world champion Peter Sagan finished fifth.
The twelve German riders did not play a major role in the first stage, but were not spared the many crashes. Degenkolb missed the time limit by a few minutes. Lotto Soudal team spokesman Philippe Maertens confirmed the end of the tour at the request of dpa. Besides Degenkolb, André Greipel and Nils Politt also fell on the first stage. Both survived the falls without serious injuries and can start on Sunday. Greipel had been sewn to the leg with four stitches, Politt complained of back pain.
Maximilian Schachmann, who took the tort despite a broken collarbone, crossed the finish line without further injuries. “I drove 120 percent carefully down the mountains. I was almost the slowest. It was extremely slippery. I saw many crashed drivers,” said the Berlin resident. The track was so slippery that veteran Tony Martin occasionally took the lead and asked the field to moderate.
In view of the pandemic, there has been no touring atmosphere of the past few years. Spectators lined the road, but certainly not as they once were in rows of ten or more. The region on the Côte d’Azur belongs to the “Red Zone”, where the virus is particularly strong. The number of infections had increased enormously in recent days. On Friday, the French Ministry of Health registered 7,379 new cases in just 24 hours and spoke of an “exponential increase”.
The measures related to the tour have been tightened accordingly. Far fewer than the originally planned 5000 spectators cheered the cycling stars around last year’s winner Egan Bernal in the direct finish area. The top favorites held back in the rainy opening stage. However, some of their helpers did it the same way Pinot did. Bernal’s helpers Pavel Sivakov and Andrey Amador were just as unlucky as George Bennett of the Primoz-Roglic team.
Not only that all drivers crossed the finish line safely. There was also more good news for Buchmann and Co. Shortly before the start, their team announced that the two main sponsors, Bora and hansgrohe, would extend their engagement until 2024. “This is not an easy time for sports, for business. We are all the more happy with the good news. That gives us certainty. during the planning, “said team principal Ralph Denk.
The current plans ensure that Buchmann gets through the first days. After all, the Ravensburg-born driver was plagued two weeks ago by the fall injuries from the Dauphine tour. “It’s a lot better. I’m not 100 percent, but a bit more optimistic than last week,” said Buchmann.
Before it started on Saturday, the travel company had to tighten the rules again. A team is now excluded if there are two positive corona cases within seven days in the entire team, including the surrounding area. The measure was only relaxed on Friday after a decision by the UCI world association. Accordingly, a team would only have been excluded if there were two positive cases among the respective eight drivers. In the immediate team environment are about 20 other people, such as physiotherapists, bus drivers and sports directors.
According to tour director Christian Prudhomme, the decision was made by the inter-ministerial crisis team. The reason for this is the increasing number of new infections in France for days.
The Corona issue will continue to accompany the tour. Also on Sunday, when it is the first time in the mountains, start and finish in Nice. Two climbs in the first category, including the 1,607 meter high Col de Turini with an average gradient of 7.3 percent, have to be mastered.