Nice (AP) – Accompanied by major corona worries and many falls, Norwegian Alexander Kristoff stormed into the first yellow jersey of the 107th Tour de France.
The 33-year-old won the opening win on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice on Saturday, where it is only moderately busy due to major restrictions, ahead of the Danish world champion Mads Pedersen and the Dutchman Cees Bol of the German Sunweb team. The twelve German starters played no role in the first hectic 156 of a total of 3484.2 kilometers to Paris. Former world champion Peter Sagan of the Bora-hansgrohe racing team finished fifth.
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 and the hopeful German Emanuel Buchmann also reached the goal with the main field. “That was not easy. The track was very dangerous, very slippery. The team did well. I got to the finish safely. That’s important,” said Buchmann.
And there was more good news for the German cyclist. Shortly before the start, his team announced that the two main sponsors, Bora and hansgrohe, would extend their commitment 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.
Buchmann was spared the many crashes on the wet road, which was not easy. The rain made the track extremely slippery and drivers kept falling to the ground. The French favorites Julian Alaphilippe and Thibaut Pinot or the helpers of Bernal Pavel Sivakov and Andrey Amador were also unlucky. In between, Tony Martin drove forward and challenged the field to moderation. The last fall took place a few kilometers from the finish, so there was only a small sprint group.
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.