The 100th edition of the Tour de France got off to a thrilling and unexpected start in Corsica.
With the peloton screaming toward the flat sprint finish in Bastia, with Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel positioning themselves up front, with the wattages pumped and nerves on edge, race radio announced that the Orica-GreenEdge bus was still blocking the finish line.
Take about a major mechanical.
The Orica-GreenEdge squad takes stage one honors for “Most Disruptive.” Race radio announced that the stage would instead end three kilometers short and confusion and chaos reigned.
The opening week of a Tour de France is always dangerous and the bizarre sight of a team bus shutting down the race route only made things crazier.
They managed to back the bus off the course just as a major crash crash took down Sagan and Alberto and Contador and impeded Mark Cavendish. Moments later, Andre Greipel punctured when it looked like he’d profit from the misfortune and perhaps take the maillot jaune.
It was left to a strong Argos-Shimano squad to take control and deliver young Marcel Kittel to what was almost an easy victory with Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Danny Van Poppel (Vacansoleil-DMC) rounding out the podium.
“My team took perfect care of me, thanks to all of them,” Kittel said after the stage. “I saw the crash but didn’t know who was involved. At first we were confused as to what to do, but obviously figured it out.” Kittel didn’t even know about L’Affaire de l’Autobus — “I didn’t know that, I am hearing it for the first time. I think we were pretty lucky.”
So Le Grand Shindig got off to an especially crazy start. Just a day before, rider representatives were asking a French Senate representative to hold off on announcing more old doping news from back in the late 90’s. French newspaper Le Monde has fanned the dope fire with Lance Armstrong claiming the Tour can’t be won without illegal pharmaceuticals.
Then there was the oversize Orica-GreenEdge bus that was apparently so tall it couldn’t fit under the finish line banner. To compound the bad luck for the Australian team, their sprinter Metthew Goss clipped a barrier and crashed 500 meters from the finish.
The road to victory in the Tour de France is always difficult. Especially when there’s a huge bus blocking the way.