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CYCLING

Kittel wins Tour de France first stage

Germany's Marcel Kittel of the Argos-Shimano team won the opening stage of the Tour de France on Saturday, a 213-kilometre ride from Porto-Vecchio to Bastia in Corsica.

Kittel wins Tour de France first stage
Germany's Marcel Kittel celebrates winning the first stage of the Tour de France. Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

Kittel stole in front of Norwegian rider Alexander Kristoff right on the line to win a Tour stage for the first time in his career, while Danny Van Poppel of the Vacansoleil team came in third as all riders were awarded the same time.

Kittel became the first rider to wear the yellow jersey in the 100th Tour, which continues on Sunday with a 156-kilometre second stage across Corsica from Bastia to Ajaccio.

The German, 25, also took the green jersey for the best sprinter and the white jersey for the best young rider.

"I'm speechless, its unbelievable. I'm so, so happy. It's absolutely the greatest day of my life," he told French television at the end of the stage.

"I think I showed that I belong with the best sprinters. The next two stages are not really the perfect profile for me to defend the yellow jersey, but I don't want to think about the next couple of days now. I just want to enjoy this."

For long spells, the first stage ever held on the Mediterranean island was largely uneventful, save for a breakaway by a small group of riders including Spain's Juan Antonio Flecha and Lars Boom of the Netherlands.

But, after the breakaway was reined in by the peloton, there was chaos in a closing 20 kilometres marked by a series of crashes on the narrow roads leading into Bastia and a bizarre incident involving one of the team buses at the finish line.

The bus of the Orica-GreenEdge team got stuck when it hit the gantry over the finish line as the riders approached, leading to suggestions that the line may be brought forward by three kilometres.

The bus was moved out of the way just in time to allow the first stage to conclude as planned, but not before a clutch of riders were hampered by a series of crashes.

Dutch champion Johnny Hoogerland, who famously crashed into a barbed wire fence on the 2011 Tour and was seriously hurt earlier this year after colliding with a car while out training, went to ground after crashing into an advertising banner, in a sign of things to come.

Spain's Alberto Contador, considered by many to be the main challenger to race favourite Chris Froome of Britain, was the highest-profile name to fall on the way into Bastia, as he went to ground in a mass crash that also took out Slovakia's promising sprinter Peter Sagan.

Contador appeared to suffer an injury to his left shoulder, and there will be great concern for his fitness among his Saxo-Tinkoff team.

Meanwhile, Froome came through the finish unscathed, but did suffer an inauspicious start to the day when he fell from his bike and appeared to take a knock to the knee as the peloton paraded through Porto-Vecchio at the start of the opening stage.

He was then forced to change bikes for the remainder of the day's racing.

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SPORT

Inaugural Women’s Tour de France to start at Eiffel Tower

The route for the inaugural women's Tour de France was unveiled on Thursday with eight stages, embarking from the Eiffel Tower on July 24th next year.

French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race.
French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race. Photo: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP.

The first complete edition of the women’s version of cycling’s iconic race starts on the day the 109th edition of the men’s Tour ends.

After a route that winds through northern France, the race culminates in the Planche des Belles Filles climb in the Vosges mountains.

Danish cyclist Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig said she was over the moon to be taking part.

“I want it to be July now so we can get stared,” she said actually jumping up and down.

“The Tour de France is a reference and when you say you are a cyclist people ask about that. Now I can say I race the Tour de France,” she said after the presentation.

MAP: Details of 2022 Tour de France (and Denmark) revealed

Race director Marion Rousse, a former French cycling champion and now a TV commentator, told AFP it would be a varied course that would maintain suspense over the eight days.

“It is coherent in a sporting sense, and we wanted to start from Paris,” she said of the 1,029km run.

“With only eight stages we couldn’t go down to the Alps or the Pyrenees, the transfers would be too long.

“The stages obviously are shorter for the women than for the men’s races. The men can go 225 kilometres. For the women the longest race on our roster is 175km and we even needed special dispensation for that,” she said. “But it’s a course I love.”

Christian Prudhomme, the president of the Tour de France organisers, was equally enthusiastic.

“The fact it sets off from Paris the day the men’s race ends gives the new race a boost because it sets the media up to follow it more easily.

“It also means that with the Tour de France starting on July 1st and the women’s race ending on the 31st, there will be cycling on television every day of July.”

The men’s race is broadcast in around 190 countries.

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