NICE, France (AP) — Known for its sunny weather, the seaside city of Nice looked more like a treacherous ice rink on Saturday as heavy rain and storms played havoc with Tour de France riders on the opening day of cycling’s marquee race, causing inevitable crashes.
The pouring rain in the Riviera resort following a long spell of hot and dry weather particularly affected defending champion Egan Bernal’s Ineos team. Two of the Colombian climber’s key teammates — Pavel Sivakov and Andrey Amador — were involved in pileups while several overall contenders including Frenchman Thibaut Pinot and Colombian climber Nairo Quintana also went down.
“The Tour is always tense in the opening days, but with so many crashes it was grueling and dangerous,” said Yvon Ledanois, sports director at Arkea-Samsic. “The most important thing for us it that Nairo did not lose time.”
Amador and Sivakov, who were included on the Ineos roster with the mission to support Bernal in the big mountain stages scheduled later in the race, even fell off twice. Sivakov struggled to reach the finish line, with blood pouring from both arms, and lagged 13 minutes behind stage winner Alexander Kristoff, who also claimed the yellow jersey.
“I think the problem was just the fact that it literally hasn’t rained here for two or three months, then you get one day where it rains and it’s literally like ice,” said Luke Rowe, a teammate of Bernal.
Spills punctuated the 156-kilometer (97-mile) stage throughout a grueling day.
“I think most teams have at least half their riders who have touched down today. We’ve had a couple but luckily we’ve passed through,” Rowe said.
The most spectacular spill saw Astana leader Miguel Angel Lopez crash into a sign post after his team decided to accelerate in a downhill despite agreement in the peloton to slow down the pace. Astana said he escaped unscathed.
“I have to say chapeau (hats off) to the whole pe