Schär jumped clear of the peloton as soon as the flag dropped at kilometer 0 and was joined by Cyril Gautier (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) and Fabien Grellier (Total Direct Energie). With the peloton sitting up behind, the trio’s advantage quickly extended to three minutes in the first 30 minutes of racing.
Heavy rain started to fall after an hour of racing which saw crash after crash on the slippery roads, including one involving Ilnur Zakarin on the Promenade des Anglais, while up ahead Schär was third on the first categorized climb and took maximum points at the intermediate sprint.
With the peloton closing in on the breakaway, Schär attacked to claim the second climb of the day to move into the equal lead in the KOM classification with Grellier, with the first rider across the finish line to be rewarded with the first polka dot jersey of the race.
The peloton caught Schär just after the climb but with the slippery roads making for dangerous conditions, the riders agreed to unofficially neutralize the race in order to safely navigate the descent.
Once back on the flat roads, it was full steam ahead towards Nice and despite one rider trying their luck with a late attack, the previously predicted bunch sprint finish looked the most likely outcome at the end the 156-kilometer stage.
CCC Team moved up to the front with Trentin, who went on to sprint to 12th place, Alessandro De Marchi and Simon Geschke in the closing kilometers as the sprinters’ team began to form their lead-out trains.
Crashes characterized much of the day’s racing with another splitting the peloton just inside the three-kilometer to go mark while up ahead Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates) ultimately took the day’s honors.
Schär was, unfortunately, one of the riders to go down during the final kilometers of the stage and while he was able to continue racing and finish the stage as the most combative of the day, it meant Grellier took the KOM jersey.
Quotes From the Finish Line
“It wasn’t really the plan to go in the breakaway but we had a plan to be active at the start. I was looking for bigger groups but I followed the first move and that was the one that stuck. I knew the rain would make it unpredictable racing and it wasn’t easy with the downhills. I was actually feeling very comfortable, very confident with my tires and my tire pressure was perfect. I could see the peloton wasn’t giving us any margin so the only thing to go for was the KOM jersey. I misjudged the first climb and did a bad sprint and the second one, I won. Then I thought it would be possible to have it but because we were on the same points, we had to sprint to the finish line to be the first over the line to get the jersey. This is something I don’t like to do because I was in the spill with the sprinters in the worst possible position where the mess starts. With 3km to go, they went down and Colbrelli went down hard in front of me and I could brake but it was so slippery so my wheel went sideways and I went over my handle bars. I have almost no bruises but my rip is hurting now so we will see tomorrow.”
“Living here, I knew it would be super dangerous with the rain but for the first time in history riders got together and we rode down pretty easy, not taking any risk. We asked the jury to put everyone on the same time so the sprint could be a little bit less dangerous. I was feeling pretty good today. The sprint was super chaotic and I took a bad a decision in the last kilometer to be on the left side. I was quite far back and they closed the door so I had to go to the right. It’s only the first day and the legs are good and we finished the first day without any big issues. That’s the most important thing.”
Greg Van Avermaet:
“Everybody was quite nervous for day one. It was a good stage on paper it seemed like there was not so much rain in the area for a long time as the roads were super slippery, so this made it super dangerous. Luckily we had Michi in the front to get the most aggressive rider award and almost the KOM jersey. But the most important thing was staying upright. There was a decision made by the riders to take it easy in the descent and still have the sprint finish for the victory, which was a good decision I think. I was safe, but I was also quite often really lucky to not go down. In the end, it was a good decision because we’ve all prepared a long time for this and it’s not the moment to already lose half the peloton because of crashes.”
“Tomorrow on paper is a good stage for me. I was feeling good today so I hope to do something tomorrow in the final and see how far I can come. I am super motivated and they give dry weather so it will be full gas.”
Tour de France
Stage 1: Nice > Nice (156km)
Top 3: 1. Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates) 2. Mads Pedersen (Trek – Segafredo) 3. Cees Bol (Team Sunweb)
CCC Team Top 3: 12. Matteo Trentin 21. Jonas Koch 67. Greg Van Avermaet