Team Lotto Jumbo’s Mike Teunissen outsprinted stage favourites Peter Sagan and Caleb Ewan to take victory at the opening stage of the 2019 Tour de France.
176 riders took the start of stage 1 in Brussels, home city of Eddy Merckx and the fiftieth anniversary since the great man’s first overall win of the Tour de France.
After a combative start the first breakaway of the 106th Tour de France included Greg Van Avermaet (CCC), Natnael Berhane (Cofidis), Xandro Meurisse (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Mads Würtz Schmidt (Katusha-Alpecin).
A maximum time gap was reached after 20km of racing: 3’25’’, after which the teams of the sprinters, mostly Deceuninck-Quick Step, Jumbo-Visma and Lotto-Soudal, set the steady pace of the peloton. The main goal of the attackers was the King of the Mountain price atop the “muur” de Grammont.
Aware of the specificity of the cobbled climb and the ability of the local riders on this terrain, Berhane attacked at the bottom in the very crowded town of Geraardsbergen but Van Avermaet was attentive. In the steep part of the climb, Berhane and Würtz Schmidt couldn’t hold the pace of the two Belgians.
Van Avermaet To Wear Polka Jersey
Van Avermaet passed first in front the famous chapel (km 43.5) and secured the first polka dot jersey of the 2019 Tour de France even though Meurisse crested the Bosberg at the front 4km further. The Olympic champion will wear the polka dot jersey during the team time trial, being the first Belgian to ride in this distinctive jersey on Belgian roads at the Tour de France since Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke in 1980.
Van Avermaet sat up and waited for the peloton while his three former breakaway companions were reunited at km 50 with an advantage of 2’40’’ over the pack. The same three teams from the Benelux stabilized the gap around two minutes as the race left Flanders to also visit the Walloon part of the country.
Peter Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team put the hammer down on the pavé and put an end to the breakaway of Meurisse, Würtz Schmidt and Berhane with 70km to go and split the peloton. Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) were at the back for a while. Sagan won the intermediate sprint 69.5km before the end ahead of Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) and Van Avermaet.
Thriller Of A Sprint Finale
An in-form Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) was one of the first to go and, along with nemesis Peter Sagan, worked hard to set up a thriller of a finale. At around the 100m to go mark Matthews was overpowered as Sagan, Teunissen and a fast-approaching Caleb Ewan made the top three.
Teunissen threw his bike on the line to win the stage and become the first Dutchman in the yellow jersey since Erik Breukink after the prologue in Luxemburg in the 1989 Tour de France.