• Alexander Kristoff takes out Stage 1 of the Tour de France 2020 - (Getty)Source: Getty
Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) won the opening stage of the Tour de France from the bunch sprint after a crash-marred day of riding around Nice to begin the 2020 Tour de France.
SBS Cycling Central

30 Aug 2020 - 2:11 AM  UPDATED 30 Aug 2020 - 2:27 AM

Kristoff emerged the surprise winner on Stage 1 of the Tour de France, exploding down the barriers to claim the win ahead of Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and Cees Bol (Team Sunweb).

"I could not dream of more or expect a better start, " said Kristoff. "I felt really strong in the final kilometres and going to the line I got the win.

"I was sitting on Sagan for a long time and I got boxed in a little bit. I saw Cees Bol starting on the right, he started quite early and I tried to follow. I saw him fading and I still had legs then I went and I was the strongest in the end.”

Kristoff came into the race as an outsider after displaying little positive form in the lead-up to the Tour de France. However, his classic and stage-winning pedigree shone through on a very tough stage around Nice.

“My run-in to this Tour had not been great I had no results to show," said Kristoff. "I’m 33 years old and have 4 kids and I’m still managed to perform, I’m very happy about that.

"It's a yellow jersey also, I've always dreamt about wearing the yellow jersey and now it's come true. We have a team for the climbers, we did not expect to win a sprint, at least not so early on."

Earlier in the stage, Fabien Grellier (Direct-Energie), Cyril Gautier (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept), Michael Schar (CCC) broke away after the drop of the flag. They were allowed to go away, with the sprint teams keen to keep a tight leash on the escapees with an eye towards the flat sprint finish in Nice.

There were crashes aplenty on the slippery roads of the Alpes-Maritimes department, with falls punctuating the race at regular intervals. Pavel Sivakov (INEOS Grenadiers), Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT Pro Cycling), Sam Bennett and Julian Alaphilippe (both Deceuninck-QuickStep) were the highest profile riders to hit the deck.

Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) found himself caught up in a crash as well, relegated to the grupetto and seemingly having little chance to regain the front of the race.

The continued peppering of crashes throughout the race saw some arguments at the head of the peloton, as Astana continued to push the pace in the slippery conditions. That continued until 47 kilometres to go, when Astana’s team leader, Miguel Angel Lopez slid out on a downhill corner and crashed into a signpost.

Lopez remounted and rejoined the peloton, but the tempo was now off and other riders caught up to the main bunch, including Ewan.

The consensus go-slow in the group stayed until 20 kilometres to go when Benoit Cosnefroy (Groupama-FDJ) took off at the front of the race solo. He lasted until 13 kilometres remaining as the sprint trains got into gear, jockeying to get their chosen sprinters into position.

It was a messy sprint, with riders washing around in the final kilometres as a crash at the three kilometre to go mark saw pre-race favourite Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) fall.

Cees Bol (Team Sunweb) hit out the strongest early in the sprint, but a well-timed run from Kristoff along the barriers saw the Norwegian claim the Stage 1 victory and the first yellow jersey of the 2020 Tour.

The Tour de France continues with Stage 2, a mountainous affair that will test the climbers' legs early. Stage 2 will be broadcast from 8.30pm AEST on SBS HD, with the stage depart from 8.50pm AEST on the SBS ŠKODA Tour Tracker App and SBS On Demand.