What a fantastic start to the 2018 Tour de France, we’ve seen action from not only the sprinters but also many of the GC riders finding themselves in some difficulty over the first nine stages of the event.
The first week was a mix of flat stages, a team time trial and also one stage finishing over the difficult ‘Mur de Bretagne’
I don’t think anyone would have expected what would happen on the opening stage to Fonteney le Comte, with a flurry of accidents over the final closing 10 kilometres.
Our very own race favorite Australian Richie Porte (BMC Racing) found himself in trouble along with many of the other GC contenders including Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) , Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
In the end it was Fernando Gaviria (Quick–Step Floors) who took the opening stage win in a close fought battle ahead of the current world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) with Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) third.
Porte, Yates and Froome all found themselves just under a minute down on the rest of the GC contenders with Quintana a further 30 seconds back.
The second stage was also a flat stage which saw the world champion reverse roles and take the win over Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) with Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) third.
Stage three was a 35.5 km team time trial in the town of Cholet, this would be the first time we would see the stronger teams push for domination. What looked like on paper, a formality for Team Sky and Chris Froome, ended up a show of power from BMC Racing, winning the stage by four seconds over Team Sky with Quickstep- Floors a further three seconds back in third position.
This result for BMC Racing propelled Greg Van Avermaet into yellow.
Stage four, Another flat stage from La Baute to Sarzeau saw Gaviria take another solid win over Peter Sagan with Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) back and third, Greg Van Avermaet remained in yellow.
Stage five demonstrated another dominant performance by Peter Sagan to take the win clear of Sunny Colbrelli with Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) back in third.
Stage six was going to be the first real test of the 2018 tour, with a finish ridden twice over the Mur de Bretagne. Many attacks went throughout the day, with a final charged to the line from the flying kiwi, Jack Bauer (Mitchelton-Scott), but the GC contenders were having nothing of it.
With the finish line in sight it was the UAE Team Emirates rider, Ireland’s Dan Martin who hit the front first, his pure power was unmatched which saw him ride to the finish ahead of Frenchman Pierre Latour (AG2R), with Movistar rider Alejandro Valverde back in third.
Stage seven would see the first of two stage wins for Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo). Groenewegen won the sprint from Gavaria and Sagan, a repeat he accomplished on stage eight as well, this time over Sagan and Trek-Segafredo rider John Degenkolb.
Stage nine was a talking point of this year’s Tour de France, the stage would run over 15 cobbled sections finishing in the famous cycling town of Roubaix.
Many of the GC contenders were going to find the going difficult with the lighter riders struggling on the large cobbled sections, and it didn’t take long for tragedy to strike for Australia’s BMC Racing rider Richie Porte, before a single cobble was reached and less than 10km into the stage Porte was caught up in a fall which would end his 2018 campaign with a suspected broken collarbone.
Chaos and carnage was the only way to describe the way stage nine unfolded, many GC riders were caught up in crashes, mechanicals and plain difficulty.
The stage was always going to be perfect for the one day classic style riders, and as the race unfolded it was the Yellow Jersey of Greg Van Avermaet that initiated the final attack, Van Avermaet would be joined by John Degenkolb and the Belgium National Champion, Yves Lampaert for a final push towards the line.
In the end it would be Degenkolb who would take a well deserved win over Van Avermaet with Lampaert outclassed into third.
As we go into the first rest day, Van Avermaet holds a 43 second lead over Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and Philippe Gilbert at 44 seconds.
Peter Sagan wears the Green Sprinters jersey on 299 points, 81 points ahead of Fernando Gaviria.
Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) is in the Polka Dot KOM jersey on 6 points just ahead of Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energy) and Dion Smith (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) both on 4 points.