Tour de France Report: Stages 1-3
The Tour's first three days cycle through England
By Larysa Pachulski, 2:16PM, Mon. Jul. 7
The 101st Tour de France takes place July 5-27. Click through to read our report of Stages 1-3.
Location: Leeds to Harrogate
Duration: 190.5km/118.37 mi
Terrain: Predominantly flat stage (Category 3 and 4 climbs)
Weather: 15C/ 59F – 15km/hr Winds
Why you should care: The Tour de France opened in England this year, and the whole of England is was counting on sprinter Mark Cavendish to ride first into Harrogate in front of family and friends.
The first stage of the Tour 2014 was a flat one favoring the sprinters. Expected favorites Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel, Peter Sagan, and Marcel Kittel were among the riders at the front of the pack nearing the finish into Harrogate.
The most unfortunate of endings at the first stage of the Tour 2014: In front of family, friends, and some family called "the Royals" the pressure proved too much for Cav. At the threat of being boxed in, Cav tried to push his way through an opening that wasn’t there, knocking the wheel of another rider and taking down himself and Orica-GreenEDGE rider Simon Gerrans.
Cav was sidelined, wincing with pain, while his competition sped ahead. Marcel Kittel won the sprint on the first day of the Tour for the second year in a row. Though Cav did eventually get back on his bike to properly finish the stage, the next morning he announced to the media that due to the previous day's injuries he would not be finishing the rest of the 2014 Tour.
Gerrans, who survived to ride again with less serious injuries, spoke to the media the next morning, as well. He said that Cav had called him the night before to apologize for the crash, taking full responsibility.
Location: York to Sheffield
Duration: 201km/124.89 mi
Terrain: Rolling Hills (Categories 3 and 4 climbs, one category 2)
Weather: 14C/ 57F – 0km/hr Winds
Why you should care: The rolling hills on the ride into Sheffield are mostly in the low categories of 3 and 4 (least difficult), but they are consistent enough to knock out most traditional sprinters, making this a perfect stage for Peter Sagan, the Tour’s most untraditional sprinter and green jersey champ.
Nearing the final few kilometers it became clear that the fight for today’s stage win was going to be between the 2014 Tour’s top GC contenders. Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, and Vincenzo Nibali were testing their legs and proving their strength.
In the final few meters leading to the finish line, it was every GC man for himself. Everyone seemed to be on more or less equal ground, with no one rider really being able to break away from the lead group. Suddenly, Nibali shot out of the pack at a speed that none of the other contenders could match. He never stopped, riding his way to the finish line on that spontaneous burst of energy.
Today’s stage win is only Nibali’s second win in the season, but perhaps his luck is turning. The Shark is back!
Location: Cambridge to London
Duration: 155km/96.31 mi
Terrain: Completely Flat (No category climbs)
Weather: 20C/ 68F – 15km/hr Winds
Why you should care: The ride into London marks the final day that the Tour is in England. With Mark Cavendish no longer a contender in this year’s Tour, OPQ has shifted its sprinting hopes onto Cav’s long time lead out man Mark Renshaw.
The two people who want this stage most are Renshaw and Sagan. Sagan has yet to have stage win, and the last 3 stages have been in his wheel house, technically speaking.
However, Renshaw and Team OPQ will be looking to rectify a messy stage 1 finish that resulted in a loss on the podium and a loss on their team.
Marcel Kittel and Team Giant-Shimano are turning out to be more of a threat than anyone thought. With the help of a very efficient lead out train, Kittel sped ahead of his competition at an untouchable speed. Though a rather large front group was on his back wheel all the way to the finish, no one could surpass him.
The day ended with Kittel in first, Sagan in second, and Renshaw in third. A hard won victory for Kittel, and a hard blow to teams Cannondale (Sagan) and OPQ.
The first stage of this year’s Tour de France that is actually in France, Stage 4 is a relatively flat stage with only a couple of small climbs. Though we will no longer be in England surrounded by massive crowds or basking in royal attention, there is still a chance for favorited sprinters like Sagan and Renshaw to make amends before the mountain stages burn them out.
Who do you think will win the next stage? Sound off in the comments board below.