Frenchman Romain Bardet opens the Tour de France with the yellow jersey

Frenchman Romain Bardet opens the Tour de France with the yellow jersey

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Vingegaard’s performance was particularly encouraging considering he spent almost two weeks in hospital after a high-speed crash in the Tour of the Basque Country in April. He suffered a broken collarbone and ribs and a collapsed lung and had not raced since.

Bardet, the Frenchman who finished second in 2016 and third in 2017 and is riding his final Tour, attacked with just over 50 kilometers to go. He caught up with his DSM-Firmenich PostNL teammate Frank van den Broek, who was in an early breakaway, and the pair narrowly held off the charging peloton on the flat finish.

Bardet walked ahead of his teammate at the line and pointed to him to say: ‘Thank you.’

“It’s crazy. I didn’t know the course particularly well, but Frank was really strong at the front and then I felt I had nothing to lose,” Bardet said of his rookie team-mate, who was riding his first-ever Tour stage. “He deserves this victory as much as I do, because he did all the work.”

It was Bardet’s fourth stage win in the Tour, and first since 2017. He had never worn the yellow jersey before.

“The yellow jersey was the last goal of my career. But to be honest, I was at peace with it,” said Bardet, who had announced he will retire this year. “I’ve been very close before. I’ve almost been there. I’ve just never been able to do it. Today I wasn’t sure if it would happen, but I had a great teammate with me.”

The 206-kilometer (128-mile) route from Florence to the Adriatic resort of Rimini featured seven categorized climbs and more than 3,600 meters (11,800 feet) of ascent. Temperatures soared to 36 degrees (97 F).

Cavendish surrendered twice and fell far behind on the very first climb, jeopardizing his bid to break a tie with Eddy Merckx for the most career Tour stage wins. But he finished just inside the time limit. Cavendish and Merckx each have 34 victories.

World champion Mathieu Van der Poel was dropped midway through the stage when Pogacar’s UAE Team Emirates squad at the front of the peloton began to accelerate on the day’s fourth climb.

The first four stages will take place in Italy, marking the first time in the Tour’s 121-year history that the race will start in France’s southern neighbor.

Bardet and Van den Broek finished in the same time of just over five hours.

Wout van Aert won a sprint for third place, five seconds behind, while Pogacar finished fourth with the same time.

“It was incredibly hot and then we had the wind in our faces, so it was a very extraordinary scenario that we had to deal with,” Bardet said.

In the general classification, Bardet leads Van den Broek by four seconds, with Van Aert 11 seconds behind in third place. Pogacar is fourth, 15 seconds behind — the same gap as Vingegaard.

Czech rider Jan Hirt was unlucky early on, breaking three teeth when he collided with a spectator’s backpack in the neutral zone before the actual start of the stage. Hirt was an important supporter of Remco Evenepoel at Soudal-Quick Step, but still managed to finish the stage.

Stage 2 on Sunday is also hilly, following a 199-kilometre route from Cesenatico to Bologna. The stage is dedicated to 1998 Tour champion Marco Pantani, a native of Cesenatico, and passes a museum dedicated to the Italian rider, who died in 2004.

Due to a clash with the Olympic Games, the Tour will finish in Nice on July 21, five days before the Games begin in Paris.

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