TDS - Stage 1 winner
Explosive start: Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team's Yves Lampaert celebrates on the podium wearing the yellow jersey after winning Stage 1 on Friday. Image Credit: Reuters

Copenhagen: Belgian Yves Lampaert won the first stage of the Tour de France on Friday, gatecrashing the opening day individual time-trial as crowds defied the rain along the 13.2km route in downtown Copenhagen.

Quick-Step rider Lampaert suffered less from the rain with his later start than pre-race favourites Wout van Aert and Filippo Ganna, while defending champion Tadej Pogacar produced a technical masterclass timing faster than his overall title rivals.

Lampaert was overwhelmed with emotion when he realised he will wear the overall leader’s yellow jersey on Saturday’s second stage.

Fans braved the rain and packed downtown Copenhagen as the Tour got underway Friday, with Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik watching from in front of the royal palace as riders set off gingerly on the rain-slick roads.

The 176 riders hit speeds of up to 60kph as they rode past sights including the Little Mermaid statue, the harbour-front Blox building and the Amalienborg palace.

“What a gift to me from my team,” said Jeremy Lecroq, who went first.

The starting gate was a hub of activity, with many of the poncho-clad fans outside the Tivoli theme park, next to Copenhagen’s eye-catching central train station, enjoying hotdogs and beverages in a festive atmosphere.

Van Aert, winner of a time-trial, a sprint and a mountain stage at the 2021 Tour, was excited after two editions impacted by Covid-19. “I was surprised by the amount of people on the roadsides. After two years, we can finally have a Grand Depart with huge crowds,” he said.

Ganna accepted his tag as the favourite to win the first stage and don the overall race leader’s yellow jersey.

“It would be nice to wear the yellow jersey, nothing is easy but I want to try and put that in my museum,” he said.

Overall race favourite and two-time defending champion Tadej Pogacar was impressed by the rapturous reception the Tour received on Wednesday.

“I’m ready personally and my team is ready too, and you can only be happy with the kind of reception we have had here,” said the UAE Team Emirates leader.