Dubai: Norwegian rider Alexander Kristoff gave UAE Team Emirates their first-ever yellow jersey with an amazing finish while winning the opening stage of the Tour de France on Saturday.
Kristoff timed his sprint finish to perfection to win the 156 km stage as the delayed 2020 Tour de France kicked off in Nice. After a large group crashed inside the final 3 kms, the UAE Team Emirates’ 33-year-old Norwegian rider surged home in a sprint to finish clear of Mads Pedersen of the Trek-Segafredo team and Team Sunweb’s Cees Bol, while Ireland’s Sam Bennett came in fourth.
On a day when rain made the roads treacherous leading to several crashes, it was Kristoff easing through to a fine finish even as Ineos’s defending champion Egan Bernal largely avoided the trouble to finish safely in the peloton.
- IPL in UAE: Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan get down to training in Dubai
- IPL in UAE: Kohli and co are friends reunited in Dubai for Royal Challengers Bangalore
- Goodbye, commander: Italian artist TVBOY pays tribute to Messi's career in Barcelona
- IPL in UAE: No pain, no gain for KXIP, RCB, Mumbai and Rajasthan
Kristoff’s most recent stage win at the Tour came on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on the final stage of the 2018 race.
Surging off the wheel of Peter Sagan, UAE Team Emirates rider Kristoff showed a lot of purpose and grit to hold off Pedersen and Bol and claim another memorable victory - his fourth at the Tour - and one that gave him the first yellow jersey of his career.
Kristoff was thrilled at such a strong finish. “It’s a dream to wear the yellow jersey, I don’t think you can ask for anything better. The team came here to aim for the General Classification and some sprint stages. I was hoping but I didn’t think I would win so early,” the Norwegian rider said after the race.
“Today, I was riding well and I was able to give my best on the final straight, realising that I was in the frame for a win. I stayed in the wheels for a while, coming out on the right in the final and, when I realised it was the right moment, I pushed hard. In the past few months I haven’t been able to give my best and I also crashed at the European Championships, so being here celebrating is a great feeling,” he added.
While few expected Kristoff to win on Saturday, the first rain in Nice since June worked in his favour as several of his rivals, including Bennett and Australia’s Caleb Ewan, were caught up in crashes along the 156 km route.
“The boys kept me safe during the stage. I was sitting on [Peter] Sagan for a long time. At the en, I was the strongest and it was an amazing moment for me. It means a lot for my career. I am 33, have kids but I can still perform with the best,” Kristoff said.
On Sunday, Kristoff will face the second stage in yellow, 186 km starting and finishing in Nice. The hilly route features the Col de la Colomiane, Col de Turini, Col d’Eze and Col des Quatres Chemins.