FONTENAY-DE-CONTE – Africa’s Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had a large part to play in the first stage of the Tour de France on Saturday.
Fernando Gaviria (Quickstep-Floors) sprinted to victory, securing the first yellow jersey of the race while world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) finished in second place and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) third.
A sunny day welcomed the start of the 105th edition of Le Tour de France, as the peloton left the Normandy region on a 201km journey, finishing in Fontenay-de-Conte.
From the start, Team Dimension Data and Quickstep-Floors took control of the race, setting the pace behind a three-rider breakaway.
SA’s Jay Thomson, riding a debut Tour de France, was in his element leading the main field for the majority of the stage.
Said Thomson: “It wasn’t the result we wanted but it’s also not the end of the world. Tomorrow is another sprint day and we will try again.
“Today was the first stage of 21, so it’s not all lost in the water. We’ll try again tomorrow, we’ll work hard for a result that we deserve.
“Other than that, today was an amazing day. I had to tell myself to stop smiling, just seeing the crowds and how many people were watching the race, it was unreal.”
As the finale approached, the nerves started to rise and eventually boiled over, with a few crashes and mechanicals taking place over the final kilometres.
Defending champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) went down, but so too did a number of his GC (General Classification) rivals, with Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Richie Porte (BMC Racing) and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) all losing time together with Froome in the end.
At the head of proceedings though, the African team had steered clear of the trouble and were primed for the final sprint showdown with 5km remaining.
The team’s sprint train was just not able to link up effectively though, through the numerous roundabouts that made the run-in to the line rather tricky.
Quickstep-Floors led from the front and delivered their Colombian to the best position for the sprint, which was the difference at the end of the day.
Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen rolled across the line as Dimension Data’s highest placed rider on the stage, in 19th position.
The rest of the team all got in safely too, after a very nervy first stage.
African News Agency (ANA)