Froome finds ditch as Le Tour has bumpy start
THE Tour de France has bared its teeth, transforming a mundane opening stage into an accident-packed finale that claimed several high-profile victims.
Rising Colombian star Fernando Gaviria soared into the yellow jersey after becoming the first rider in six years to win on debut, outlasting Peter Sagan and Marcel Kittel on the uphill drag to Fontenay Le-Conte.
But behind him, a formulaic 201km journey was flipped on its head inside the last 10km as original fears of a tricky day came to dramatic fruition.
It ended with Australian contender Richie Porte, four-time Tour champion Chris Froome and Mitchelton Scott leader Adam Yates already 51 seconds down on several rivals.
Nairo Quintana had a nightmare, puncturing 400m short of the 3km neutral zone and losing 1min15sec.
The drama started when a crash near the front of the peloton held up Porte, Yates and a host of others.
Then Froome seemingly ran out of road a few kilometres later and flew headfirst into a ditch. The Brit was able to scamper back onto the bitumen where he latched onto the Porte group.
Complicating matters for the pair is that several of their title rivals slipped through the mayhem and already hold an advantage after one day.
Vincenzo Nibali, Tom Dumoulin, Mikel Landa, Romain Bardet, Dan Martin and Rigoberto Uran all finished at the same time as stage winner Gaviria and take a 51-second lead into Stage 2.
While far from catastrophic, Porte's misfortune is the latest in a long line of setbacks to hit him in Grand Tours.
But the Tasmanian took solace from the fact he wasn't on his own in the volatile Tour opener.
"It was pretty nervous there. It's not ideal, but Quintana has lost more (time), Froome was there, Yates was there. I guess that's the Tour," Porte said.
"I don't really know what happened, to be honest. It's one of those things - one minute it's all OK and the next thing there's a crash in front and there were a few more crashes on the way in.
"It's definitely swings and roundabouts, this race. Guys took time today, but who's to say the same doesn't happen to them tomorrow? It's a shame, but we'll see how the next days go. There's a long way to go and it's nice to finally start the race."
Froome said his off-road prang was "one of those things".
"I'm grateful I'm not injured. We knew it was going to be tricky, sketchy, it's part of the game."
This year's Tour has attracted the cream of the sprinting crop. Gaviria, part of the new generation of sprinters, is only the second Colombian to wear the yellow jersey.
"It really is an amazing day for me," Gaviria said.
"It's a jersey that everyone wants to get and to get it on the first day is just amazing."
Gaviria will wear his new garment on Sunday's Stage 2, which takes the riders from Mouilleron-Saint-Germain to La Roche-Sur-Yon on a 182.5km mission that ends with another gentle rise to the line.