It was a positive day at the saddle for UAE Team Emirates’ Alexander Kristoff as the Norwegian followed up Saturday’s top five finish with another, crossing the line in fifth place during Sunday’s second stage to La Roche-sur-Yon.
The reigning European champion came into the final stretch alongside his fellow sprint specialists as they battled it out in the closing kilometre in what was another thrilling finish.
Commenting on the stage, the 31-year-old said: “I came from a little too far back. I knew I had to move up but I didn’t really have the legs to do it.
“I did my best and if I was stronger I could have fought with the best, but I lack the legs at the moment to fight amongst the first three. I hope my legs become stronger later but I felt a bit better today.”
Dan Martin added: “We’ve managed to keep our guard as much as possible. We worked a lot on our TTT. We have a very strong team here. Hopefully we can put in a good performance for ourselves.”
Best for UAE Team Emirates on stage two were: Marco Marcato (51st), Kristijan Durasek (99th), Darwin Atapuma (100th), Roberto Ferrari (111th), Rory Sutherland (144th), Oliviero Troia (156th).
Monday’s third stage will be the first Time Trial on this year’s Tour – a 35km Team Time Trial around the town of Cholet. Focus will be key for each team as they hope to get their GC contenders across the line with the best possible time.
World champion Peter Sagan won stage two of the Tour de France to take the yellow jersey as Chris Froome did a better job of staying out of trouble on another crash-strewn finale.
Bora-Hansgrohe’s Sagan held off a late charge from Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) to win from a much-reduced sprint after a big pile-up in the final two kilometres held up the bulk of the peloton.
With stage one winner Fernando Gaviria among those caught out, Bora-Hansgrohe’s Sagan moves into the yellow jersey on bonus seconds after finishing second on Saturday.
But there were only a handful of men left to contest stage honours after a nasty right-hander two kilometres from the finish saw a number of riders hit the deck.
Froome and his Sky team-mates were also left behind but they did at least stay upright, 24 hours after Froome lost 51 seconds to most of his general classification rivals thanks to a tumble in the final six kilometres.
With the incident here coming in the final three kilometres, none of those held up will suffer time losses on general classification.
Mark Cavendish’s hopes of a 31st career Tour stage win were also scuppered by the incident but the Dimension Data rider stayed upright.
The dramatic pile-up capped another nervous finale to the race, with Mitchelton-Scott’s Adam Yates among those to fall in the final 35km. The Bury rider, who like Froome lost time thanks to a crash on the opening stage, quickly made his way back to the pack but with his left shoulder scuffed up.
Astana’s key man Luis Leon Sanchez was not so lucky, forced to abandon after hitting the deck hard, while Romain Bardet’s domestique Silvan Dillier also fell.
Those incidents came as the speed picked up and the peloton reeled in Sylvain Chavanel, the Direct Energie rider who had been away solo since the 35km marker on the 182.5km stage from Mouilleron-Saint-Germain.
The 39-year-old, competing in a record 18th Tour de France and his 350th stage, enjoyed his day in the spotlight, sitting up to high-five fans in the towns early in the day as the peloton was happy to let him go.
He was finally caught with 13km left, setting up an intense battle for position on the road into La Roche-sur-Yon.
Marcel Kittel, winner of five stages in last year’s Tour, saw his hopes of contesting the sprint effectively ended by a flat rear tyre with 7.5km to go, but the bigger incident was still to come.
Sagan leads by six seconds from Gaviria, but the more notable name near the top of the general classification is Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas, who sits in seventh, 15 seconds off the lead.
The Welshman nicked third place in the bonus sprint late on the stage to move one second clear of the rest of the main contenders, and he will hope for Team Sky victory in Monday’s team time trial to propel him into yellow.
Yates and Froome sit in 81st and 84th places respectively, 67 seconds off yellow but more concerned about the 51 second gap to the likes of Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Mikel Landa (Movistar).
UAE Team Emirates produced an impressive team performance on the opening stage of the Tour de France, with reigning European champion and sprint specialist Alexander Kristoff battling with fellow sprinters to finish an impressive fourth.
The Norwegian held his nerve in the final kilometres to take home the top-five finish, and will be hoping for similar results over the coming weeks as he contends to be one of the top sprinters on the tour.
The opening stage was won by Colombian Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors), who will take the coveted yellow jersey into tomorrow’s Stage 2.
Kristoff said: “It was quite chaotic but I got good help from my team mates and had a good position.
“I couldn’t manage to pass (Peter) Sagan or Gaviria but I managed to get fourth – I was hoping for a podium and I was close, but Gaviria, Sagan and (Marcel) Kittel were better than me today. I will try again in the next stages and hopefully can improve on my fourth place.”
Meanwhile, Dan Martin managed to avoid a late crash and finish with the main group who are contending for the General Classification (GC).
The Irishman, who leads UAE Team Emirates’ GC charge, said: “Today was a chaotic final were everybody was fresh and wanted to stay in front.
“I avoided the crash and that was really important. As I said in the past few days, I have a lot of confidence in the team, and in stages like today teammates are really important.”
Sunday’s Stage 2 will see the peloton tackle another relatively flat course, with the only climb of the day being the category four cote de Pouzauges, coming at 28km – which could be the ideal opportunity for a breakaway to form.
The finale to the stage will come as the group prepare for another bunched sprint finish into the regions capital, La Roche-sur-Yon.