Mike Teunissen (Jumbo Visma) took over from his sprinter team mate Dylan Groenewegen to win stage 1 in Brussels ahead of Peter Sagan and Caleb Ewan as he took his responsibilities after the crash of the favourite. He puts an end to a 30 year drought for The Netherlands in the yellow jersey.
176 riders took the start of stage 1 in Brussels. Four of them attacked from the gun and made the first breakaway of the 106th Tour de France: Greg Van Avermaet (CCC), Natnael Berhane (Cofidis), Xandro Meurisse (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Mads Würtz Schmidt (Katusha-Alpecin). There was no reaction from the peloton. The maximum time gap was reached after 20km of racing: 3’25’’, after which the teams of the sprinters, mostly Deceuninck-Quick Step, Jumbo-Visma and Lotto-Soudal, set the steady pace of the peloton.
The main goal of the attackers was the King of the Mountain price atop the Muur van Geraardsbergen. Berhane attacked at the bottom in the very crowded town of Geraardsbergen but Van Avermaet was attentive. On the steep part of the climb, Berhane and Würtz Schmidt couldn’t hold the pace of the two Belgians.
Van Avermaet passed first in front the famous chapel (km 43.5) and secured the first polka dot jersey of the 2019 Tour de France even though Meurisse crested the Bosberg at the front 4 kilometres further. The Olympic champion will wear the polka dot jersey during the team time trial, being the first Belgian to ride in this distinctive jersey on Belgian roads at the Tour de France since Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke in 1980.
Van Avermaet sat up and waited for the peloton while his three former breakaway companions were reunited at km 50 with an advantage of 2’40’’ over the pack. The same three teams from the Benelux stabilised the gap around two minutes as the race left Flanders to also visit the Walloon part of the country.
The teams of the GC favourites, Ineos, Movistar and Astana, sped up at the head of the peloton before the 1.9km long cobblestones section of Thiméon (km 118). Peter Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team put the hammer down on the pavé. It put an end to the breakaway of Meurisse, Würtz Schmidt and Berhane with 70km to go and split the peloton with Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) at the back for a while. Sagan won the intermediate sprint 69.5km before the end ahead of Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) and Van Avermaet.
As the reunited peloton was slowing down, Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis) attacked on his own with 59km to go. The Parisian got up to 1’50’’ lead with 45km remaining. 20km before the end, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) crashed. He made it back to pack with the assistance of four team-mates with 10km to go, just before Rossetto was reeled in.
Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma), the hot favourite for the stage win, crashed 1.5km before the line but his team-mate Mike Teunissen was quick to take over his role. The winner of the Four Days of Dunkirk followed Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) and Sagan who looked like he was going to win but the former cyclo-cross rider threw his bike on the line to win stage 1 and become the first Dutchman in the yellow jersey since Erik Breukink after the prologue in Luxemburg in the 1989 Tour de France.