Alexander Kristoff wins the first stage of the Tour de France full of accidents

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Norwegian Alexandre Kristoff sprinted in the yellow jersey of the Tour de France, winning the opening stage in Nice of the Grand Tour which started two months later than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I always dreamed of wearing the yellow jersey,” he says. “I also fell at the European Championships a few days ago, right on the head, so I was a bit hit. But it didn’t affect me today.

Kristoff, 33, claimed his fourth career stage victory on the Tour, edging out the road racing world champion Mads Pedersen from Denmark in a group sprint.

It happened on a rainy day filled with accidents involving French favorites Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe and the rise of Russian Pavel Sivakov. All three continued to run.

The Tour continues with a second mountainous stage on Sunday, also in Nice. Coverage begins at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Ranking | TV, broadcast program | Step by step

The tour began as the coronavirus “gained ground” in France, the French prime minister said on Thursday.

The government announced that 21 of its 101 administrative regions, including Nice, are now in the “red zone” where the virus is actively circulating and where authorities can impose stricter rules on gatherings. Masks were mandatory for everyone in Paris from Friday, before schools reopened next week.

Tour riders and staff are in a moving bubble, which required two negative tests to start the three-week Grand Tour. An entire team will be sent home if two runners or staff test positive within seven days. Teams must be tested on Tour rest days on September 7 and 14.

There are 22 teams of eight riders competing on the Tour, but a total of 30 team members when staff are included.

Tour organizers have set up a mobile coronavirus lab that can produce results in two hours and handle 50 tests a day on race days.

“It’s a first miracle that we can start this race, but we want a second miracle to happen, namely the arrival of the Tour de France in Paris”, declared the president of the UCI David Lappartient said. “The goal is really to reach Paris.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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