NICE, France (AP) – With riders already missing and injured in crashes on day one, the Tour de France is heading for the first time in its history directly to the high mountains during Sunday’s stage 2, an exceptionally early indicator of preparing the best contenders to compete for overall victory.
Sunday’s loop route north of the Mediterranean city of Nice features two climbs of 1,500 meters and more that will test the physical fitness of runners whose preparations this year have been shaken by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Belgian team Lotto Soudal is already reduced to six riders, after losing the former world champion Philippe Gilbert and John Degenkolb to knee injuries during the first stage damaged by a crash on Saturday. Gilbert broke his left knee. He went through the pain to finish but the team said he wouldn’t start on Sunday.
Degenkolb hit his right knee and was in so much pain that he struggled for the finish that he missed the time.
The penultimate finisher, Rafael Valls, was later diagnosed with a fractured right thigh bone. His Bahrain-McLaren team said the Spanish driver was also out of the race.
Other riders are hit after rainstorms made the roads as slippery as ice on the Stage 1 course through and around Nice. Many arrived for the start of Stage 2 wrapped in bandages.
Among them, Thibaut Pinot, considered France’s best hope for his first Tour title since 1985. He was involved in a stack in the final race to the line won by Norwegian Alexander Kristoff.
“It hurts all over the place,” Pinot said ahead of Sunday’s start. “But nothing is broken, so the road continues. “
“Not all accidents were shown on television… they happened at every turn,” he added. “It was one of my worst days on the bike.”
As the peloton set off, Kristoff wore the race leader’s yellow jersey for the first time in his career. He had a matching yellow mask at first.