July 21st, 2024

Bardet wins hot and hilly opening Tour de France stage in Italy while Cavendish struggles

By The Associated Press on June 29, 2024.

RIMINI, Italy (AP) – Two-time podium finisher Romain Bardet won the opening stage of the Tour de France and claimed the yellow jersey on Saturday as cycling’s biggest race began in Italy for the first time.

Combined with severe heat, one of the most challenging opening legs in recent memory created problems for Mark Cavendish and many other riders.

Tadej Pogacar, who is aiming to follow up his Giro d’Italia title with a third Tour trophy, and two-time defending champion Jonas Vingegaard both finished safely in the main pack, though.

Vingegaard’s performance was especially encouraging, considering he was hospitalized for nearly two weeks in April following a high-speed crash in the Tour of the Basque Country. He sustained a broken collarbone and ribs and a collapsed lung and had not raced since.

Bardet, the Frenchman who finished second in 2016 and third in 2017 and is racing his last Tour, attacked with slightly more than 50 kilometers (30 miles) to go. He caught up with his DSM-Firmenich PostNL teammate Frank van den Broek, who was in an early breakaway, and the pair just barely held off the onrushing peloton in the flat finish.

Bardet surged ahead of his teammate at the line and pointed to him to say, “Thank you.”

It was Bardet’s fourth career stage win in the Tour, and first since 2017.

The 206-kilometer (128-mile) route from Florence to the Adriatic coastal resort of Rimini featured seven categorized climbs and more than 3,600 meters (11,800 feet) of ascending. The temperature soared to 36 degrees (97 F).

Cavendish vomited twice and dropped far behind on the very first climb, putting at risk his pursuit of breaking a tie with Eddy Merckx for the most career stage wins in the Tour.

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AP cycling: https://apnews.com/hub/cycling

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