It was supposed to be a big party, but the weather decided otherwise. The Tour de France 2020’s Grand Depart did not prove to be the most pleasant for the riders on Saturday. Because of very slippery roads, the first stage of the Tour got really complicated. It was even neutralized for a while by the riders themselves before Alexander Kristoff won the final sprint. Several riders from the Groupama-FDJ cycling team, including Thibaut Pinot, were caught in a crash with three kilometers to go, but they all still could reach the finish line. Their physical condition seems quite ok after this opening day.
“The riders understood that it was going to be massacre”, Marc Madiot
The sun was still shining at 2 p.m. on Saturday when the long-awaited kickoff of the 2020 Tour de France was given by Christian Prudhomme. Three men immediately took the lead and the bunch peacefully let them get a three-minute advantage. The sprinters and leaders teams then took control, but despite a rather slow pace, the first crashes were quick to occur. Things got worse a bit before the halfway point when the rain appeared on the course and thus brought even more stress in the bunch. As a direct consequence, the breakaway was caught just after the second last categorized climb, nearly sixty kilometers from the finish. However, after having already recorded multiple accidents and aware of the dangerous roads that were still to come, the peloton decided by mutual agreement to neutralize the race for a few kilometers, especially in the final descent from Levens.
“The riders were quite nervous, explained Marc Madiot. The organizers offer a course, the managers suggest a tactic but in the end, the riders decide. And fortunately so. I think they made the right decisions today. If they felt it was an ice rink, they did well to neutralize. They understood that it was going to be a massacre if we kept going on a normal racing pace. The riders proved to be very intelligent.” The bunch then continued to ride as a group and with an extremely moderate pace before the race finally started again in the last twenty kilometers, on the flat part. Benoit Cosnefroy tried his luck but the sprinters’ teams did the necessary work, as expected, to ensure a massive sprint. Along the way, the riders had also obtained from the commissaires that the times would be neutralized in the last three kilometers. It was precisely at this crucial point that the Groupama-FDJ cycling team, until then quite spared, was involved in a massive crash. Like five of his teammates, Thibaut Pinot fell down before getting back on his bike, and being accompanied to the line by his colleagues.
“One of the worst days of my career”, Thibaut Pinot
“We avoided all crashes up to that point,” continued Marc. “It shows that even in the last few hundred meters, and even if it’s just straight, if it’s slippery, it’s just slippery … It’s part of the race”. “It reminds us that the Tour can be lost in just a few meters, in a corner,” added Yvon Madiot. “It was really, really dangerous. We were slipping around the corners even with the cars, so I guess that it was really not easy on the bike. It was a really stressful day.” Talking about this gruelling day, Thibaut Pinot simply said he experienced “one of the worst days of [his] career”. “I think everyone was in this case, everyone was afraid, added the Frenchman. “It was really like we were riding on ice. Riders were falling even when the race was neutralised. On the bike it was really stressful.” Tonight, Groupama-FDJ’s leader is nevertheless in the same time than the main peloton while a first test in the mountains awaits tomorrow. He will have to take this test with the crash’s consequences.
Groupama-FDJ’s doctor Jacky Maillot made a first evaluation on Saturday evening. “Seven of our eight riders crashed today. Only Seb did not”, he said. “For Thibaut, there are multiple abrasions with knee trauma. David Gaudu has a sacrum trauma. William Bonnet suffers from shoulder and left thigh’s traumas. Rudy has a knee trauma. There is no real trauma for the others. We will take stock this evening with the care of our physiotherapists and osteopaths, then we will review everything tomorrow morning”. “Thibaut was annoyed and fed up, but I think that with a good night’s recovery it should be fine for tomorrow,” Marc concluded. “He’s not the only one who hit the ground though, so I hope it turns out well for everyone.”