Forward collisions and headwind suspend bridge-based theaters at Tour de France
At the end of stage two, the Great Belt Bridge that connects Zealand and Funen was simply referred to by riders as ‘the big bridge’. But for all the might of the 56m-tall structure stretching 18km above the water, its impact on stage two was minimal.
Denmark originally wanted the stage to end in Funen’s capital Odense, but Tour de France organizers wanted to cut the drama to 11, leaving just 3km from the bridge exit to the finish line. The town of Nyborg, said one of the 17,000 residents, has never seen so many people.
While the crosswinds failed to materialize, crashes on deck and in the final 3km caused the expected mayhem of the first week.
“It was a bit sketchy for the first kilometer but everyone calmed down when there was a crash,” UAE Team Emirates’ Brandon McNulty told CyclingTips of the crash that took him down. the yellow jersey of Yves Lampaert.
You could tell right away that nothing was going to happen,” added Fred Wright of Bahrain-Victorious. “Head crossed…it was just a little too much head.”
It helped everyone relax a little, explained Connor Swift of Arkea-Samsic, but despite the crash which relaxed the peloton, “everyone was still panicking”, said the Briton, “it’s the first real stage of the Tour and it’s a sprint. Just a lot of nervous people and once we get past stage five it should calm down a bit.
“I think it’s quite similar,” Swift continued of how the peloton’s nerves this year compared to the heckling of the opening week of the French Grand Tour last year. “And then also added to the fact that the crowd was lined with fans all day, I think everyone kind of remembered that crash on the first stage of the Tour last year with that big crash that hit Tony Martin [Opi-Omi]obviously no one wants this to happen again, so everyone was careful and it causes a bit more stress.
Ag2r Citroën’s Aussie GC prospect Ben O’Connor was knocked down in the second crash and told CyclingTips he flipped over his handlebars. Although he injured his leg, he is confident that it will not affect his running.
So a stressful day for the runners and a scenic view for the fans was the common count. But the new yellow jersey Wout van Aert had a different opinion.
“To be honest it was boring because the headwind was so strong it felt like a practice,” the Belgian said bluntly. “I think we were barely going 30 km/h, especially on the uphill part.”
“It was close to the finish, so there was no freedom to look around and enjoy [the views]. It was definitely something special but under the circumstances it was nothing more than an easy game with no audience on the side of the road.
Perhaps Van Aert is annoyed by a missed opportunity for his Jumbo-Visma squad to test the strength of UAE Team Emirates, who brought a squad for the mountains rather than the tricky first week. Although a memorable day, it was hardly a bridge over troubled Wout-er.
[Minus five points for this last one, Jonny – ed.]