Norwegian Alexander Kristoff sprinted into the Tour de France yellow jersey, winning the opening stage in Nice of the Grand Tour that started two months later than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I always dreamed about wearing the yellow jersey,” he said. “I crashed also in the European Championships a few days ago, straight on my head, so I was a bit banged up. But that didn’t affect me today.”
Kristoff, 33, earned his fourth career Tour stage win, edging world road race champion Mads Pedersen of Denmark in a bunched sprint.
It came on a rainy day filled with crashes involving French favorites Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe, who finished in the same time as the other overall favorites.
The Tour continues with a mountainous stage two on Sunday, also in Nice. Coverage begins at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.
The Tour started amid the coronavirus “gaining ground” in France, France’s prime minister said Thursday.
The government announced 21 of its 101 administrative regions, including Nice, were now in the “red zone” where the virus is actively circulating and authorities can impose stricter rules on gatherings. Masks were required for everyone in Paris starting Friday, ahead of schools reopening 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 riders or staff test positive within a seven-day span. Teams must be tested on Tour rest days Sept. 7 and Sept. 14.
There are 22 squads of eight riders competing at the Tour, but a total of 30 members per team when staff are included.
Tour organizers 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 are able to start this race, but we want a second miracle to happen, which is the Tour de France to arrive in Paris,” UCI president David Lappartient said. “The goal is really to reach Paris.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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