Alexander Kristoff timed his sprint finish to perfection to win the opening stage of the Tour de France in Nice.
After a large group crashed inside the final 3km, Norwegian Kristoff, 33, surged home in a sprint also involving Ireland’s Sam Bennett, who was fourth.
Rain made the roads treacherous and led to several crashes, with Pavel Sivakov of Team Ineos twice coming off.
Ineos’ defending champion Egan Bernal largely avoided the trouble and finished safely in the peloton.
Colombia’s Nairo Quintana crashed, while Astana’s decision to up the pace on the final descent from Levens saw Miguel Angel Lopez slide into a road sign and prompted some stern exchanges towards the team from other riders in the peloton.
Ineos’ Luke Rowe called Astana’s move “pretty stupid”.
“I have to say ‘chapeau’ to the whole peloton – minus Astana to hit it down one climb and, as a result, their leader was left on his back,” the British rider said.
France’s Julian Alaphilippe was also caught in a crash, while compatriot Thibaut Pinot – one of the race favourites – fell heavily towards the end and rolled over the line with a ripped jersey.
However, because the crash happened inside the final 3km, he was credited with the same time as the group he was riding with, so ended up losing no time on his rivals for the overall win.
The riders face a 186km mountainous second stage on Sunday, with two climbs above 1,500m.
Source: BBC Sport