The Tour de France’s first visit to Corsica started uneventfully Saturday, as riders rode calmly out of a picture-perfect harbor town under sunny skies.
But as the peloton arrived in Bastia nearly five hours later, the race became unglued. A team bus stuck at the finish line threatened the stage’s conclusion, and then an enormous crash, involving overall race contenders like Alberto Contador, spoiled a much-anticipated sprint finish.
Out of the chaos, an up-and-coming sprinter named Marcel Kittel became the surprise winner on Stage One of the centennial Tour.The crowds on Saturday were sparser than on first stages in recent years, perhaps due more to the remote location than to lack of intrigue. The stage finish was five hours by ferry from Nice, but Corsican fans treated the Tour to their own brand of hospitality.
By the end of the day, though, only one person — Kittel, the stage winner — seemed to be in a good mood.
“I’m speechless, I’m so happy,” he said. “It’s by far the biggest victory of my career.”