Dutchman Mike Teunissen has won the first stage of the Tour de France, a 194 kilometre trek around the Flanders countryside ending in Brussels, with Australia’s Caleb Ewan edged out for third.
Teunissen was Jumbo-Visma’s lead out man for one of the sprint favourites Dylan Greoenewegen who fell in a big pile up in the final kilometres.
Peter Sagan was second, with Ewan boxed in in the final frantic moments.
The Australian showed enough in the sprint to boost hopes that he could win a stage at his debut Tour de France.
Teunissen was in shock after the stage. “I can’t believe it,” he told SBS. “We were working weeks, months, I would say, to bring Dylan to the stage victory, to the yellow jersey. Then 1.5 kilometres, everything disappears because he goes down in a crash.
“Then I thought, ‘I’m still here. I’m still fresh. We can try it’. And then I saw everyone dying in the last metres and even Sagan – I was catching up on. I just take him on the line.
“Like I said, beyond imagining.”
Earlier, Belgian cycling great Eddy Merckx got the 106th Tour de France under way as thousands of fans flooded to the first Grand Depart in Brussels for 61 years.
To chants of “Eddy Eddy” from the massed ranks at the city’s majestic Grand Place, the 74-year-old sent the 176 riders on their way for the first of 21 stages.
Merckx, known in his heyday as the Cannibal for his aggressive riding style, was joined by Belgium’s King Philippe for the ceremonial duties.
It is 50 years since Brussels native Merckx won the first of his joint-record five Tour de France titles.
The opening stage took place in warm sunshine with Belgium’s Olympic champion Greg van Avermaet (CCC) part of a four-man breakaway which led the peloton by just over two minutes with 97 kilometres still remaining.
Van Avermaet will take the polka dot jersey after winning the sprint to the top of the day’s one short, but steep, climb, the Mur de Grammont.