At the start of the anniversary Tour, one organizational mishap follows the next. The beneficiary is the German Marcel Kittel.
Two fists, a big surprise: Marcel Kittel wins in the final sprint. Picture: ap
A team bus caught under the finish banner gave the 100th Tour de France a thoroughly embarrassing start. With the peloton only about 10 kilometers from the finish, a couple of employees from Tour organizer ASO were still struggling to somehow maneuver Team Orica’s bus off the finish line.
"There was a big crash and then the bus was stuck there," eyewitnesses told the taz. It moved and didn’t budge. Only when some air was let out of the wheels, reducing the height, was the driver able to move the behemoth backwards out of the finish zone. The beneficiary of the confusion that day was Marcel Kittel, who surprisingly won the first stage.
Because as a result of the comedy happening at the finish, a mass crash also occurred four kilometers away. Because the Tour organizers no longer expected to move the bus in time, they moved the finish forward to the three-kilometer mark. When the original finish line was cleared in time, the decision was again reversed. By then, the field was on its virtual last kilometer. "That caused a lot of confusion. Some caught on, some didn’t. Some prepared the sprint for the 3km mark, others for the regular finish," Rolf Aldag described the situation.
Wrong goal in mind
Aldag’s former protege Andre Greipel, of all people, and his current Tony Martin clashed here. "Greipel simply ran Tony down. He came from behind, with his elbow out," Aldag said. However, he did not want to reproach Greipel. "That happens in such situations. Greipel prepared for the sprint before the finish and wanted to get to the front quickly. Tony started from the finish further back," Aldag explained. Greipel’s team manager Marc Sergeant described the incident somewhat differently: "Andre stayed on his line. In the process, Tony Martin touched him. It ripped his handlebars off and he crashed."
Sergeant, like Aldag, admittedly saw their pros robbed of their chance to win. Both Greipel and Omega man Mark Cavendish were keen on the yellow jersey, which Marcel Kittel was now allowed to put on. However, they did not blame the other side and also took the bus driver in defense.
"After all, it’s not just his fault. What about the man who moves the finish banner up and down? You could have stopped the peloton 15 km from the finish and only given the green light when everything was clear. There was no group in front," said Aldag. And Sergeant bitterly remarked, "Have you ever experienced in all these years that you could get onto the track in the finish area without an ASO man stopping you there?"
The advantage of not knowing French
The bus driver himself was inconsolable. "I had a pretty bad night. I want to apologize to everyone who had been harmed by this," explained the Spanish driver of the Australian team bus.
Team Argos benefited from the chaos. The Dutch team with four German starters had not noticed anything of the mess. "We prepared for the real finish and just went through with our plan," explained team spokesman Geert Broekhuizen.
Because blond Marcel Kittel crowned the preparation with a victory and took over the yellow jersey, the team popped the champagne corks. In addition to Kittel’s undisputedly great performance, however, they were also allowed to celebrate a victory of ignorance. "Sometimes it’s obviously better if you don’t speak French and don’t understand the announcements on Radio Tour," growled the polyglot Belgian Sergeant.