On the first day of the 2021 Tour de France, riders and fans were reminded about the brutality and unpredictability of cycling with a pair of crashes, when a lapse in judgement from a bone-headed spectator resulted in serious injuries and a premature exit. Despite a crash, Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) kicked off the Tour de France with a big bang when the Frenchman won Stage 1: Brest > Landerneau and snagged the yellow jersey on the opening day of Le Tour.

Stage 1 Tour de France 2021 Le Julian Alaphilippe crash
It was impossible for the peloton to avoid the carnage after the first crash in Stage 1 of the 2021 Tour de France, which began in Brest and finished in Landerneau. (Image: EPA)

This year’s Grand Depart in Brest was marred by two gnarly crashes and four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome had to be hospitalized after a nasty spill in the second crash.

  1. Julian Alaphilippe (DQS) 4:39:05
  2. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) +0:08
  3. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)

In the 2020 Tour de France, Alaphilippe scored a victory in Stage 2 and wore the yellow jersey for nearly a week before he had to cough it up. He did not waste any time in the 2021 race before he earned a spot on the top step of the podium for Stage 1.

With a time bonus, Alaphilippe opened an overall 12-second lead over Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange), who finished in second place. Primoz Roglic, last year’s Tour de France runner-up from Jumbo-Visma, took third place in Stage 1 despite crashing as well.

Defending champion Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) finished in sixth place, but most importantly, he evaded harm in both crashes.

Stage 1: Brest > Landerneau

For only the fourth time in the 108-year history of the Tour de France, the peloton started in Brest. Stage 1 set the scene for four stages in Bretagne with a 198km ride from Brest to Landerneau. There were four Category 4 climbs, but a pair of crashes were the source of drama on the opening day with the first one occurring with 45 km to go and the second one happening less than 8 km to the finish line.

With 2.3 km remaining in Stage 1, Alaphilippe attacked during a climb on Cote de la Fosse aux Loups and held off the Slovenians — Roglic and Pogacar — during an uphill finish. Roglic finished in third place behind Matthews, while Pogacar was sixth.

“Really incredible,” said a happy Alaphilippe. “It’s a scenario I imagined and the start of my Tour is a success. My team did great work, they took care of me and controlled things. In the final, I was caught up in a crash but I was able to stay calm and then I had to finish off the work on the final climb and get rid of the sprinters.”

With an uncontested finish in Stage 1, Alaphilippe won his sixth overall stage win at the Tour de France. He stood on the top step of the podium in his fourth consecutive Tour de France, starting with his first stage win in 2018. A Frenchman has not won Le Tour in 36 years since the legendary Bernard ‘The Badger’ Hinault won his fifth Tour de France in 1985.

Geraint Thomas from Ineos Grenadiers took tenth place in Stage 1. His teammate Richard Carapaz, one of the non-Slovenian favorites to win Le Tour, finished 13 seconds behind Alaphilippe in 22nd place.

Stage 1 Crashes

A fan holding a cardboard sign that said “Allez Opo-omi!” caused the first crash approximately 45 km remaining in Stage 1. The culprit seemed more concerned with sending a shoutout to his grandparents and getting face time on the TV cameras than paying attention to the thundering herd of the peloton. Tony Martin crashed into multiple spectators and several of the GC contenders went down including Roglic and multiple Jumbo-Visman teammates. Alaphilippe, Wout Van Aert, and Miguel Angel Lopez also crashed.

Jasha Sutterlin (Team DSM) withdrew due to injuries he suffered in the initial crash.

The second crash, approximately 7.5 km outside Landerneau, occurred on flat road and did not appear to be anyone’s fault. Two riders touched wheels on the narrow road and for a second time on Saturday, a large segment of the peloton ate asphalt.

“I cannot believe what we’re seeing!” said NBC Sports commentator Phil Liggett. “What on Earth has happened? The entire field has somersaulted. This is absolutely unthinkable.”

Froome, riding for Israel Start-up Nation, injured his groin and had breathing problems. His team whisked Froome away to a local hospital after he finished in 171st place, nearly 15 minutes behind Alaphilippe.

Richie Porte (Ineos) lost two-plus minutes due to the second crash, while teammate Tao Geoghegan Hart fell behind by more than five minutes.

Check out all of OG’s coverage of the 2021 Tour de France.