It could be a Tour de France of surprises, if the opening stage is any indication. The race began in Brussels, looped around the flats of Belgium in a tribute to Tour great Eddy Merckx, and returned to Brussels for a flat finish that was expected by many to put sprinter Dylan Groenewegen into the Tour’s first yellow jersey. And indeed, in the closing kilometers the sprinters’ teams, including Groenewegen’s Jumbo-Visma, all organized to deliver their fast finishers in the right place at the right time. But a crash with just a kilometer and a half remaining put a half-dozen riders on the ground, including Groenewegen, who lay prone on the pavement for several seconds.
The riders who remained upright continued their gallop, however, and in the final blitz it looked as though it would be a duel between Sonny Colbrelli and six-time green jersey winner Peter Sagan, when a rider in Jumbo-Visma black and yellow emerged from the masses and pipped the pair at the line. NBC Sports commentator Phil Liggett assumed, naturally, that if it wasn’t Groenewegen (who was still picking himself up off the ground) then surely it must be Wout Van Aert, their promising Classics rider. Not until the dust had settled was the winner revealed as … Mike Teunissen?
[Cue the sound of commentators hurriedly googling.]
The Dutchman told reporters later that their team had trained hard to give Groenewegen the perfect lead-out to the finish line, and they’d specifically targeted the opening stage, so when he looked around and found his teammate missing, he figured he might as well push on and see what he could do himself. And though he’d never before won a stage in the Tour de France – or any Grand Tour – he managed to steal a win from some of the best sprinters in the business. In the process, he traded his yellow and black for pure yellow, as the first leader of the Tour de France.