Mathieu van der Poel said he expected trouble at stage three of the Tour de France on Tuesday.
The Alpecin-Fenix rider leads the General Classification early in the competition, and managed to steer clear of the near-catastrophic collision at the end of the stage. Teammate Tim Merlier claimed the win in the final kilometre with his assistant, while Van der Poel kept hold of the yellow jersey.
Van der Poel nevertheless described the race’s conclusion as a ‘very dangerous, very hectic stage,’ which is no surprise given the crash at stage one due to the intervention of a celebrating fan.
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“For sure it’s something special to wear yellow jersey in this country, it’s a big deal and I’m really happy with how the day went,” Van der Poel said, reported Cyclingnews.
“Of course it was very dangerous, very hectic and we can be happy once again [we] didn’t crash because a lot of guys went down.
"I did the lead-out for Tim [Merlier], and also I knew I had to stay in the group rather than drop back, because Julian Alapahilippe [Deceuninck-QuickStep, second overall] was up there, so I had to stay in there, and that was hard for me.”
When asked what was the cause of the crashes at this year’s Tour, he answered: “It’s a bit of everything. For sure it’s the biggest race, everyone is nervous, you have GC guys fighting against sprinter teams. For sure the last 10 kilometers was a bit fast and stretched out, but you also see big crashes on straight roads. For sure it’s a dangerous sport, if you see how many guys crashed today, it’s dangerous.”
Fellow competitor Tim Declerc has suggested that one solution might be to stop the General Classification timing eight kilometres before the finish to take the stress out of the finale, and Van der Poel weighed up the idea.
“I don’t think that was a bad idea, it was a very fast, technical descent towards the finish line, and I knew there was going to be trouble [when] GC guys start fighting against the sprinters’ teams,” he said.
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“It’s always something I find difficult to measure, it’s easier if you don’t have to do it the last eight kilometres, it would maybe have saved a lot of trouble for some riders.”
However he noted that moving the timing up by 8km might simply relocate the frenetic ending to an earlier part of the course.
"It’s always difficult to have an opinion and we’ve had already a lot of finals where riders have crashed. Maybe if the eight-kilometre mark was there then it would be different, but of course you move the problem up a bit to the eight-kilometre mark," Van der Poel explained.
“We race on open roads that we don’t always know, or what’s coming up, and the speed is so high these days that it can be dangerous.
“It was a very hectic final and I didn't want to get caught up in crashes. I also wanted to return a favour to my teammates, and the guys who ride for me know I like to do that. So I did my best with that today.”
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