Fabio Jakobsen (QuickStep - Alpha Vinyl) emerged unscathed from a chaotic climax to claim the first road stage of the Tour de France 2022 in a sprint finish.
In victory the Dutch debutant completed his comeback from the life-threatening crash at the Tour of Poland two years ago, delivered on a great promise, and justified his favoured sprinter status - not to mention his team selection in the first place. Jakobsen even came out on top from a tussle with Peter Sagan in the home straight, which gave him a clear run to the line. Putting in an immense turn of speed in the final 150m, he passed Wout van Aert (Jumbo Visma) and Mads Pedersen (Trek Segafredo) just before the line, bumping them into second and third respectively.
Having finished five seconds behind Jakobsen’s team-mate Lampaert in yesterday's time trial opener, the six bonus seconds awarded to Van Aert as stage runner-up spot were enough for the Jumbo Visma rider to become the new maillot jaune by a single second.
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All of which came after several crazy, crash-filled closing kilometres, including multiple crashes on or ahead of the much-anticipated stretch that crossed the 18km Great Belt Bridge. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education Easy Post) and Kevin Vermaerke (Team DSM) were among those going down on the approach. On the bridge, the yellow jersey of Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) also hit the deck, but it was altogether again as the peloton made it past the 3km marker - the safety net for riders to receive the same time should incident occur.
The fall-out to it all will take some time for the riders and teams to work out. Two-time champion Tadej Pogacar was the biggest name caught out, though as his incident happened inside the final 3km, his time and placing went unaffected. The Slovenian seemed to have suffered nothing worse than a double puncture as, with a smile on his face, he rolled across the line ahead of the medical car.
“I’m pleased that there was nothing worse,” said Eurosport’s Dan Lloyd afterwards, “because there easily could have been.”
And the 200km stage had been programmed in precisely that fashion - to produce an entire stage worth of incidents in the final 20km.
Though the opening road stage of the Tour de France is always a jittery affair, this year’s edition was designed to take the anxieties up to eleven, with spectacular scenery combining with a great man-made feat of engineering and threatening weather conditions. All of which would be back loaded into the final tenth of the race.
Which may explain why, at the drop of Christian Prudhomme’s flag, a four-rider breakaway was allowed to slip away with so little effort.
Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education Easypost) was the most eager to get away on home soil. The Dane was soon joined by Sven Erik Bystrøm (Intermarche - Wanty - Gobert Materiaux), Pierre Rolland and Cyril Barthe (both B&B Hotels - KTM).
The three mountains points available on the stage all came in the first half. Rolland had high hopes of repeating the tricks he performed at the Criterium du Dauphine, when he and team-mates dominated every day of the King of the Mountains competition.
The Tour de France is a leap beyond, however, and Rolland did not reckon for the local interest. Cort Nielsen wanted his moment in the sun, and on the podium, in front of home crowds. He got them, outfoxing both B&B riders to steal the first mountains point on the Côte d'Asnæs Indelukke, before sailing away in the company of Bystrom to clean up the rest.
The ProTour team riders then found themselves in no-man's land, eventually, ignominiously drifting back to the bunch, as the Scandinavian pair pushed on.

The peloton were happy enough for them to do just that, allow their lead to stretch out to a maximum of three minutes, before the teams of the fastmen took over and began to wind up their legs ahead of the intermediate sprint at Kalundborg. Cort Neilsen and Bystrom were far enough ahead to take the top two places, with Caleb Ewan coming through to lay down a marker 30 seconds later. The EF rider chose that point to end his ride, leaving it to Bystrom to wrap up the first combativity prize of the race, and ensure he would enjoy a podium presentation of his own.
Into the final phase of the stage, and with the Great Belt Bridge looming, nerves began to fray in the bunch. The first crash of the stage came with 21km remaining, not long before Bystrom was returned to the fold. Rigoberto Uran was the closest thing to a contender who was taken down by it. He and his team would have a long, hard time crossing the bridge as they fought to regain contact.

‘The yellow jersey is down!’ – Lampaert hits the tarmac in crosswinds on bridge

Right as they hit the bridge itself a touch of wheels caused another EF rider to go flying. That interrupted the journey of yellow jersey Yves Lampaert, but he was soon back on his bike and his team-mates made light work of leading him back to the front of the bunch.
To the relief of the riders and the disappointment of many watching, the wind did not cause the carnage that was predicted on the crossing that joins the islands of Zealand and Funen. No echelons formed and calm was - temporarily - restored.
The constant fight for the front really ramped up with 5km remaining, as the peloton resembled a washing machine from above. Riders who wanted no more part in proceedings, and who could afford to retreat did so, while those with jobs to do stuck their elbows out.

A huge pile-up shortly after going through the 3km marker left lead-outs in tatters, with only that of Quick-Step and Trek able in full functioning order.
Trek Segafredo's was the most in order, as Jasper Stuyven moved aside for Mads Pedersen who went longest and almost had the legs, but not quite. Wout van Aert would have won it were it not for a brilliant Fabio Jakobsen, who licked Peter Sagan's plate then helped himself to the stage win.
“Today is incroyable, as we would say in French," said Jakobsen afterwards. "It’s been a long process, step by step. A lot of people helped me along the way. This is to pay them back, so they can see that it was not for nothing. I’m happy that I still enjoy riding the bike, racing, and luckily I can still win. It’s an amazing day and I would like to thank all the people that helped me get to here."
Jakobsen went on to describe how the finale unfolded from his perspective:
“The team kept me in a good position in front, when we exited from the bridge," said Jakobsen afterwards. "It was a right-left combination and then the final straight. I could stay behind Morkov, who dropped me off in the wheel of Van Aert, and then in the last few hundred metres I was a bit on the left. I was next to Sagan - we kind of touched each other but luckily we stayed upright - and then it was a final stretch of 150m where I could launch, and I could pass the other two. I’m extremely happy to win. It sounds easy, but for sure the legs were in pain. This is what we train for. This is why we race. A stage of the Tour de France - I’ve been dreaming about this for 15 years.”

General Classification Top Ten

1. Wout van Aert (Jumbo Visma) 4:49:50s
2. Yves Lampaert (QuickStep - Alpha Vinyl) +0:01s
3. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) +0:08s
4. Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) +0:11s
5. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) +0:12s
6. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) +0:14s
7. Jonas Vinegaard (Jumbo Visma) +0:16s
8. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo Visma) +0:17s
9. Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) +0:18s
10. Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious) +0:21s
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