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Twins Tussle Kicks Off Tour In Stunning Fashion

The 110th edition of the Le Tour de France kicked off on Saturday in the Basque Country.

Brit Adam Yates (Team UAE Emirates) wins Stage 1 of Le Tour de France 2023 with his brother Simon (Team Jayco-AlUla) trailing behind. (Alex Whitehead/

On Saturday morning the streets of Bilbao portrayed a festival-like atmosphere as lycra-infused pandemonium swept the already cycling-mad region.

The night previously at the team presentation ceremony, race organisers ASO, riders and supporters alike held a minute of silence to remember Switzerland's Gino Mader who tragically passed away aged 26 after an incident at the Tour de Suisse the week prior.

Thousands of fans, many draped in the Ikurriña, the Basque Country's flag, lined up across the route to cheer on their heroes. With the stage starting and finishing in Bilbao the crowd would get many a chance to see what many expected to be an action-packed race. And what a day of racing it was. Contested across a 182 km route containing 5 categorised hills and 3100m of climbing overall, a group of 5 riders consisting of Dutchmen Pascal Eenkhoorn (Lotto-Destny), Dane Jonas Gregaard (Uno X), Simon Guglielmi (Arkea-Samsic), Valentin Ferron (Totalenergies) and Lilian Calmejane (Intermarchce) broke free from the peloton within 5kms of the race beginning. The quintet were able to gain a maximum advantage of 2 and a half minutes over the peloton before being caught with 50km left in the stage.

The rapid climbing of the Cote de Vivero (4.2km @ 7.2%) meant that the sprinters such as Australians Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Destny) and Sam Welsford (DSM) were dropped from the leading group. American Neilson Powerless (EF Education) took the lead of the King of the Mountains after finishing atop the climb winning a tight sprint against German Georg Zimmerman (Intermarche).

Enric Mas (Movistar) and Richard Carapaz (EF) both suffered incidents which subsequently have taken them out of the 2023 edition of Le Tour de France. (Photo: Benoit Tessier/Reuters))

(Photo: Tim De Waele/Getty Images)

Drama followed on the descent, as Spaniard Enric Mas (Movistar) and Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz (EF Education) both considered contenders for the overall win crashed on the damp roads. Mas's race was over immediately with Movistar later confirming a broken scapula for the 3-time grand tour runner-up. Carapaz astonishingly climbed back on his bike to finish the stage but with what was later confirmed to be a fractured patella he too was withdrawn from the race.

Team UAE Emirates set the pace on the approach to the final hill of the day the Cote de Pick (2.0km @ 9.6%) but a lack of communication resulted in domestique Felix Grosschartner accidentally attacking the climb with a pace quicker than his teammates could manage. Grosschartner realising his mistake slowed down to allow race favourite and teammate Tadej Pogacar to latch onto. Pogacar subsequently attacked with 500m to go in the climb setting an infernal pace that only defending champion Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo Visma) and shockingly Frenchman Victor Lafay (Cofidis) could follow. Lafay had been coming off promising results earlier in the year in races such as the Classic Grand Besancon Doubs (1st) Route d'Occitanie (7th) and the Tour du Jura (7th) throughout the season yet for him to be competing head to head against the two best climbers in the sport was enough to send the commentators into raptures.

The climb split the general classification contenders into 2 groups with a second group containing the likes of Australian Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroen), France's Romain Bardet (DSM), Colombian Egan Bernal (Ineos), Spain's Pello Bilbao losing thirty seconds by the end of the stage to the leaders. At the front of the race, Pogacar and Vingegaard had 15 seconds over the rest, but Vingegaard refused to assist Pogacar in pacing resulting in a regrouping of the front runners. Sensing a lull in the pace, Brit Adam Yates (UAE-Team Emirates) launched off the front with his twin brother Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla) in hot pursuit. The stage was a nailbiter with the twins holding an advantage of no more than 15 seconds in the descent back to Bilbao. With 400m to go in the stage, Adam launched the race-winning move to break free of his younger brother and to take the stage by 4 seconds with Pogacar winning the sprint for third, 12 seconds in arrears. It marks the first grand tour for the Manchester-born Yates and is the second time in tour history a pair of brothers have finished 1-2 on a stage. Luxembourgish duo Andy and Franck Schleck achieved the feat on stage 18 from Pinerolo to Galibier Serre-Chevalier in the 2011 edition.

The racing continues tomorrow with the longest stage of the race, a hilly 208.9km ride from Vitoria-Gasteiz to San Sebastián.

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