There was a feeling of loss, guilt, and fear as the oldest Tour de France cycling race kicked off on Saturday amidst fears of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, riders peeled off their face masks and pedaled off from the start in the Mediterranean city of Nice and the Tour begin to look like its old, pre-COVID self, immediately delivering thrills and spills as storms made the roads as slippy as ice. The French government cautioned fans that staying home and watching from their TV sets was the best way to keep safe…but those that lined up on the tarmac had their own measures- they kept at arm’s length as they cheered off their cycling stars peddling in a drizzle.
Norwegian rider Alexander Kristoff won the first stage with a fearsome final sprint. He powered past thin crowds on the finishing straight in Nice that would usually have been crammed with spectators rows deep. Kristoff won the first yellow jersey of the 2020 Tour which he is wearing as the race leader on Sunday’s Stage 2 that loops into the mountains behind Nice.
“An amazing feeling,” he told reporters at the finish. “It means a lot for my career and a stage win shows I can still be up there even at 33 years old and with four kids.” Kristoff stood alone on the winner’s podium, flanked by a host and a hostess a safe distance away. He then disappeared backstage to wriggle into the jersey himself, before coming back out to pose for photos. Still, the thrill of wearing the jersey for the first time in his eight Tours more than outweighed the weirdness.