Tour de France kicks off second day | News | DW | 29.06.2013
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Tour de France kicks off second day

The second stage of the 100th Tour de France has begun. Germany's Marcel Kittel won Saturday's first race.

epa03767591 (L-R) Vacansoleil-Dcm procycling team rider Boy Van Poppel of Netherlands, Katusha procycling team rider Alexander Kristoff of Norway, Euskaltel Euskadi procycling team rider Juan Jose Lobato of Spain, Argos-Shimani procycling team rider Marcel Kittel of Germany, Omega Pharma-Quick Step procycling team rider Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland, cycle during the 2nd stage of the 100th edition of the Tour de France 2013 cycling race between Bastia and Ajaccio, Corsica, France, 30 June 2013. EPA/YOAN VALAT

Tour de France 2013 - Korsika

The stage began shortly before 2 p.m. local time. Sunday's 156-kilometer (90-mile) Bastia-Ajaccio route features three climbs.

Marcel Kittel beat Norway's Alexander Kristoff in a final sprint to the finish on Saturday in a race featuring several heavy crashes. Danny Van Poppel of the Netherlands finished third.

Kittel, 25, became the first rider to wear the coveted yellow jersey. He also grabbed the green jersey for best sprinter and white jersey for best young rider.

"I am speechless, so, so happy. This is by far the greatest day in my whole life," said Kittel, who races for the Argos-Shimano team. "It is by far [my] biggest victory. I hope I can sleep, I'm going to be pretty excited about tomorrow."

Race officials made a late decision to cut the first stage short by three kilomters (2 miles) after a bus from the Orica Greenedge team got stuck on the finish line, but the normal ending spot was reinstated after organizers managed to move the vehicle.

Crash marks finish

A big crash involving more than a dozen riders occurred close to the end, sending two-time champion Alberto Contador and sprinter Peter Sagan to the ground. Both were able to continue, however.

British sprinter Mark Cavendish, who was hoping to grab his first ever yellow jersey, was stuck behind the crash and did not challenge in the end.

"I saw the crash happen to my right," Kittel said. "I knew it was serious. I knew that Mark and Andre [Greipel] were no longer in contention and it was a good chance for us."

Big opening

After a grand airshow featuring France's tricolor, the cyclists pushed their pedals forward into the first stage. The grueling 213-kilometer (130-mile) course, which runs from Porto Becchio to Bastia in Corsica, was designed for a sprint finish, race director Christian Prudhomme said prior to the opening leg on the French island in the Mediterranean Sea.

It was the third time since 2008 that the first day of the tour did not start with a time trial.

The competition, which covers a total distance of 3,404 kilometers, will end on July 21 on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

High-profile doping scandals that have rocked the sport, and the tour in particular, have cast a shadow on the celebrations.

jlw,dr/mkg (AFP, AP)

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