Yves Lampaert took the first yellow jersey, seven seconds ahead of defending champion Tadej Pogacar, as the 109th Tour de France started under clouds both real and metaphorical in Copenhagen.
QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl’s Lampaert won a damp and treacherous 13.2km opening time trial around the Danish capital in a time of 15 minutes 17 seconds to beat fellow Belgian Wout van Aert by five seconds, with Pogacar finishing third to make an early statement in his bid for a third consecutive title.
Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard conceded nine seconds to Pogacar, while an overdressed Geraint Thomas, who forgot to take his gilet off before the start, finished 18 seconds down on the defending champion.
That put the Welshman third within his own team as Adam Yates and Tour debutant Tom Pidcock impressed on their return from Covid-19, finishing two and one seconds ahead of Thomas respectively.
The miserable weather did not put off thousands of fans who turned out for the Tour’s Danish debut but the conditions did sum up the mood of many after news of a major anti-doping investigation landed just hours before the first rider rolled down the start ramp.
Europol and Eurojust issued statements confirming that 14 raids at locations across Europe this week, in addition to one at the hotel of Team Bahrain-Victorious on Thursday, were part of an investigation into “possible doping allegations (against) a cycling team participating in the Tour de France”.
Bahrain-Victorious have denied any wrong-doing and insisted the timing of the investigations into the team, which also included a raid during last year’s Tour, were designed to “damage their reputation”.
Supported by #Europol, authorities in 🇫🇷 🇧🇪 🇪🇸 🇭🇷 🇮🇹 🇵🇱 🇸🇮 have carried out a crackdown on doping in cycling races— Europol (@Europol) July 1, 2022
🔹 14 properties searched
🔹 3 people interrogated
🚴The investigation is ongoing and the evidence seized being examined
More ➡️ https://t.co/7zgXqca8U5 pic.twitter.com/PrhBUuNaXx
It was another blow to the reputation of the sport too as its biggest event started against unwanted questions.
Copenhagen, the furthest point from Paris the Tour has ever started, had waited an extra 12 months for this day – a knock-on effect from the pandemic and the postponement of Euro 2020 – but when it came the weather was not playing ball.
The main favourites had all chosen early start times in a bid to avoid the worst of it but the heavy showers arrived earlier than forecast and it was towards the end of the day that the roads dried, though only slightly.
Given the huge lengths teams go to in perfecting their skin suits for time trials, Thomas’ wardrobe error would have been a costly one, and the 2018 champion was also frustrated with the way he rode the first half of the stage as worries about the weather got inside his head.
“I think that was the worst cornering I’ve ever done in a time trial,” the Welshman said. “Everyone’s telling you to take it easy but the main thing when I won in Dusseldorf (in 2017) is just flow, a nice smooth line.
“This felt so bitty, stop and start. When I heard the time gaps I thought, ‘Sod it, just race’ and then I went better. The legs were good anyway but it’s a shame about that blinking gilet.”
The 31-year-old Lampaert, who was disqualified from the Tour of Belgium for barging Tim Wellens only two weeks ago, was in tears at the end as his first Tour victory was confirmed.
“My mind is exploding,” he said. “I thought a top 10 would be great and now I beat all the best riders in the world. I’m just a farmer’s son from Belgium. To do this, I never expected it.
“The roads were really wet, the pot holes were full of water. I think had the same conditions as the main favourites. Always in the corners I said, ‘Yves, go faster, trust in your tyres’.”