Lampaert wins first stage in rainy Copenhagen

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Belgian rider Yves Lampaert won the opening stage of the Tour de France, while two-time defending champion Tadej Pogacar finished third on Friday.

Pogacar finished his Slovenian compatriot and main rival Primoz Roglic, the 2020 runner-up, who finished eighth in the time trial.

Lampaert is a former team time trial world champion, but this was his first stage win in the three-week Tour. He clocked 15 minutes and 17 seconds on the 13-kilometer route around Copenhagen.

The Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider was five seconds ahead of fellow countryman Wout van Aert – Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma teammate – and seven seconds ahead of Pogacar, who heads UAE Team Emirates. Pogacar had a nine second lead over Roglic.

Lampaert could hardly believe it when he realized he had won, wiped away tears and put his hands over his mouth.

It was teeming with rain as Roglic finished under a gray sky shortly after 4.30pm and was still thrashing when Pogacar took off about 40 minutes later. Although he is a specialist on wet surfaces, Pogacar appeared cautious entering the first corner.

It might have cost him the win.

‘So much noise’

To loud cheers, the riders left.

“There was so much noise that you could hardly hear anything in the earpiece,” said French rider David Gaudu.

The noise level rose again as local rider Jonas Vingegaard – Roglic’s teammate and last year’s Tour runner-up – rolled off the starting ramp. He was seventh, one second ahead of Roglic.

Large parts of the Danish capital were shut down. The wet roads made the route treacherous, especially the section across the square of Amalienborg Palace, the main residence of Denmark’s royal family, which is paved with cobblestones.

The Swiss Stefan Bissegger dropped out twice, but persevered.

The stage passed by the city’s other best-known landmarks, including the statue of the Little Mermaid sitting on her perch at the entrance to the harbor.

Among the thousands of fans, some waving the red and white Danish flag, was Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

“I grew up with my father glued to the television screen to watch the Tour de France,” said Frederiksen.

Previously, the Danish crown prince Frederik drove the route.

“It’s great to see the great support for the Tour at home,” said 54-year-old Frederik, dressed in a helmet, shorts and a T-shirt. The palace also posted vintage photos on Instagram of Danish royals on bicycles, including Frederik’s great-grandfather, King Christian X and current Queen Margrethe.

There are two more stages in Denmark this weekend, including crossing the Great Belt Bridge that connects the island of Zealand, where Copenhagen is located, and the central island of Funen.

The first start in Denmark – but the 24th time the race has started outside of France – was due to be held in 2021, but was postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

After the Danish stages, the riders will head to France with a stage between Dunkirk and Calais.

The race ends on July 24 in Paris.

Meanwhile, police have closely examined the Bahrain Victorious team and seized more than 450 capsules of unidentified substances from a house in Slovenia during raids across Europe, the European agency Eurojust said Friday.

Riders and staff members were raided and the team’s hotel in Denmark was searched this week.

(AP)

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