PORTO VECCHIO, Corsica — The first stage of the 100th Tour de France featured a bus stuck under an archway at the finish line until minutes before the first riders arrived.
Shortly after the bus was dislodged, German rider Marcel Kittel was first to arrive, after dodging all sorts of mayhem to win Saturday’s stage on Corsica.
Kittel beat Russian sprinter Alexander Kristoff in a dash to the line after a major crash wiped out some other competitors. Organizers considered moving the finish line up to avoid the bus, then changed their minds at the last moment after the bus was freed.
About 20 riders fell close to the end, among them two-time former champion Alberto Contador and sprinter Peter Sagan. They got back up, with Contador’s shoulder cut and bruised.
British sprinter Mark Cavendish did not crash but was stuck behind those who fell and could not challenge for his 24th stage win. He was hoping to wear the yellow jersey for the first time in his career.
‘‘I saw the crash happen to my right,’’ said Kittel, who also finished the day with the best sprinter’s green jersey. ‘‘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.’’
Cavendish and Sagan were nowhere to be seen as the main bunch turned for home, and Kittel held off Kristoff as they dipped for the line.
‘‘I’m lucky I didn’t come down,’’ Cavendish said. ‘‘What caused the problems was changing the finish. Like, we heard on the radio with literally 5K to go that the sprint was in 2K and then a K later, they were like ‘No, it’s at the finish.’ It’s just carnage.’’
Francaise Des Jeux team manager Marc Madiot was furious.
‘‘The president of the [race jury] didn’t do his job,’’ he said. ‘‘When we make a mistake we get a fine. Well, he should get a huge fine.’’
Race events director Jean-Francois Pescheux says circumstances forced a quick decision.
‘‘We would’ve preferred a nice finish like the one we’d planned. But in exceptional situations, you have to take exceptional decisions,’’ Pescheux said by telephone. ‘‘We’re not going to stop the riders, and ask [them] what decision we should take.’’
Kittel did not even know about the bus, and avoided the crash to win the flat, 132-mile trek from Porto Vecchio to Bastia in just under five hours. Kristoff and third-place Danny van Poppel had the same time.
‘‘It feels like I have gold on my shoulders,’’ Kittel said about wearing the famed yellow jersey. ‘‘I didn’t know about the bus. I’m glad they were able to move it.’’