The Tour de France kicked off on Saturday but riders couldn’t have prepared for the ‘carnage’ that ensued after multiple crashes marred the opening stage.
After a late pile-up on Nice's iconic Promenade des Anglais, Alexander Kristoff of UAE Emirates won a opening stage of the Tour de France.
The Norwegian will now wear the overall race leader's yellow jersey, having fought back from an early fall that looked like ruling him out.
The 2020 Tour set off two months later than planned due to the coronavirus and under strict health protocols.
However, the first rain in the Mediterranean city since June turned the opening jaunt of the 21-day race into a lottery with one motorbike race official describing the road surface as an ice rink.
One of the biggest names to go down in the wet conditions was Frenchman Thibaut Pinot.
“It was a hard day, one of the hardest days of my life and I think it was the same for everyone,” Pinot told VeloNews.
“It was scary. It was like we were riding on ice.”
Key victims of the multiple crashes included French hopes Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe, with Colombia's Astana captain Miguel Angel Lopez suffering a jaw-dropping downhill slide that saw him slam face-first into a traffic sign.
British team Ineos were left to fret over their Russian climber Pavel Sivakov, who fell twice, riding with both elbows bloodied.
Both riders and fans took to social media to express the ‘carnage’ that unfolded in the wet and wild conditions.
It was a dangerous 1st stage at @letour and the finale was crazy. Sometimes you need luck in those sprints but the good thing is we avoided the hard crashes. @BORAhansgrohe @BORAGmbH @Hansgrohe_PR https://t.co/NoLW628x96— Peter Sagan (@petosagan) August 29, 2020
Wet, wild and crashes galore ... stage one of the Tour de France was not for the faint-hearted 😬— Velon CC (@VelonCC) August 29, 2020
Sign-up to our daily email now to have the day's dramatic on-bike highlights delivered direct to your inbox later this evening: https://t.co/pYfSO0KOp1
🇫🇷 #TdF2020 pic.twitter.com/IQh0eynY5N
Ineos rider Rowe blasts ‘stupid’ Astana
Top riders, led by the Jumbo team, were shocked by the crash and a truce was called that slowed down the pace.
Ineos ride Luke Rowe blasted team Astana after he claimed they did not follow the directions.
“We got this riders organisation, or group, and there are a couple of guys from each team in there and we spoke about it last night with how we’d approach the Tour de France in general and look after each other and do the right thing when needed.
"Whilst you want to race and put on the best show, you could see how many crashes there were and that was with the three descents at a very careful speed.
"I have to say 'chapeau' to the whole peloton, minus Astana to hit it down one climb, and as a result, their leader was left on his back. They made themselves look pretty stupid but apart from them, chapeau to the whole peloton.”
Rowe was referring to Miguel Lopez who slid and crashed into a road sign.
But the truce did help some riders.
"That was great for me, allowed me to get right back in," said Kristoff, who had been around six minutes adrift after his own tumble.
"This is a special Tour, even I am surprised," said the 33-year-old who admitted his season's targets were the coming one-day races, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders.
Along the final flat home straight the speed had risen to around 65 km/h when the fall left 30 or so riders ahead alone with dozens of startled contenders sprawled.
The heavy Covid-19 atmosphere weighing on the seaside city was lightened slightly at the start when French government minister Michel Blanquer sent out a rare message of hope the Tour would make it all the way to Paris in three weeks' time.
"You can't rule out the cancellation of the Tour, but it has been so well prepared that the possibilities of it happening are very slim," he said.
Prince Albert of Monaco played local game boules in the VIP village at the start line but the Italian style red-roofed city was eerily empty on the day, as fans had been asked to stay away, and even the pebbled Nice beach was semi-deserted.
Local paper Nice-Matin raised eyebrows on Saturday running a picture of the Dutch team Jumbo's leader Primoz Roglic, one of the favourites, instead of a Frenchman.
But the key Frenchmen in the race both had days to forget.
After 14 days in the lead last year Alaphilippe was forced to fight back alone from two minutes down after a mechanical issue.
Meanwhile, luckless fan favourite Pinot was involved in the last of many falls as the peloton swept along the rain-sodden seafront walkway.