Wiebes wins first women's Tour stage

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Dutch sprint ace Lorena Wiebes has won the opening stage of the women's Tour de France on a crash-marred day for Australians Amanda Spratt and Alex Manly.

Wiebes showcased her status as the top women's road sprinter, timing her finish to perfection on the Champs-Elysees to beat legendary compatriot Marianne Vos and Belgian Lotte Kopecky.

Winning the landmark stage on Sunday also gave the DSM rider, the pre-stage favourite, the first yellow jersey of the resurrected women's race.

For the first time in 33 years and after a long campaign, Tour de France organisers ASO have granted the elite women an official multi-stage race.

"It's incredible, the girls worked tirelessly for me. It was a very long sprint but I was expecting it as I was getting ready for Marianne Vos to go early," said Wiebes, who celebrated the triumph on the podium with a crying baby.

It transpired Wiebes had made a deal with former teammate Esther van Veen that, if she won, she'd take her van Veen's daughter Noortje onto the podium - not that the wailing baby seemed too impressed.

Sunday's 81.7km opener around the streets of the French capital was marked by the crash of Belgium's Alana Castrique, who was taken into an ambulance on a stretcher after falling hard on her back.

Spratt then hit the deck with 5km left after a rider crashed in front of her, leaving the BikeExchange-Jayco team captain with a corked backside and battered hands.

"I have all the courtesy Champs-Elysees blisters from the cobbles, but I will be right ... a brutal way to start," Spratt said.

Her teammate Manly was their main hope for the stage, but she also was caught in a crash near the finish.

"The final, it got a bit messy. That's my fault - I was probably a bit too far back and then got caught in a crash with a lap to go," Manly said.

"I kept trying, I went to come back and then I just chose the wrong line."

Manly has enjoyed a breakout season and remains upbeat about her prospects in the eight-day Tour.

"I feel like I didn't even sprint properly in the intermediates. So I'm really excited to unleash what I have when I get the opportunity next," she said.

While Paris was frustrating for BikeExchange-Jayco, it was still a landmark day for the Australian-based team.

Owner Gerry Ryan has announced he will back the women's and men's squads for another three years

Originally known as GreenEdge, Australia's first top-level cycling team started in 2012 and Spratt has been a key rider since its inception.

"Gerry has put everything into this team - I wouldn't be where I am today without the support he's given," Spratt said.

Another women's mainstay, Tokyo Olympian Tiffany Cromwell, (Canyon/SRAM), was the first Australian across the line on Sunday in 11th place.

National champion Nicole Frain (Parkhotel Valkenburg) was 12th and Manly finished 17th, while Spratt was 56 seconds off the pace, 126th of the 142 finishers.

Overall, Wiebes leads Vos by four seconds by virtue of time bonuses, with Kopecky in third, six seconds off the pace.

The eight-stage Tour will cover 1,033km over mountains, flat terrain and gravel, ending on the brutal climb to La Super Planche des Belles Filles on July 31.

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