Home hope Bardet rides into yellow in Tour de France

Romain Bardet has claimed the first yellow jersey of this year's Tour de France, and the first of his career, as he won the opening stage of the world's biggest race following a bold move on the road from Florence to Rimini.

The Frenchman, who announced his retirement for June next year and is twice a Tour podium finisher, attacked 50km from the line at the Italian Grand Depart on Saturday.

Benefiting from sterling work by his DSM–Firmenich PostNL teammate Frank van den Broek, he crossed the line five seconds ahead of Belgium's Wout van Aert.

Dutchman van den Broek, who came second with the same time as his team leader, held his head in a mixture of joy and disbelief.

"I can't believe it, it wasn't premeditated at all, I wanted to take the morning breakaway. There was no stress, we wanted someone up front and it was Frank who took off," Bardet said.

"I could see that it was going to be difficult in the heat and when I saw that we were just a minute from the breakaway rider, I said to myself that I could close the gap.

"Frank has done an incredible job and this jersey is a shared one. I'd had this stage in the back of my mind for a very long time. I'm very lucky because in the team we've written off the general classification, giving me the freedom to ride without pressure."

Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard, who had not raced since he sustained a collapsed lung on the Tour of the Basque Country in April, finished safely in the bunch alongside fellow favourite Tadej Pogacar, who came home fourth.

Bardet wins
Romain Bardet (R) thanked teammate Frank van den Broek for their Tour de France win. (AP PHOTO)

A seven-man breakaway took shape early in a fast and furious start and with 50 kilometres left only France's Valentin Madouas and Jonas Abrahamsen of Norway were left at the front.

Bardet attacked from a slimmed down peloton and joined the fugitives after picking up his team mate Van den Broek along the way.

The duo dropped Abrahamsen, and then Madouas, in the penultimate climb of the day as Mark Cavendish, looking for a record-breaking 35th stage win, lost further ground after being unable to sustain the pace early on.

Ireland's Ben Healy tried his luck solo from the bunch but was not able to bridge the gap while Bardet and Van den Broek opened a two-minute lead, which they maintained going into the final descent towards Rimini.

The EF-Education First team, hoping for a stage win with Italian champion Alberto Bettiol, and the Ineos-Grenadiers upped the pace of the peloton but could not put a big enough dent into Bardet and Van den Broek's lead.

That was until Visma-Lease a Bike and Lidl-Trek, looking to set up Wout van Aert and Mads Pedersen for the win, respectively, started pulling in front of the bunch.

The gap dropped to under a minute with 11km left, and to 14 seconds two kilometes from the line as they hit the streets of Rimini.

Van den Broek then rode himself into the ground to make sure Bardet would take his fourth stage win on the Tour.

Jai Hindley, who spent a day in the yellow jersey last year and this year is a key lieutenant for Primoz Roglic, finished the top Australian in the main group in 15th place

Sunday's second stage is a 199.2km ride from Cesenatico, the home town of the late Marco Pantani, to Bologna.