Tour de France: Thomas in pile-up as Teunissen wins opening stage

Geraint Thomas was one of a number of riders to be caught in a mass crash as the opening stage of the Tour de France reached its conclusion. Dutchman Mike Teunissen secured an unexpected victory. Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Defending champion Geraint Thomas was involved in a mass pile-up in the opening stage of the Tour de France on Saturday, as Dutchman Mike Teunissen edged a thrilling bunch sprint to claim a surprise win.

The pile-up occurred near the finish and also held up Team Ineos' joint-leader Egan Bernal, but both riders finished safely.

"I'm fine," Thomas said. "It's just one of those things. The main thing is that it didn't do any damage -- the bike took the hit and I just toppled over."

The crash took down Teunissen's teammate Dylan Groenewegen -- one of the pre-stage favourites -- but his lead-out man Teunissen took matters into his own hands to claim the first yellow jersey of the 106th Tour de France.

The Team Jumbo Visna rider was not expected to be fighting for the win, but held off Slovenian Peter Sagan and Australian Caleb Ewan to take the stage by the narrowest of margins.

"I can't believe it, we've been working for months to bring Dylan to the victory and the jersey, then it all disappears because he goes down in the crash," Teunissen said.

"After that I thought 'I'm still fresh', and everyone was dying in the last metres, even Sagan. Then I took him on the line.

"It was a really strange day."

While Thomas escaped injury in the pile-up, the same could not be said of Astana's Jakob Fuglsang -- one of the fancied riders for overall victory -- after a heavy fall 17 kilometres from the finish left him groggy and with blood trickling down his face.

Initially it looked as though the 34-year-old Dane might lose touch, but his teammates helped him recover and he worked his way back to finish in the peloton.

Belgian great and five-time Tour champion Eddy Merckx had got the race under way in the Grand Depart -- the first in his native Brussels since 1958 -- in front of massive crowds in the city centre.