BASTIA, Corsica -- Riders at the Tour de France know to expect the unexpected. But nothing could have prepared them for the mayhem that turned Saturday's first stage of the 100th Tour into a demolition derby on two wheels.

Seemingly for the first time at the 110-year-old race, one of the big buses that carry the teams around France when they're not on their bikes got stuck at the finish line, literally wedged under scaffolding, unable to move. The timing couldn't have been worse: The blockage happened as the speeding peloton was racing for home, less than 12 miles out.

Fearing the worst -- a possible collision between 198 riders and the bus -- race organizers decided to shorten the race. Word went out to riders and they adapted tactics accordingly, cranking up their speed another notch to be first to the new line, now 1.8 miles closer.

Then, somewhat miraculously, the bus for the Orica Greenedge team wriggled free. So organizers reverted to Plan A. Again over the radios, word went out to by-now confused riders and teams that the race would finish as first intended -- on a long straightaway alongside the Mediterranean, where an expectant crowd waited to cheer the first stage winner of the 100th Tour.

Then, bam! Two riders collided and one of them went down, setting off a chain of spills that scythed through the pack.

And this was just Day 1. The bad news for riders: They've still got another 20 stages and 1,982 more miles to survive to the finish in Paris.

Keeping his head and riding his luck, Marcel Kittel sprinted for the win, claiming the first yellow jersey. "It feels like I have gold on my shoulders," said the German rider for the Argos-Shimano team.

Adding to the stress this year is the race start in Corsica. The island's winding and often narrow roads that snake along idyllic coastlines and over jagged mountains are superbly telegenic but a worry for race favorites -- the likes of Team Sky's Chris Froome and two-time former champion Alberto Contador -- because a fall or big loss of time here could ruin their Tour before it really begins.



The pack rides during the 156 km second stage of the 100th edition of the Tour de France cycling race on June 30, 2013 between Bastia and Ajaccio, on the
The pack rides during the 156 km second stage of the 100th edition of the Tour de France cycling race on June 30, 2013 between Bastia and Ajaccio, on the French Mediterranean Island of Corsica. (AFP PHOTO / JOEL SAGET)