With four kilometres to go of their first ever road stage of the Tour de France, and thirty seconds in hand over the not exactly rampaging peloton, perhaps Yoann Offredo and Taylor Phinney dared to dream. They had gotten away easily enough five hours earlier, making the break along with Thomas Boudat and Laurent Pichon, but proved the strongest, forming a duo soon after the day's second categorised climb, won by Phinney to take the polka-dot jersey. They had a minute's advantage upon joining up, but had mostly held that until a few kilometres earlier. They looked in with a shout.
They weren't. Dimension Data and Quick-Step Floors, who had, if not dawdled, not been at full pace for the last ten kilometres, with the northern wind and day of rain dampening their spirits for a leadout, took the front, finally cranking the peloton up to a pace high enough to crush the hopes of the escapees, whose lead fell to twenty, and then ten seconds with two kilometres to go. They began to realise the day was lost, Phinney losing his smooth style and accelerating, then slowing down, as the peloton closed in on them. The catch was made with eleven hundred metres left in the stage, the crowds at the finish line clearly in sight on the long, straight Liège street.
Once the obstacles had been cleared, the peloton shot towards the line, Greipel's Lotto leadout on the right first, before the pace was raised by Bora-Hansgrohe on the other side of the road. Sagan's last man, Jay McCarthy pulled off the front to let Christophe Laporte of Cofidis take the strain as the finish line grew closer. Bouhanni and Groenewegen looked in pole position on the left as Kittel was fifteen riders back on the right. He was helped, however, by Sonny Colbrelli, who made his move, sprinting up the centre of the road, hoping to steal an early march. Kittel put in an effort perhaps earlier than he would have liked, in order to secure the valuable real estate of his slipstream, out of which he powered to take victory. Arnaud Démare sprinted to a commendable second, while Greipel managed third. Mark Cavendish, narrowly behind him, must be happy with fourth after a long recovery from the Epstein-Barr virus threatened even his participation.
The crash wasn't the day's only drama, however, with a crash thirty kilometres out putting some GC hopes in brief peril. Katusha-Alpecin's Nils Politt, only about five wheels back, lost control in a sweeping right-hand turn, his front wheel disappearing from under him, causing the German - and about twenty others - to hit the deck, and a long kerb in the middle of the road. Chris Froome and Romain Bardet were the biggest names involved, with Froome, battered and bruised, with his shorts torn in two places, forced to ride back to the peloton on a too-small spare bike. Everybody who had gone down remounted, but Tom Leezer and Reto Hollenstein, along with Sky's Luke Rowe, may be uncertain to start tomorrow, all of them having lost more than ten minutes on the stage, unable to get into any of the straggling groups.
- Marcel Kittel (GER), Quick-Step Floors - 4:37:06
- Arnaud Démare (FRA), FDJ - same time
- André Greipel (GER), Lotto-Soudal - st
- Mark Cavendish (UK), Dimension Data - st
- Dylan Groenewegen (NED), LottoNL-Jumbo - st
- Sonny Colbrelli (ITA), Bahrain-Merida - st
- Ben Swift (UK), UAE Team Emirates - st
- Nacer Bouhanni (FRA), Cofidis - st
- Michael Matthews (AUS), Team Sunweb - st
- Peter Sagan (SVK), Bora-Hansgrohe - st
Geraint Thomas kept hold of the yellow jersey, Kittel took the green, Phinney the polka-dots and Küng kept the white jersey.