The Spin: Prologue

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Liège should make you think of hills given it is host to the oldest classic on the calendar, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and its monts. But today’s prologue course is flat and for the time trial specialists.

Every day at 9.00am you will find a preview of the day’s stage with up-to-date information on the route, riders and more. In the first of a daily preview of each stage, let’s take a look at the route, the riders and plenty more.

Route: a 6.4km that gets more technical in the second half but this is one for the time trial specialists. There are several long straights where raw power is everything and some riders are using a 58T chainring.

Tour prologue map

Riders: this looks like a duel between Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin. These days Cancellara seems better suited to shorter courses whilst I think Tony Martin prefers a longer route with a climb or two so I think Cancellara is my pick for the day. Gustav Larsson of Vacansoleil-DCM), Patrick Gretsch (Argos Oil-Shimano) and Bert Grabsch (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) are other specialists but likely to be spectators to a duel between Cancellara and Martin.

Once upon a time Wiggins was a prologue specialist but he’s a lot more these days. He could be a winner today and with the weight of expectation anything outside the top-10 will be a worry. Evans will look for the top-10 too. The time gaps matter, first in the absolute as every second counts but also for mental advantage as being behind means worries for the race ahead although this is relative, for example some of the climbers will be happy to limit their losses to 45 seconds. Watch for Peter Sagan too, the bookies have him as a favourite but I think his prologue win in last month’s Tour of Switzerland owed itself to a big uphill effort and then wild skills downhill.

History Repeating? The Tour also started with a prologue in Liège in 2004 and a 23 year old Fabian Cancellara won, his breakthrough into the top of the sport. The course is almost identical except for an extra 400m at the end. He could repeat this again.

Weather: this is crucial. 23°C (73°F) and a moderate south-westerly breeze but showers and even a thunderstorms are expected for later in the day. Rain is mixed for the riders, obviously the course becomes more slippery and the GC riders will back off a bit. But rolling resistance drops and the increase in humidity makes the air less dense, making for faster riding. But if there’s a storm the wind will pick up too and this will cost riders time.

TV: live coverage should begin from 3.00pm Euro time and certainly by 3.30pm. The first rider is off at 2.00pm and Cadel Evans is the last rider to start at 5.17pm.

There is no free-to-watch internet feed so if there’s no channel in your home country showing the race then visit the likes of cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv for pirate video feeds.

Local Riders: Maxime Monfort (Radioshack-Nissan) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) will get a big cheer from the crowd. Liège is not far from the Dutch border and several Dutch riders have moved over the border for tax reasons. But local advantage counts for little on this urban route. Eddy Merckx is likely to show up.

Local Food: sirop de liège is made from boiling down apples and pears into a dark sugary paste that is used as a spread, especially on gauffres or waffles. Sometimes this paste is called “apple butter” in the US and it is a rich source of iron… as well as calories.

Do: get out to the countryside. Liège is the capital of Belgium’s rustbelt and has seen better days but there is plenty of good riding in the area and more for tourists.

Don’t: upset the locals. Here is Bradley Wiggins’ view of the start town, tweeted in 2010:

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{ 12 comments }

ToTheBillyoh June 30, 2012 at 10:51 am

Good calls. But I have to think that Dan Martin will be all fired up. Then I think that Spartacus has a real point to make. Then I think of Wiggo’s palmares. And my head spins!

Matt June 30, 2012 at 12:47 pm

If *Dan* Martin wins the prologue, I’ll eat my own underpants.

;)

In other news: OMG TOUR STARTS THIS AFTERNOON!!

Matt June 30, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Ok, so after the dust settled, Dan Martin put in one of the best rides of the day for me. Same time as Sagan and Larsson. Faster than Weening, Rogers, DZ, Leipheimer.

Hats off.

The Inner Ring June 30, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Yes, I had a reader email me to say “I’ve seen Martin at 200-1 with the bookmakers. Act quickly before they take the offer down”. I replied “I think that’s Dan Martin, not Tony” !

Matt June 30, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Ha! Just read your tweet about that. 200-1 seems pretty good odds for that. Might have a flutter. :D

Rolf er ren June 30, 2012 at 12:16 pm

what about Zabriskie??

The Inner Ring June 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Maybe, it’d be fun as he’s a character but I think he’s suited to longer efforts, plus compared to Cancellara and Martin, he’s not quite there. I’ll gladly eat my hat with sirop de liège if he does it.

Rolf er ren June 30, 2012 at 12:18 pm

what about Zabriskie??
my pick for today

Gear_ratio June 30, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Curious. How is the start order decided?

Matt June 30, 2012 at 1:47 pm

(Starting from last off the ramp) 1 rider from each team, in the order they finished last year, or the team leader.

Then the teams rotate riders in the same order BMC, RSN, Europcar, etc. But they don’t have to be rider 2, 12, 22, 32… they can put their riders in whatever order they like.

In the case of RS, Andy isn’t there, so Faboo takes his place.

David June 30, 2012 at 2:12 pm

This seems to be showing using the mobile theme on my desktop browsers (both Chrome and Safari). And clicking On/Off for the mobile theme down the bottom doesn’t do anything. Other pages on this site work fine.

GluteCramp July 1, 2012 at 7:20 am

Anybody else think Fabian looks kinda skinnier than in April? Lots of ITT, and a bit of weight loss to stick with the climbers for the most part, and Faboo could pull a Wiggo… Dark horse for podium anybody?

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