Stage 2 looks like a copy of Stage 1. A flat route, a circuit finish, narrow roads and the sprint teams wanting a win make this look like a repetition of the previous day, no? Only this isn’t so, the stage finish includes a loop through narrow woodland roads reducing the chance of crosswinds and crucially the final kilometre is uphill.
The race heads south but note the very early intermediate sprint, a chance for the sprinters to get a lead on Sylvain Chavanel who managed to salvage the green jersey in the finish of Stage 1. Then it’s onwards, crossing the Loire valley at Gien, home to Pierre Rolland, Europcar’s Tour de France mountain stage winner and tracking the river parallel as it heads south to Cerilly.
There’s not a categorised climb en route so Vacansoleil-DCM’s Bert-Jan Lindeman can enjoy the day in his mountains jersey; the Dutchman had the waterworks on when he stood on the podium to collect his mountains jersey on Monday.
Much of the 18km finishing circuit is made of narrow roads with small grass verges, a ditch and then woodland on both sides. This means protection from the wind but still dangerous as there’s very little room on the road to overtake. Small is the word as the finish town is home to less than 2,000 people.
The final finishing straight is an impressive 4km long. Yes, that’s four kilometres and it’s got a mild roller-coaster feel as it rises and dips on the way. Crucially the final kilometre is uphill, rising at 4% to the finish line. This is not big but means some will think twice about gearing and alters the balance.
Nacer Bouhanni looked in trouble on Stage 1. The central dividers – mentioned in the preview – split the bunch in half and the French champ was caught on the slower side. But he made it back and got some help from Sylvain Chavanel who launched a long sprint. But this only shows how strong FDJ are with William Bonnet and Geoffrey Soupe working impressively to drop off Bouhanni for the sprint. Bouhanni is a sprinter but he’s good at uphill finishes too so Stage 2 seems ideal for him. But still, he didn’t win by much so expect several others to be in the mix. IAM’s Heinrich Haussler is sprinting and could enjoy this, the same for Jose Joaquin Rojas of Movistar. Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), Baden Cooke and Leigh Howard of (Orica-Greenedge), Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil-DCM), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Merida) are all there.
As it’s uphill then there’s a few more names to think of like Gianni Meersman (OPQS), Julien Simon (Sojasun) and Samuel Dumoulin of Ag2r although he might still work with Yahueni Hutarovich. But for these guys the finish might not be enough for them to trump the pure sprinters.
Cool temperatures of 12°C (54°F) and a 25km/h headwind for most of the day, some 5km/h more than we got yesterday. It was enough to split the bunch during Stage 1 although it wasn’t just the weather but the work of Omega Pharma-Quickstep. This time things should be different as the finishing circuit is very wooded meaning a lot more protection… although a headwind to the finish line.
Drink it more like. You can’t have fine wine without oak barrels and the woodland around the finish today includes a lot of managed forest where oaks are grown, especially the large Tronçais forest. Much of the wood is used to make the barrels used in wine-making so whilst the finest French wines are not local, many rely on the woodland around the finish. And if you’re hungry, the same woods are full boar and deer.
In 1960 live TV coverage of the race was dropped by French television. The first stage ended in Gien and after images were broadcast showing off brands and logos of various corporate sponsors television executives deemed this flouted rules that banned surreptitious ads on TV. After Stage 1 was done all the cameras and production equipment left Gien and headed back to Paris.