The show begins with a 14km time trial around the city of Düsseldorf. Can Tony Martin deliver a home win and das Gelbe Trikot or will his record of close calls continue?
The Route: 14km out and back between Düsseldorf’s tidy Messe conference hall and the city centre including 10km alongside the sleepy river Rhine. It’s so flat the only changes in altitude are bridges over the river Rhine but these will be felt, they’re suspension bridges rather than small bumps. The few technicalities come in nine corners, some require braking, most don’t. Overall this is a fast and flat course on big boulevards. The time check at 8.1km comes in the downturn shopping precinct before heading north back to the start alongside the banks of the Rhine with a four kilometre long finishing straight that will see returning riders pass rivals on their way out in the opposite direction.
The Contenders: Tony Martin carries the weight of a nation and the expectations of his Katusha team. Freshly crowned German TT champion he’ll start in the rainbow bands as world champion. If his wardrobe’s crowded, his trophy cabinet isn’t because he’s not won a World Tour level TT since May 2015. However the absence of rival time trial specialists opens the way for him, the course suits him perfectly but the drought means he’s still not the certainty of the past. He has racked up three second places this season to prove this. If ever there was a day to come first it’s today but unlike football home advantage counts for little in cycling, it just brings added pressure.
Jos Van Emden won the Giro’s final stage, the time trial into Milan and he could win the Tour’s opener. He’s a specialist in short, flat courses and so Düsseldorf is as good as Milan. But where’s his form at? Lotto-Jumbo have a good second shot at the stage win with Primož Roglič (pictured) who almost won the Giro’s opener in 2016 but for Tom Dumoulin pipping him by a fraction of a second. Now the Slovenian has been preparing specifically for the Tour de France and won the Ster ZLM prologue recently.
Rohan Dennis would have been a top pick but while he enjoys the sofa BMC Racing team mate Stefan Küng has a good shot at the win. The Swiss powerhouse was second to Dennis in both stages of the Tour de Suisse showing speed over long and short distances.
Movistar bring two time trial specialists Jasha Sütterlin is the team’s German connection and a promising TT specialist but this would be an upset, a dream come true. Instead Jonathan Castroviejo is more experienced but the course’s big wide roads don’t suit him so well.
Among others Michał Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) has won time trials before but blows hot and cold but he says he’ll try and if you like coincidences the last German grand départ 30 years ago in Berlin saw Lech Piasecki triumph. Stephen Cummings (Dimension Data) hasn’t won a big time trial but his win in the British Championships was convincing. Aussies Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) and Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott) could place high. Maciej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe) would normally be an outside pick but he lost 90 seconds to Kwiatkowski in the recent Polish championships. Lastly if we’re expecting Tony Martin then Marcel Kittel is another home rider to watch, an unlikely winner today but possibly top-10 and positioning himself nicely for time bonuses in upcoming sprint stages. A few years ago Taylor Phinney would have been a strong pick, now we’ll see, perhaps Cannondale-Drapac team mate Dylan Van Baarle can surprise.
Lastly watch the GC contenders, 14km is enough to put daylight in between the big names and leave some of the climbers looking like fish out of water, as hopeless as Gustave Courbet’s trout. We’ll get an immediate comparison between Richie Porte and Chris Froome plus clues from the others but as good as Porte was in the Dauphiné’s TT which had two climbs he’s unlikely to win today, the course is for the powerful specialists.
|Primož Roglič, Stefan Küng, Jos Van Emden|
|Kwiatkowski, Matthews, Durbridge, Castroviejo, Van Baarle, Sütterlin, Kittel|
Weather: cool and cloudy with a top temperature of 15°C. Early rain is forecast to become more intermittent and a 15km/h breeze from the south-west will help dry the roads and get in the way of the riders because there’s almost nowhere to enjoy a tailwind on the course. It could gust to 30km/h too.
TV: live from start to finish. The first rider, Elie Gesbert (Fortuneo-Oscaro) and the race’s youngest rider leaves at 3.15pm with the finish forecast for 6.50pm CET.
Start times CET:
18h00 Daniel Martin (IRL/Quick-Step Floors)
18h02 Esteban Chaves (COL/Orica-Scott)
18h06 Richie Porte (AUS/BMC)
18h08 Alejandro Valverde (ESP/Movistar)
18h15 Sylvain Chavanel (FRA/Direct Energie)
18h16 Primož Roglič (SLO/LottoNL-Jumbo)
18h19 André Greipel (ALL/Lotto-Soudal)
18h20 Tony Martin (ALL/Katusha-Alpecin)
18h22 Marcel Kittel (ALL/Quick-Step Floors)
18h24 Luke Durbridge (AUS/Orica-Scott)
18h25 Arnaud Démare (FRA/FDJ)
18h26 Louis Meintjes (AFS/UAE Emirates)
18h27 Fabio Aru (ITA/Astana)
18h28 Stefan Küng (SUI/BMC)
18h29 Alberto Contador (ESP/Trek-Segafredo)
18h30 Nairo Quintana (COL/Movistar)
18h31 Pierre Latour (FRA/AG2R La Mondiale)
18h32 Chris Froome (GBR/Sky)