Tour de France Stage 1 Preview

201km and a yellow jersey waiting at the end. A likely sprint finish and a certain high stress day for the peloton and convoy to start their Tour. Don’t get caught out by the early timing of today’s finish.

The Route: the profile makes it look flat which it is. This is a coastal route and shifting the date of the Tour de France a week later than planned to reduce the clash with the FIFA World Cup means they can’t start via the Passage du Gois, the treacherous tidal road. Still there’s a marine theme as they pass along the coast for most of the stage and it’ll still be nervous too, this is the Tour de France and the opening stage is always a high stress scenario. Tense but internal to the race. At the risk of being rude about the host region this is a fine place for slow cycling but not breathtaking to watch on TV. It’s home to the Direct Energie team, the only pro team to have their service course in a 19th century manor house, as opposed to the habitual light industrial unit.

The day’s breakaway can go up the road for it’s only after 173km that the tiny climb of Vix appears for the mountains competition, listed as 700m at 4%, I make it 600m and surely the gentlest climb of the entire race as it rises through vineyards. Just one point for the first rider over the top, but an appointment on the podium awaits.

New this year is the bonus point. The intermediate sprints don’t have time bonuses, instead for the first nine stages the “B” sprint point on the stages do, but only a slender 3-2-1 seconds (compared to 10-6-4 at the finish and the upcoming team time trial will prise apart the GC further). Small and worth a sprint interval with just 13.5km to go? As they approach the finish it’s on a small road and with 9km to go there’s a narrow pinch point in the village of Souil.

The Finish: Fontenay is a small place and they skirt around the town’s light industrial estate before taking a sharp right hander and then a finishing straight that’s over a kilometre long. It’s not totally flat but barely a gear-change is needed.

The Contenders: who is the prime pick? The best thing about today’s stage is that it’s so open, we have almost all the best sprinters in the sport and yet none of them are certain picks, to advance one name is also to evoke concerns about their form. Plenty this year come with much reduced trains and this should be interesting tactically, how many teams will work to control the breakaway knowing that plenty of other squads are literally hoping to freeride on their efforts? How will sprint trains of two or three riders operate compared to the longer trains of old?

Dylan Groenewegen (Lotto-Jumbo) is the pick for consistency, he’s won stages in every stage race he’s ridden this year and can pick up in the Tour where he left off last year in Paris.

Fernando Gaviria (Quick Step) has had some wins this year but got beaten in the recent Tour de Suisse which means he’s not such a firm pick if we go on form but Quick Step are a redoubtable team and rarely finish as runners up.

Marcel Kittel (Katusha) is the pedigree pick, he’s on fewer stage wins than Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) but has won more, more recently and last year looked effortless as he’d start his sprint from well back to surge past his rivals. But he hasn’t won a sprint this year since March. Cavendish himself hasn’t won since February either and if they both have different styles they’re obvious picks.

Next come a second wave of sprinters. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) can place but winning is a big ask. André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) has been dependable but isn’t a certain pick although he’s helped by a strong lead out train. On his day Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) can unleash a very powerful sprint but he might prefer a slight gradient. The same for Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Emirates) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) might prefer and even harder finish. The outside pick is Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie), unlikely but his team are the locals.

Dylan Groenewegen, Fernando Gaviria
Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish
Sagan, Greipel, Démare, Kristoff, Boudat

Weather: hot, sunny and a top temperature of 32°C. A light 10km/h breeze from the NE won’t trouble the peloton but it makes for the tiniest of headwinds in the finish.

TV: live from the start at 11.00am CEST with the finish forecast for 3.50pm CEST. Be sure to tune in for the sprint finish and the jostling on the run in to the finish. Otherwise it’s likely the early part of the stage will be big on shots of the peloton trundling along past the coast for hours on end.

25 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 1 Preview”

  1. Bon chance! to ALL the riders, I hope no one does anything dumb, it’s a great field across the various races within this wonderful event, let battle commence!

    • Great Tug, someone always writes Cav off, they’ve been doing it for decades,its almost a summertime tradition! So congratulations, I look forward to witnessing Mark cross the line first at least once this Tour.

  2. It’s a very stressful start to the tour.

    3 Inrng posts to absorb and digest, between now and the fully televised stage starting at 9:30.

    Then how to multiplex the tour, local lad in Wimbledon and that football stuff across two TVs and one recorder, then avoiding news leakage on social media.

    With the weather, and the fact that 80% of the local population will be indoors/gardens this afternoon, and not on the ride, how can I not avoid riding the bike?

    That’s a lot of quart to fit in the pint pot.

    I’m still interested in seeing if the “B” time bonuses have any measurable impact on the race.

  3. It’s coming home! err, I mean, Cav could be back, and not coming home…
    Inrng, you have made my day pointing out the timing is adjusted for the world cup — I thought I had to sacrifice the first day of the TdF for years…

  4. Hey fellas, that’s not how comments go on inner ring. If you want to sling defermations there are plenty of other corners on the internet where it’s a prerequisite. Here it’s preferred that we treat each other’s opinions with respect.

    • Yes, Stage 1 and I’ve already zapped two bad tempered comments.

      People are allowed to have different opinions here, it’s ok. Not sure why but the Tour de France seems either to get one or two people worked up or it brings over already irate people.

      As an aside I’ve looked at incorporating other comments systems like Disqus but they have their problems, as easy as it would be to block or temporarily suspended a couple of people prone to typing with caps lock on, they’re also means to give your email, IP address and browsing habits to large companies.

      Nevermind, back to the race.

    • A wildcard team from the early breakaway? Cannondale did it last year with Taylor Phinney. The climb today is one for a punchy sprinter. The prototype rider in the bunch would be a Sagan, Colbrelli or Démare but they’ll surely wait for the stage finish. Sagan could do it to become one of the riders to wear all three jerseys during his career but I suspect he’s not that interested in Tour history anecdotes.

  5. I’m surprised you didn’t mention Christoph Laporte. He’s had a great Spring and despite the issues with Bouhanni, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t up there with a shout.

    • Good call – Laporte finished ahead of a fair number of more favored sprinters this stage. Not that he ever looked a threat to win, but that was a very respectable finish, esp. considering the perfection of the QS train and Sagan doing what he does so well.

  6. Direct Energie eyeing the King of the Mountains jersey to say thank you to the local crowds, a la David Millar in 2007? The team certainly made sure of a) getting in the breakaway and b) making sure the breakaway got away. If only the Cat 4 was further from the finish.

  7. Think it’s gunna be a good one this year!
    All the pre-race chat and predictions go out the window:
    – Movistar’s trident is looking a master stroke
    – Not-co-leader Thomas will likely be almost a minute up on Froome and in yellow (or maybe GVA, or TJ!) after stage 3. Who gets prioritised on stages 5, 6 and 9?
    – Bardet’s already made up about a third of the TT deficit he needs for an equal match in the mountains and Nibali and Tom D are sitting pretty.
    Just the start this race needed!

    • It’s unfortunate a crash caused the gaps.. but.. it does indeed make it more unpredictable.
      I was expecting G to be the best SKY rider after stage 9, but given almost a minute advantage so soon, means he will be entering the mountains very much in a leadership role, providing he stays upright. Good on him!

      I’m just wondering what Froome was thinking, doing a surge sprint into half a gap by Zabel, which quickly turned into grassy embankment.
      No doubts RonDe will be on here in a bit to criticise the nudge Rick gave him.

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