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Tour de France Stage 1 Preview

No more waiting, the Tour de France starts today and there’s loop out of Brussels with bergs and cobbles before a high stress finish and a presumed bunch sprint with yellow jersey waiting for the winner.

The Route: 194km and a course of national unity visiting Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. The early highlight is the Kapelmuur and Bosberg combo, for a while the legendary finish of the Tour of Flanders, today the finale of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad but while these climbs are so important at the end of a 250km race today they’re 40km into a three week event and so they’re fun but not strategic. Still expect a scrap for the mountains points on offer. Then the race loops towards Charleroi and there’s a cobbled section with 76.5km to go but no surprises: it’s nothing wild and was used in the Tour in 2015 when the race went from Seraing to Cambrai. Instead the biggest danger all day is the combination of a nervous peloton fighting for space and the collection of street furniture and the tension rises the closer the finish gets.

  • NB the intermediate sprint awards points for the green jersey classification but there are no time bonuses at intermediate sprints.

The Finish: a sprint royale, at least because the final kilometre is alongside Laeken castle, home of the Belgian monarchy. It’s on city boulevards but not always wide and the final two kilometres are uphill, it goes up in sections with 2-3% then it levels out, another 2-3% and then it flattens out for the finish. Hardly for the mountain goats but it’ll slow things a touch.

The Contenders: a difficult three way pick among the sprinters. The uphill sections in the finish tilt it to Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) but his lead out train looks weak compared to those enjoyed by Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quickstep) and Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma). Viviani gets his preferred train and is out to make amends after a flop in the Giro, remember he’s back in his blue overalls now. Groenewegen is strong in uphill finishes too and of the trio probably offers the most certainty but as mentioned before he was stretching his back a lot after the ZLM Tour, as if something wasn’t right and it’ll be interesting to see what team mae Wout van Aert does, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t and is saved for tomorrow’s team time trial. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) should be close too, a sprint chaperone. For Ewan it’s now or never, he could make his Tour debut – he was flicked by Mitchelton this time last year – with a stage win and the yellow jersey while both Viviani and Groenewegen could lose today but still, just, hope for the maillot jaune if they manage a great team time trial tomorrow.

Among the others Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates) is a powerful rider with the pedigree but not a frequent pick these days and if he wins a stage this Tour it might be later in the race. Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) likes harder finishes than this, his time could come later. Cees Bol (Team Sunweb) is a neo-pro but starts precisely because he’s popped up to win already this year. Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) sprints but is more of a complete rider at yet to win at this level. Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) could be in the mix but normally don’t have the pure speed to beat the top trio, they’re suited to later stages but could pounce if there’s an opportunity. Kitten rustler Niccolò Bonifazio (Total Direct Energie) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Dimension Data) will sprint but how to win? André Greipel used to love finishes like this but is near invisible since moving to Arkéa-Samsic but it’s job done as he has helped to secure the team a wildcard invitation.

Finally all this is predicated on a sprint finish and it’s the most likely scenario but just how hard with Deceuninck-Quickstep and Jumbo-Visma work today knowing they have eyes on winning tomorrow’s stage as well?

Caleb Ewan, Dylan Groenewegen
Elia Viviani, Peter Sagan
Kristoff, Bol, Colbrelli


Yellow story: each day a quick story or reflection on the yellow jersey, cycling’s iconic prize. To start, the start of the yellow jersey. The yellow jersey was first awarded in 1919 but only midway during the Tour, a response to half the peloton wearing the same jersey. It should have been in Marseille for the start of Stage 9 but the package containing the golden fleece didn’t reach the race in time so instead was in Grenoble and Stage 11 by which time there were only 11 riders left in the race, somewhat reducing the necessity for a “distinctive jersey”. It wasn’t an instant hit either, race leader Eugène Christophe was mocked as “cri-cri the canary” by his peers for dressing in yellow but he had the last laugh, first because he’d lose the race after breaking his forks (again) later in the race near Wallers Arenberg, only to gain “moral victor” status and collect donations from the public worth more than first prize in the race; and again today as it’s Christophe we celebrate.

Weather: Belgium but not as we know it, warm and a mix of sunshine and clouds, a top temperature of 26°C. A light breeze shouldn’t split the race but it means a 3/4 headwind for the finish.

TV: the stage starts at 12.00pm CEST and finish is forecast for 5.00pm CEST / Euro time. Tune in for the start and to see what sort of fight there is for the breakaway. The Kapelmuur and Bosberg combo begins around 1.20pm but after this you may want to tune out if things are looking processional before returning for the final, hectic 45 minutes.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • thesteve4761 Saturday, 6 July 2019, 7:41 am

    Viviani for the win.

  • J Envas Saturday, 6 July 2019, 7:52 am

    Could be an interesting start today: there might be a lot of teams who fancy going for the polka dots and they only have to keep the peloton together for ~50km. Would be good to see a full-on battle for it.
    I don’t think Arkéa-Samsic are there because of Greipel.

    • gabriele Saturday, 6 July 2019, 3:54 pm

      Pffff. Scripted start. Hope it’s not a sign of things to come.

  • Speckled Jim Saturday, 6 July 2019, 8:06 am

    “Kitten rustler Niccolò Bonifazio…” Love it!

  • Mark Saturday, 6 July 2019, 8:31 am

    I’ll eat my hat if Groenewegen is the fastest man on that last km profile.

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 6 July 2019, 9:18 am

      It does drag up more than the profile suggests too but he’s taken uphill sprints before, like Vierzon in Paris-Nice last year.

    • Bart Saturday, 6 July 2019, 9:51 am

      You might be in for a treat then 🙂
      Groenewegen actually practices these type of gradients over and over again on a bridge. Think this actually suits him well (and Ewan!)

      • RQS Saturday, 6 July 2019, 2:16 pm

        By yourself a nacho hat just in case….

        • RQS Saturday, 6 July 2019, 2:17 pm


  • Larry T Saturday, 6 July 2019, 9:11 am

    Wow! Le Grand Boucle hasn’t even started and already it’s stuff like – “The Kapelmuur and Bosberg combo begins around 1.20pm but after this you may want to tune out if things are looking processional before returning for the final, hectic 45 minutes.”
    Geez, if folks who write, read and comment on this blog can’t get excited about cycling’s biggest event (and the 3rd biggest worldwide, beaten only by every-four-years football world cup and Olympics) who the hell can? Please, please don’t tell me it’s all because a certain Mr. Froome is not there.

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 6 July 2019, 9:17 am

      It’s an exciting day but as you probably know the stage won’t be non-stop action from start to finish, there are moments to concentrate on.

      • Anand Saturday, 6 July 2019, 2:22 pm

        I like a lot of long-play sports, like bike racing, cricket, golf and snooker. What is great with them is that you can put them on your TV to run while you are doing other things, and pay attention when stuff is interesting. In the tour, now with full stages broadcasted, that is truer than ever. In any case, I just saw GvA pick up a jersey almost exactly when you timed it, a little bit of action without crashes, which is a good thing.

        After all, this is not a completely flat Scheldeprix where you either don’t watch at all or tune in for last 5 minutes.

        But I’m pretty sure we are all feeding a troll.

    • JeroenK Saturday, 6 July 2019, 10:01 am

      I am amazed how the reactions instantly digress to beating the same Ineos/Sky dead horses under friggin’ every INRNG post.

      • Anonymous Saturday, 6 July 2019, 10:06 am

        It’s one person making a senseless comment – the mention of Froome is irrelevant.
        Ignore him.

    • Anonymous Saturday, 6 July 2019, 10:21 am

      It’s all because a certain Mr. Froome is not there.

    • Anonymous Saturday, 6 July 2019, 10:52 am

      Larry T – insulting the host is disrespectful and out of order.

    • Anonymous Saturday, 6 July 2019, 11:49 am

      Larry T has always been a sour and ignorant Trumpkin. Ignore him

      • Vitus Saturday, 6 July 2019, 6:35 pm

        I tend more to ignore the anonymous troll who’s stalking Larry. Get a life kid.

        • Anonymous Saturday, 6 July 2019, 10:10 pm

          Vitus, it was clearly a lot of different people all posting anonymously because they don’t want to get involved in an argument with Larry.

          • Vitus Saturday, 6 July 2019, 10:22 pm

            If they all are to immature to stand a discussion with Larry, they shouldn’t post at all. The numerous responds from anons are plain childish. YMMV

          • Anonymous Saturday, 6 July 2019, 10:31 pm

            With Larry it’s more unfounded accusations (e.g. calling people xenophobic, constantly) and pointless vitriol than a discussion, and clearly many have had enough of it. I’ll leave it there.

  • Eskerrik Asko Saturday, 6 July 2019, 9:55 am

    A rather intriguing method of estimating our collective or anyone’s individual level of interest, I must say!
    You weren’t born yesterday and you know very well that three weeks is a long time and that there is no point – unless it happens to be a part of one’s job – in watching a stage nonstop and its entirety.
    Since I don’t think you really feel that today’s stage is somehow different and special in this regard just because it it the first stage, I must conclude that you wrote the comment simply as an pretext to ride on a particular hobby horse of yours – and it leads me to lament in advane the nature and the quality of much of what will be written in the comments section.
    I hope the following weeks will prove that I was hasty and mistaken in my conclusion.

    PS I would like to suggest a list of words or subjects that should *not* be discussed, brought up or even mentioned. It could begin with “Froome”, “doping” and “asterisk”, but surely there are a dozen others that should not be left off the list.

    • Anonymous Saturday, 6 July 2019, 10:27 am

      Hope in haste, be disillusioned at leisure. Larry being a senseless, ignorant troll for three weeks, or forever, is a given. That Inrng feels the need to give his comment credibility by replying to it seriously is depressing.

      • Anonymous Saturday, 6 July 2019, 11:06 am

        Agreed – particularly about Inrng. Not responding to these comments is the answer. And the reason I am writing this comment anonymously is because I don’t want to get involved in his constant and needless animosity. As happened constantly in the Giro, if anyone criticises anything or anyone that happens to be Italian, he calls them a xenophobe – a word he does not know the meaning of.

  • Irungo txuletak Saturday, 6 July 2019, 9:56 am

    The last 15k are harder than they look. Nothing wild but there are some serious false flats still. There are also some very speedy sections downhill that will add for nervosity. The last k is also a bit steeper than 2% I would say.
    Not that it is for a puncher, but I won’t be surprised if we have some unexpected names in the best placings.

    • Gabriel Constantin Sunday, 7 July 2019, 12:32 am

      I agree. BXL isn’t flat at all but we also stop for the crossings and red lights. That’s momentum they don’t loose. The last straight is steep enough to see busses not being allowed up after a surprise winter snow. Laughable situation but true.

  • kavan Saturday, 6 July 2019, 10:01 am

    I expect a fast race as far as the first ‘mur’ to get the polka dot jersey. Who will win this ?

    • Ecky Thump Saturday, 6 July 2019, 10:32 am

      The Belgian teams, and riders, will be hugely motivated today and I expect them to exert an influence on the race. I don’t think we can underestimate this.
      And I’d also expect that the crowds will be massive, personally I find it’s good for the soul to witness such spectacles (even from television) and I intend tuning in just for this reason alone.

      • Larrick Saturday, 6 July 2019, 12:08 pm

        I’ll plump for Mads WS.

  • Richard S Saturday, 6 July 2019, 10:37 am

    I wouldn’t be surprised if a high quality group of ‘klassikers’ gets away for a bit over the Muur-Bosberg combo (it’s not like Van Avarmaet has anything else to do) but I expect it to come back before the finish. Groenewegen to win for me and then hold on to yellow tomorrow.

  • brent Saturday, 6 July 2019, 11:11 am

    All good sprinters but doesn’t seem quite the top lineout of years past for sprinters. Cav, Greipel, kittel, sagan, and others going well at the same time. Changing of the guard I suppose but with kittel on a break, gaviria unwell plus no cav, Greipel past his best presumably. Its not quite the star studded line up of years past. Mind you if the younger sprinters go well then they will become the new stars. This is there chance.

  • KevinK Saturday, 6 July 2019, 12:41 pm

    This morning I was thinking that this could be a stage that Greg Van Avermet may be targeting, and might look to do a breakaway in the later stages since he hasn’t been a fast finisher in a bit. And now the race is underway in he’s in the initial breakaway. Seems unlikely that he’ll be allowed to get a substantial lead, but he might force a hard chase through the early stages. Or maybe he’s looking to be a surprise holder of the polka dots for a couple of days.

    I love how there are question marks around both the GC riders, and the fast men. It’s hard not to see today’s podium being DG, EV, and CE, with Sagan being a frustrated fourth. I’ll be cheering for Sagan to upset the apple cart, but I don’t think the finish is hard enough.

  • peter Saturday, 6 July 2019, 2:56 pm
    • J Envas Saturday, 6 July 2019, 10:21 pm

      Ryder should give a full explanation. It’s clear that Aldag doesn’t agree with the decision and you’d have thought he’s closer to the rider (although one could argue maybe to close).
      I still think it would have been worth the risk if Cavendish says he’s fit – who else on that team is going to win a stage?
      They could still have taken Nizzolo to bag them much-needed points (leaves a bad taste in the mouth wondering how much of a role that played in the decision) and could have left Cummings at home – 38 and done nothing since 2017. (And if not Cummings they have a wide and varied selection of also-rans.)

      • KevinK Sunday, 7 July 2019, 10:09 am

        Cavendish’s ongoing failures to be a factor in world tour races has been, to my eyes, and even bigger story than the overall weakness of DDQ as a team. He would have gotten a lot of attention at the Tour, and continued failures to even break into the top 10, with a much lesser rider like Nizzolo finishing ahead of him, would have been frankly embarrassing. And when he missed the time cut, all it would do is spawn more articles about Cavendish is the latest former elite athlete who didn’t know when to quit. For DDQ, bad publicity is not better than no publicity.

        Were I the team owner, what would have been the final straw is the way Cavendish has this year repeatedly just given up and soft pedaled to the finish line in races where he was near the front in the final kilometer. It’s as if he didn’t want to be seen trying hard to only finish 12th, and preferred to coast home anonymously in 40th place, and then quietly drop out of the race the next day.