Tour de France Stage 1 Preview

The Tour starts today and the yellow jersey awaits today’s winner. As well as the Tour’s opening stage there’s La Course to enjoy in the morning on the same roads.

The Route: the first of two days to showcase the city of Nice and its surroundings. If you want a visual preview of today’s Tour stage, tune into La Course in the morning which shares many of the same roads with the categorised climb to Rimiez which is about 6km at 5%, all on a wide road, the narrowest part has a tight hairpin 800m before the mountains point in Rimiez and there’s some 6-7% slopes here. After this the climbing isn’t done, there’s the climb to Aspremont which is 6km at nearly 5% too meaning an uncategorised climb that’s similar but sans points. It’s chased by a fast, twisty descent back down to the Var valley floor. From here it’s flat and the road widens allowing riders to move up. After crossing the finish line for the second time they climb to Aspremont again but this time turn off to Tourette and Levens to extend the inland loop, there’s a drag up here but 3-4% and then it’s another fast descent through the olive groves and less technical than the one from Aspremont down to the Var valley. From here it’s 28km to the finish.

The Finish: after passing the airport and negotiating some street furniture it’s onto the Promenade des Anglais, the big boulevard is 6km long and as a flat as a slice of socca.

The Contenders: a day for the sprinters but not the le sprint royal we get in the Tour as several of the best sprinters aren’t here. Today’s course is hilly but there’s a long run from Levens to the finish, an attack on the climb here would do well to take a minute but should need treble this to stay away. It’ll be a hectic day, an oblique way of saying crashes are likely but the course isn’t wild, it’s just the pressure among riders not to give ground, not to lose a metre or a second.

Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) is the obvious pick, he’s fast, he’s got his leadout train and he won three stages last year, trouncing Groenwegen and Viviani in their pomp. So far so good but he was dropped on the Cipressa in Milan-Sanremo and yes it was ho,t but he had a mixed time in the Tour de Wallonie, one stage win but dropped on a damp day on the Côte de Cherate when other sprinters weren’t. Rivals have an interest to put him under pressure here, if not to drop him then at least to make him tired.

Sam Bennett starts the Tour, it’s one reason he moved to Deceuninck-Quickstep as he got squeezed out at Bora-Hansgrohe each year. Yes he’s versatile and can win uphill sprints but he’s taken flat, fast and furious finishes too.

Elia Viviani (Cofidis) won a stage last year and is capable of winning again. His team is a touch weaker this year and he’s not landed a win this year when, Covid or not, he usually does.

Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT) is the form pick. He’s changing jerseys each time he races: he won the Italian championship last Sunday, then the European championships on Wednesday and at this rate he ought to collct the yellow jersey, right? Why not but he’s better at hard sprints after tough races, today’s 156km course is short and the dragstrip finish suits others and whisper it but his Italian team last Wednesday is better than NTT.

Cees Bol (Sunweb) has a great chance today, the long flat finish is ideal; by contrast weighing 25 kilos less than him is Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) who is in great shape but today’s flat finish isn’t ideal. Matteo Trentin (CCC), Sonny Colbrelli, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) all want hillier, spicier finishes too. Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott) is quick but an infrequent winner. Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates) has the pedigree but is last World Tour-level bunch sprint was the Champs Elysée in 2018.

What of Wout van Aert‘s chances? He can win bunch sprints but his successes have come on uphill finishes. Crucially though he’s likely to be on team duty and leading out Roglič and Dumoulin, not to the win but just to the line without mishap and having an ersatz sprint train is a good way to shield them. Still just in case, he gets a chainring…

Caleb Ewan
Sam Bennett, Elia Viviani
Nizzolo, Sagan, Bol, Mezgec, Kristoff, WvA

Weather: not hot and with a good chance of rain in the afternoon, a top temperature of 27°C in Nice. A light onshore sea breeze means a slight headwind on the Var valley run back to the finish, to advantage the bunch.

TV: tune in to La Course first for live coverage from 10am-12.30pm CEST and then the Tour de France starts at 2pm with the finish forecast for 6.00pm Euro time.

32 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 1 Preview”

  1. I didn’t realize socca was a Nicois specialty. I only know it from Ottolenghi’s cookbook, “Plenty,” and had assumed it was Arab/Israeli/Palestinian somehow. A treat to learn this via the blog.

    My heart is with Viviani here and Covidis. How great would that be for him to wear the jersey?

    Thanks for a great lead-in to the TdF.

    • There is nothing like an Israeli dish/cuising – all are some version of mostly Palestinian dishs, French and other ‘national’ dishes as well

      • Thanks for mentioning socca de Nice. Found a good recipe and it made a for nice savory recovery dish yesterday while watching the stage 🙂

        As always enjoying your coverage!

  2. How much will wanting a good team car position for tomorrow effect what Jumbo let Wout do?

    Hard to see them happy being at the back in what will possibly be a fairly critical stage on Sunday.

    • That’s an interesting tactical question! I know most of the stage 2 roads and they are quite narrow most of the time. If I was their DS, I’d still be mainly interested by keeping my riders out of trouble and fresh. If the team has had to do little work up until the sprint, I’d give Wout a shot. If he has a top finish: Good. If he wins: There’s nothing like a ‘cheap’ stage win and yellow jersey to start a TdF in a positive way. Just don’t try to defend the jersey in the first week.
      Don’t forget Amund Gröndahl Jansen – not a world class sprinter, but no slouch either.

  3. And certainly a day for Total-Direct Energie, B&B Hôtels and Cofidis to allocate a rider to the futile breakaway, maybe CCC and MTS too. Meanwhile Ineos and JV will just be pleased to have a day’s relative relaxation while LTS and DQS control the gap.

    • Yes, there’s the mountains jersey to take today, just winning it for one day is a triumph for the invited teams or a rider worried about their contract for next year, although few riders good enough to get selected for the Tour will have this worry.

    • ** minor spoilers included **

      To be fair, I’m watching the race now, and the first 15km have already seen Shayla Guttierez and Jessica Spratt go out the back, along with almost half the field…
      I understand Annemiek van Vleuten is disappointed, she’s better on longer distances, but you don’t need distance to have a good selective race.

      • Annemiek’s point, although she admitted she likes harder and longer races, was that a double standard should not apply. Women are quite able to race for the same duration as the men. Because women are not as fast, they would not need as much distance for it. Not nearly as much less as the difference is in most races, though.
        I am all for the same race format standard, but through a different means: Let the men race shorter distances and cut out the filler km’s. There are ample examples of shorter stages to prove that in general it makes for more exciting races. Broadcasters could also be more likely to show the first hour breakaway war if the intermediate dull period is shorter.

      • Yes, I’m all for equality and have myself worked for years to help ensure my local race scene has as much of it as possible…but arguably the type of parcours seen in today’s race is exactly what the current strength in depth of women’s racing needs, in the sense of providing good racing and entertainment. Longer or more mountainous routes would be great, and of course women are capable of riding them (as if that even needs to be stated!) but it would probably narrow the possible winners to a list of 2…

        • Yes, that’s what I meant. There was a good selection and an open race, where taking risks was encouraged and several competitors had a real chance. Although I’d have liked it more if the circuit started with the flat portion. Less scenic probably…

          I never meant to suggest that they wouldn’t be able to ride longer distances, merely that you don’t need 160+km to have an entertaining race. Looking forward to a women’s Tour de France in 2022.

        • Maybe. But it’s chicken or egg. Unless you have some races like that, there’s no incentive for riders that might be suited to them to enter the sport (or teams to take them on), or for existing riders to try to develop their ability to contest them.

  4. All in for SammyB. I know every rider has a story to to tell. But to see Sam at the eve of this Tour of France and his progression is immense. That Lanterne Rouge ride in 15, shows he has Grinta. He’s no Ballykissangel pick today, he can be in the maillot jaune 2 nite

  5. Like the race itself this stage seems fairly open. I’d like Viviani to win, for Cofidis, and for some reason fancy Kristoff. So that rules them two out!

    • Sometimes it’s luck; sometimes it isn’t. He and his team repeatedly fail to protect him on flat stages (lost a lot of time last year on a windy stage). I really want him to win, after last year, but teams like Ineos and JV do protect their riders better.

  6. Wow, what a sketchy day of racing. Hopefully none of those falls turn out to be worse than they appeared.

    Kristoff continues to refuse to be written off. Very impressive win to a classy guy. Pedersen was most impressive, too.

    I assume Pedersen will be in the white jersey, which he earned, with Sagan in green, correct?

    • Correct. Kristoff should be in green, but is in yellow. Green therefore passes to Pedersen, but he’s in white. Green therefore passes to Sagan, who’s 3rd on points, despite coming 5th on the stage, because he snapped up more points at the intermediate sprint than Bennett.

  7. What happened to Bennett? I was so surprised he faultered as he looked a shoe-in given that Caleb Ewan’s crash counted him out (presumably). Perhaps the overhead camera angle didn’t help, but just as I was expecting Bennett’s watts to kick in he fizzled and tied up!
    Pedersen’s strong finish was surprising, though he had picked the right wheel to follow. It seemed like the sprint that never was…

    • Bennet deciced to improvise instead of following the Master and waiting for the perfect leadout to launch (which it was), and admitted it was an error. Not sure why, he should know just to follow and trust Mørkøv blindly after the 2018 Giro. Guess he is still not used to have a true leadout after freelancing for years.

      Pedersen had the highest top speed in the sprint, unfortunatly he lost Theuns and Steuvens whels and was blocked twice when the sprint started. Hot tip for Paris!

      • Bennett really has not looked nearly as impressive at DQS this year as he did at Bora the last two years. Bora seemed to know how to get the best out of him. If you look at how he was riding in 2015 and 2016, at an age when most sprinters are getting good results, he was nowhere. And Bora stuck with him and developed him and he blossomed. And to say he has been “freelancing” the last couple of years is nonsense – unlike Sagan, Bennett has always had a competent sprint train in front of him. It wasn’t as long or as imperious as the QS train, but it was good and better than many sprinters had.

        He’s clearly not finishing races as well this year as he did the last two. He seem’s more sensitive than most sprinters, more thoughtful and less full of blind confidence, and I wonder if the pressure is working against him. Last year he was working to prove he was good enough. This year he’s working to prove he deserves to be the featured sprinter. Those are very different kinds of pressure.

  8. Also….Lizzie Deignan’s win. She was so close to faltering too. She mispedaled just as she was coming up to Vos, and then managed to kick just in time. Very close.

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