Tour de France Stage 1 Preview

Welcome to the first of 21 daily stage previews, you’ll find them freshly baked like a croissant every morning.

The Tour starts with a 13km time trial around Copenhagen, a tour of many the Danish capital’s sights and monuments. There’s the stage win, a yellow jersey up and an early form test for the overall contenders, all in front of what promises to be a giant crowd in Copenhagen.

The Route: a flat 13km time trial around the Indre By, Copenhagen’s inner city. It’s the kind of route an open top bus would drive to show off the city to visiting tourists, passing many landmarks and sights. Although passengers should sit tight as it’s got 18, plenty for 13km. There are some technical points – cycling jargon for bends – where a rider can lose time or even lose control if the road is wet. Still, it’s far from a brake-sprint-brake-repeat course, several bends are predictable and wide, the course flows on big boulevards with some cobbles along the way.

The Contenders

Filippo Ganna (Ineos) been targetting this stage for some time and it suits him perfectly, he can turn a giant gear at speed and his track pursuit background means he can handle changes in pace. He’s been the obvious pick by a long way for time trials but lately the others have caught up and even got the better of him at times.

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) lost to Ganna in the Dauphiné time trial by just two seconds. There’s been talk of a knee injury but if he was actually limping he wouldn’t be starting a three week slog. He’s powerful, aero and will like the course with all its corners given he began in cyclo-cross.

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) isn’t in the dictionary when you look up time triallists because he’s yet to win one but he’s come very close and the course, form and more practice on the time trial bike mean a win is due. Just doing it in the Tour to take the yellow jersey is a big ask but that’s his style.

Stefan Bissegger (EF Education) has beaten Ganna this year, but the UAE Tour was an almost featureless course, we’ll see how he copes with the corners but he should be good here, he’s got the punch to power out. He’s had Covid lately so in a discipline where you need to be 100% to win this won’t help. Another Swiss rider called Stefan and the same story with Covid brings us to Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) who has been in great shape before getting the virus, he’s the European TT champ but often beaten by rivals.

Danish supporters can cheer on several picks. Mikkel Bjerg (UAE) and  Magnus Cort (EF) is handy at short distance courses, Kasper Asgreen (Quick-Step) is very fast and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) has been targetting this stage, placing a bet with Jasper Stuyven that if he wins the stage, the Belgian rider has get a donkey tattooed on his arse. But how to win? That’s a big ask but if they can finish among the best today they might fancy their chances of taking the yellow jersey in the coming days. Of course there’s Jonas Vingegaard too (Jumbo-Visma) who will be roared on around the course too. Team mate Primoz Roglic should place high too.

Which brings us to Tadej Pogačar (UAE) who faces an early test of form. But the flat course isn’t to his liking, there’s nowhere he can really pull out time from the giants like Ganna and Van Aert, if the course was Cannes or Clermont-Ferrand he’d have a better chance.

Anymore outsiders? Like Pogačar we could list more names but how to beat Ganna and Van Aert? Ben Thomas (Cofidis) is very versatile but yet to win big, namesake Geraint Thomas (Ineos) started the 2017 Tour with a win and has a better chance. Lampaert, Tratnik, Gradek, Durbridge, Bodnar, Politt, McNulty could all be close.

Filippo Ganna, Wout van Aert
Bissegger, van der Poel
Küng, Asgreen, Pedersen, Pogačar

Weather: a mild day, 23°C but with a chance of a rain shower throughout the afternoon. The wind is going to pick up this evening and for the night which is why many riders have opted to start earlier.

TV: the seeding will have TV producers raging as it’s not going to build to any last minute suspense. The first rider is off at 4.00pm CEST with the likes of Bissegger, Van der Poel, Roglič and Quintana in the first half hour and many big names going early. There’s Ganna at 5.03pm, van Aert at 5.04om and then Pogačar at 5.05pm. The last rider Marc Soler comes in at 7.10pm CEST.

Prologue? today is Stage 1 and not the prologue. The strict definition of a prologue is it must be less than 8km. But you could have a 1km TT and call it Stage 1. Where a prologue is unique is that should rider crash out and be unable to finish, they are permitted to start the race the next day and get the same time on GC as the last rider in the prologue. As it’s Stage 1 today everyone has to finish to carry on.

The first prologue was in the 1967 Tour de France and a ruse to add an extra day’s racing by organisers who then made significant money from host towns and the attendant crowds. The most recent prologue now dates from decade ago in 2012 when Fabian Cancellara won in Liège and there were a handful of starters then who go today like Chris Froome, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Mikaël Cherel and Thibaut Pinot. Prologues can suit short distance specialists and even sprinters but they are likely to lose time today such that that taking the yellow jersey in the coming days via stage wins and time bonuses is a tall order.

53 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 1 Preview”

    • I bet its founder, Sweyn Forkbeard, could never have imagined such a spectacle as today, over 1000 years later.
      On the Team Ineos website Filipo Ganna is sporting facial hair that meets the above description, so that’s good enough for me 😃

  1. How do they decide on start order? Why do I think the defending champion went last in the past? But I guess they want the crowds visible on TV all day so starting all the no-hopers early isn’t gonna cut it? As to Pedersen and Stuyven what does Pedersen risk if he fails to win?:-)
    Hope the Covid positive tests stop coming…as of the start today a team can no longer fly-in replacements, right?

    • Is more due the significant chance of rain in the last hour. All favorites and GC riders have chosen the early time sluts. They are expecting 400.000 people in the streets (including me) so visible crowds should not be a problem.

    • Interesting that Ineos have decided to send Pidcock off last (I assume the order is their choice). Have they a different weather forecast?

    • The teams draw slots with the organisers but the team of last year’s winner goes last. Then it’s up to team managers to pick which rider goes in which slot, early or late.

      You can see why teams want to chose the start times to get advantageous weather for their best riders but as a spectacle it can fall flat. Think of Bologna for the Giro in 2019 when Roglič stormed up to the Basilica among the earlier starters and sat in the hot seat for the rest of the day.

    • The commissaires panel request at starting order of their riders from the teams if no seeding is taking place. So the order is normally up to the teams. The team order, then, can on by drawing lots or by specific regulations, e.g. WT ranking or other.
      Other regulations can apply, I have not read the roadbook or TG for this event.

    • The teams are ranked on last year’s results and they go in reverse order ie lowest first. The last rider out is from UAE. It is up to the teams in which order they put their riders so it could be the defending champion if the team so chose. Not sure there is generally much science to this, the weather is down to luck as the forecasts are never precise enough a day in advance (eg this afternoon is a chance of showers, the chance seems to be less this morning than the forecast suggested yesterday). It seems that most teams opt to send a rider or two ou before their main hope to “check out” the course but again not sure there is much in that. Maybe the TT nerds might claim that going at a certain point is a tiny advantage but cant really see it makes any odds.

  2. Wow, I never knew your Prologue fact (that “Where a prologue is unique is that should rider crash out and be unable to finish, they are permitted to start the race the next day and get the same time on GC as the last rider in the prologue”).

    How did I not know this? Or maybe I did once but it’s been so long since we had one that I’ve forgotten?

    Anyway, once again this blog is an education (or a re-education). Thanks once more Mr Ring. Very much looking forward to the daily previews as always.

    • I was going to add more about the prologue… but it’s a preview not a history piece. It was really invented as a ruse to have the previous year’s winner in their yellow jersey from the previous year. The Tour had the first prologue but the Giro almost beat it, it had planned to have a nocturnal criterium in the streets of Treviglio on the eve of the start but some kind of local protest meant it didn’t happen.

  3. Another thanks in anticipation for 3 weeks of enthralling insight and comment courtesy of IR. Croissants indeed! 🙂

  4. As someone who does ‘out and back’ TT’s where the only corner is a roundabout I find these twisty inner city TTs strange and slightly annoying. I want to see power houses hammering along at top speed not a Danish cathedral. Also TT bikes handle terribly so to prepare for these the riders go on normal rides on them in perhaps inappropriate weather (wind) and you end up with them crashing a lot. I don’t imagine anyone else cares though.
    I’d like Ganna to win but have that nagging feeling that Van der Poel might.

    • 1. Danish cathedrals (and in this case castles, palaces, parks, bridges, stadia and the worlds most used bike lane(tm)) are quite pretty. I think you’ll change your mind.

      2. The bends and roads are all very open except for around Kastellet and Amelienborg, so you will mostly get to watch people hammer round.

    • I’ll argue against drag-strip or Bonneville Salt Flats type chrono stages. Why not just have ’em climb on trainers if all you want to measure is how much power they can crank out? If your chrono bike is a skittish contraption that doesn’t corner well, ride something else! IMHO the silly things should be banned anyway – who buys them? The tri-jocks use bikes much different than what the UCI allows so what’s the point of a truck full of these things being hauled all the way to Denmark to be ridden less than 15 kms?

  5. Can we stop this crap about „having covid”? I see that people still believe in this hoax. Having returned a postive result in a test not testing for anything doesn’t mean someone was sick. Sagan was so sick that he won the national champs few days after. I can’t believe this topic is still going on and is pushed in the media. Let’s just wait for somebody being taken out from the race because he is positive while being in the leaders jersey. Back in the days people were racing through sickness and recovering during the race (Ullrich in 2003) and now they are not allowed to participate because of a test. Unbelievable

    • It’s a recent pandemy which can cause several symtoms and / or prolonged health issues, the testing and resigning in not necessarily for the infected rider’s sake, the protocol is intended to prevent massive spread of the infection.

      “No man is an island, entire of itself.”

    • If we can stop the crap, will that mean I don’t have Covid-19 at present? I feel like crap for some other reason despite a test showing I’m positive while (so far anyway) my wife tests negative and feels fine? This plague may not be (I hope anyway) as deadly as 2 years ago but a responsible civilization is going to test for it and try to minimize the spread. I hope the “hoax” never infects you…or maybe I don’t?

    • I’d like to think Ganna would ask the team NOT to use this tactic since if he wins there will be all kinds of talk about how that affected his speed. If all the other fast chrono men’s teams do the same thing, nobody gets an advantage so why not just forget about it? But I’ll not be holding my breath since he’s on a team run by Sir Dave…the Al Davis of cycling

      • Is LA really the bad guy? Because of those years of lies? I never considered him clean, always supposed he is winning because of doping (which is of course stupid, you don’t win without race craft etc. even if you are doped to the roof, but I was younger then), never fan of those heartwarming stories about overcoming disease etc., too – Murican? for my sedate european brain… so I perhaps didn’t get the cultural shock of that interview with certain bad tv host.

        But I started to listen to his podcast occasionaly (they even acknowledged and really praised this blog, if I am not mistaken) and the plethora of unbearable advertisements notwithstanding, he don’t seem to be that unpleasant and he clearly knows what he is talking about.

        Considering the likes of Coppi, Anquetil, Merckx, those greatest talents of all time, but also lesser stars such as Pantani… probably all doped without the slightest hint of remorse, I frankly consider treatment of Armstrong to be absurd and hypocritical – but as I have stated, that’s perhaps partly because of slight cultural divide and perhaps, I suppose, not considering the context of LA’s… deception and fraud.

        • There’s much more to the LA story which makes it different and worse (and more of a fake, by the way) than most names named, or all of ’em really, but I won’t delve into it now…

          • I understand why you don’t want to open the topic. 😉 But your opinion is valid, imho, so it would be nice to know your pov. Perhaps another time, then.

        • Perhaps you weren’t around during the BigTex era? Rather than slime on the POS here I’ll suggest you do some research in addiion to listening to the greedy p__k’s podcast…you aren’t getting a balanced story from Tex and his friends!

          • I am aware of his position in the peloton, the cover-up system, etc. I was around sport in general at the time, and being young I liked Indurain because he won a lot and then didn’t like LA because I didn’t want him to surpass Indurain. But that’s just an anecdote about young people’s folly, or rather mine in particular. 🙂

            The thing is… LA is probably just as much a victim of the pro sport as he is a sporting criminal, imho. And we all know he doped in a time “everyone doped” – while doing sport with quite a history of performance enhancing drugs abuse. So, I wonder whether LA is really that different…

            Matter of opinion, of course. But is your attitude to him based in big part on emotion? That’d be completely fine, btw, emotion is genuine part of the sport. Or is it based on reality, and by that I mean qualitatively different cheating by LA to cheating by Merckx (proved doper, isn’t he?), Coppi (proved doper, isn’t he?), Anquetil (not sure if he admitted to using ped?) or Pantani (drug abuser rather than role model and one of the best climbers of the epo era… should I continue?). I presume there is actual qualitative difference (perhaps not just on cultural consequences of LA’s doping in US) but for me, and to the point I am aware of, he is as much a victim as the bad guy.

          • This is not the place to debate this, but it’s reality – it’s the biggest fraud in sport history, despite Tex’ claims. Tex is not a victim, check his net worth! NOBODY cheated like this guy while lying about it from the start.
            If you want to debate this more, email me so the rest here don’t have to scroll past or roll their eyes 🙂

          • Yes, let’s avoid the cheat and that sad history. I can understand sometimes it’s best not to open a taboo which brings unpleasant topics all over again.

            Just to clarify, I am certainly no fan of him and on the other hand enjoy the half-mythical stories of Coppi etc. 🙂

          • Sorry, but I can’t let a comparison of Tex to Fausto Coppi stand – Il Campionissimo was a prodigy from the days he raced the local pros on his butcher delivery bike. Tex was a dope-cheat from an early age, described by Greg LeMond as a “Top 30 talent at best”. Whatever Coppi took wasn’t banned at the time and there’s no evidence he lied about any of it – in direct contrast to Tex. I’ll leave it there.

          • Larry, I didn’t want to compare LA and Coppi’s talent. I actualy made the pilgrimage to Pordoi to his statue (and then continued to Piz Boe, of course by feet and klettersteig, truth to be told – but I adore Coppi, ok?).

            I like LeMond’s view on the beginning of the epo era, he talks about being top class one season and losing wheels the next. Perhaps it’s partly natural decline of one’s abilities, but still… Indurain was supposed to be clear, a freak of nature with huge lungs, according to the Pamplona Uni’s study. Ok.

            But, as far as I am aware, Coppi was a doper and he admitted it – or am I mistaken? Ok, perhaps it wasn’t banned then (I am not sure about that). But it’s not about Coppi or Merckx, although of course I clearly wanted to chose those names because of their cult status.

            It’s probably partly the cultural difference of our background, our view won’t be perfectly compatible and that’s ok. I understand your disdain for the great cheater, but I still view his case slightly differently (while I am aware of his blatant cynicism, that’s perhaps the reason why I consider him to be partly a victim, not that I would ever question his dqs or his shame, of course – but I’d say because he was such a star his fall was that deep; and I’d say, because I remember those years, that he was such a star because the public wanted him to be that star. As our host like to say, a self-fulfiling prophecy, perhaps.) If you get what I mean – my English is lacking and it can be difficult to express what I mean clearly enough. 😉

            So, let’s leave it – for me, my pov is not interesting, yours or Gabriele’s is; because I don’t want to argue my pov, I want to listen and I was really curious about your view of LA. As I stated I disdained him until I did hear his podcast by chance (not aware it’s him and Hincapie for a considerable part), and was stricken by his openness and I dare to say honesty, and perhaps sense of certain dark humour, so, since then and frankly just since then LA is an interesting topic for me – not as a cycling great or a hero, but as a fallen star and tragic human being.

          • And you are of course right – the comparison to Coppi et al. is probably just stupid, because as you state Coppi didn’t lie and wasn’t a cultural fraud (while he perhaps was slightly cheating in sporting sense). That’s perhaps why I can not appreciate the cultural resonance of Armstrong’s fall – for me, he was never a hero, never that interesting, so I probably can’t appreciate how huge cultural fraud he was.

            Thank you for you time. 😉

  6. Apropos the ITT start: what’s the deal with Rohan Dennis being left off of Jumbo? Was he sick at the TdSuisse? Didn’t fit the demands of supporting the WvA/Roglic dual ambitions?

    • It was wet and a lot of tricky corners, so maybe Roglic was being very careful, but yeah, Jonas was flying. I just hope Laporte wasn’t injured in that crash. He was on pace to win the stage at the intermediate time point. It would be horrible to see Jumbo down a rider after the first stage…

      • Yes, but Pogacar also seemed to take it easy – and from Vingegaard’s pov, it’s surely a statement of intent, the road decides etc… well, he’s now in front.

        Also UAE, Ineos and others seemed to tell most riders to take it easy, while 4 riders of J-V raced to win (ok, Roglic probably took care, which is so understandable, it’s perhaps his last chance – I would love him to finally claim the throne, but my faith is weak) and one of them hit the deck while trying to beat his teammate (not sure he would beat Lampaert, though). Does it mean they still don’t focus on GC and don’t want to put all their eggs in two gc baskets?

      • Sure, but Rog’s advantage over Vingegaard on paper is his tt + more punch on the top of a climb. (Roglic is also proven 1-day racer, sure.) Today, as the cliche goes, the race could have been lost, not won, but I still find it interesting JV is already ahead of PR. 🙂 (Pun perhaps almost intended.)

  7. Perhaps the yellow jersey should just be given out now and everyone heads for the beach for a few weeks. Would save a lot of covid stress…..

  8. @Fra Re: Lance
    To me, no taboo at all. It’s just Ewige Wiederkunft with all the same arguments again and again. I tried to find what i posted here even recently but I wasn’t able to, I guess that Google doesn’t look into comments or something like that.

    In short, very soon during his second coming after the cancer Lance had such a direct and personal contact with all sort of political, economic and sporting authorities that he was pretty much granted absolute and proven impunity, along with his team, and he knew it, as they all knew it, while at the same time being able to make doping calls against rivals or having them excluded from the TDF. That created an unprecedented system of power also within the peloton, with different teams and individuals willing to support and obey the guy – also in sporting terms! – out of fear or simple admiration and submission. The head of a NADO was removed because Lance personally asked it to the President at a dinner. This made both a qualitative and quantitative huge difference. We know from other doctors’ schedules that not everybody was able to go full doping during the competition itself as Lance’s teams were. And you sure can go deeper into the programme if you’re not worried about thresholds or that sort of details. There’s more of it, but let’s stop here, since this is more than enough to generate an advantage that’s not easy to compare to whatever came before, also because the technical nature of the doping used as such. In Coppi’s or Anquetil’s time they used amphetamine and caffeine at the very most, even corticosteroids came later if I recall that right. And there’s a technical limit to the sort of difference which you can obtain, summed up with each athlete’s and team’s possibility to use that with more or less freedom. As an example: Anquetil’s situation might have been similar, in some sense, to Lance’s (not the same, anyway). He had top political support. But no rider was being tested at the TDF until 1966. It’s not like he had some special bonus because of personal impunity. Same goes for Coppi of course, which, on turn, didn’t have the kind of full political support enjoyed by those other figures. Not to speak of Merckx or Pantani, whose personal situation soon became… quite much the opposite of Lance’s for a series of reasons we can’t delve into.
    So, no – forget it: not everybody was doing the same, not everybody had the means or the opportunity to do the same in such a favourable context as Lance’s; although they could use “the same substances”, so to say, all those: “when exactly”, “how often”, “how much”, “how freely” do make a world of consequences for your athletic performance. Even more so if it’s not only you, it’s your whole team (and with top docs). All them with the super-boost, and knowingly so, while the rest is left pondering a lot of “what ifs” while they try to keep up with the doping they can afford from a technological, economic and above all political POV.
    I don’t even start with the fact that an athlete pushing others to dope is also a rare as well as deplorable spectacle. Or the rest of the s**t ruining people’s lifes only because he didn’t like what they said, even when it wasn’t related to him but to his friend Ferrari. But this is about the character, whereas the above is more about why the guy was an epic fraud in sporting terms, unlike pretty much any other example you can make from previous history. Anyway, it’s still interesting, because it shows up to what point it was a personal thing, the athlete had very personal initiative on what was happening, he was the number one “subject”of the events.

    All in all, you could even say that you can appreciate that the man took his destiny into his hands unlike 90% of pro cyclists who dope as actual victims and race like racehorses. But to what price for the sport and the people involved in it.
    Plus, of course, the fact that he chose to be less of a victim, makes of him… less of a victim. At least as long as his relation to the sport is concerned. Whereas, in a broader perspective, he’s also a victim of course. Capitalism, a troublesome childhood, that sort of things which makes of you a victim, no doubt, but the kind of victim who also generates heaps of other victims all around him or her.

    This didn’t come out great, too much in a hurry, and repeating doesn’t help, well, I guess I need to prepare a statement of sort to keep in a text file in order to copy and paste for future occasions.

  9. Many thanks, and sorry for opening it again. I see my mistake, I was aware of most, but certainly not all and I didn’t realize some of the more severe aspects you mention and / or think out consequences. Naivety on my part.

    And I really appreciate the depth of your answer and value your effort. Thanks again. 🙂

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