Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tour Preview - Stage 1

If you thought this was a stage for the sprinters you better modify your fantasy team. Looking at the official profile from LeTour the last 2,5 km have a part of 1,4 km with 5,8% average. But again, don’t be fooled. The average percentages of the 1400 meters may be 5,8% but 700 meters of those are around 15% up to Côte du Bois Hézalles!

On the top of the hill the riders turn left on a cobblestone section which for sure will get many riders to explode after being in red for the past 700 meters uphill. After turning right on Avenue de Centenaire it’s straight out home to the finishing line. Average of 2% - give or take.

This last hard part means that you won’t see sprinters like Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel in the final, but more the sort of fast guys like Peter Sagan, Phillipe Gilbert, Edvald Boasson Hagen and maybe even Matthew Goss. Sagan will be extra motivated after he lost his chances for yellow on the prologue while Phillipe Gilbert did a great prologue and now is in a good position to take the yellow jersey on home soil in Belgium.

The steep part on Côte du Bois Hézalles
Click for larger view!
At Team Sky the man for the stage is ‘Eddie the Boss’, but it will be very interesting to see how Mark Cavendish tackles the steep part after losing four kilos before the season. Cavendish had to lose weight in order to get up over the hills with the best in the Olympic Road Race and even though these 15% may be too much for him, I’m sure the World Champion won’t just sit up and take it easy.

Another guy who’s riding on home soil is the young Vacansoleil-DCM climber Wout Poels and he showed last year, in the Vuelta España, that he can be very dangerous in a final like this one. Look out for him!

My pick: Peter Sagan to win Stage 1.

With only 10% chance of rain we should be in for another sunny day with the riders enjoying a bit of tail wind on the last 80 km back towards Liège. Let’s hope we won’t see any crashes like last year. It would be great if all the favorites made it to the mountains this time…

Photo © Laura Meseguer

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