Sunday, 1 July 2012
2012 Tour de France: 1st Stage: Liège - Seraing – not straightforward!
Café du Nord in Menetou-Salon decorated for passage of Tour de France in 2009
If there are crashes at the wrong time, today's stage could provide some unpleasant surprises for the overall favourites. Hopefully there will be no crashes but the early stages of the Tour tend to be nervous and there have been significant crashes in recent editions. Forecasters appear to be split on the possibility of rain this afternoon: some have just gone for cloudy conditions with a maximum temperature of around 18˚, while others are forecasting light rain with a 40% chance of precipitation.
The riders make a big circle (198 kilometres) heading out from Liège and arriving back in the suburb of Seraing. Their ride takes in five Category 4 climbs and includes very little flat ground until just before the finishing hill starts. The uphill finish into Seraing is unlikley to favour pure sprinters. As Mark Cavendish is lighter than in previous Tours it will be interesting to see whether this will give him a better chance of showing here.
Last year this sort of finish would have been ideal for Philippe Gilbert, who had a brilliant season in 2011. However, he rode a good prologue coming in just 13 seconds behind Cancellara, so he is certainly one of my contenders for the stage. I think Cancellara will show well – he manages these sorts of short hills well in the Spring classics like the Tour of Flanders and think he could still well be in Yellow tonight. Cadel Evans also does well in these types of uphill finish, so might try to grab a few seconds back from Bradley Wiggins. Peter Sagan is the bookies favourite after stage wins in the Three Days of De Panne, Tirreno-Adriatico, the Tour of Oman, Tour of California (five) and the Tour of Switzerland (four).
The big priority here for the overall race favourites will be firstly not to crash and secondly not to lose time.