Tuesday, 3 July 2012
2012 Tour de France: Stage 3 (Orchies to Boulogne) – lumpy and difficult
Menetou-Salon: decorated café for passage of 2009 Tour
If anyone thinks that all northern France is flat then the second half of today's stage will put them right. The first 95 kilometres from Orchies to Boulogne is flat but then it starts to get
Drive along the A16 autoroute from Calais to Boulogne and you will see the battle ground for today's stage. There are six classified climbs in the last 65 kilometres – four are 4th category and two are 3rd category. All are short, sharp climbs and five of them come within the last 35 km. The finish in the centre of Boulogne is at the end of a 700 metre climb with an average gradient of 7.4%.
I think this is potentially one of the toughest early stages – une petite bête! – in the Tour for some years and if some riders really go for it there could be real problems for some of the favourites. The Tour won't won here but I will be very surprised if some favourites do not find their chances considerably dented. Some commentators have focused on the finish but the damage I think is more likely to have been done before then on this succession of short, sharp climbs on narrow roads. I will be very surprised if the whole peloton is together at the start of the last climb.
The stage should suit 'puncheurs' like Philippe Gilbert, Peter Sagan (a repeat of his Stage One victory?), Fabian Cancellara, Sylvain Chavanel, Simon Gerrans and others. It should suit Cadel Evans who will doubtless want to test Bradley Wiggins.
The intermediate sprint comes at 119 km at the beginning of the lumpier part of the stage but before the classified hills.
Promises to be an exciting last 35 km today!