Tour de France preview: Stage 1

Stage 1: Liege to Seraing, 198km, rolling

If ever there was a stage tailor-made for Philippe Gilbert, this is it. With five short Cat 4 climbs, this is a stage for puncheurs, not pure sprinters, and it rolls over the Belgian roads that Gilbert cut his teeth on. The approach to the finish contains several twists and turns, meaning a crash is highly likely. The final 2.4km is uphill with the contenders for the stage win having to negotiate a 5.8% gradient for 1.4km – although it exceeds 10% in places – before passing under the flamme rouge, where the gradient settles down to 2.9%. While a win here would help rescue a filthy season for the King of Belgium, he needs to watch that the Slovakian meteor, Peter Sagan, doesn’t blaze past him to take the stage. It is also the sort of finish where defending champion Cadel Evans might just fancy a go too.

Look for the inevitable breakaway to be packed with riders seeking a few brief days of glory for themselves and their team in the King of the Mountains competition. In particular, expect the wild-card teams to be well represented as they seek to justify their inclusion. Don’t be surprised if Cofidis and Saur-Sojasun in particular place at least one man in the escape group. The wearer of the polka dot jersey at the end of this stage should retain it for at least two days, and possibly longer. Also, expect the group to contain at least a couple of Belgian riders as they race on home soil, perhaps one of the Cofidis pair of Jan Ghyselinck and Romain Zingle, Vacansoleil-DCM’s Kris Boeckmans, Rabobank’s Maarten Wynants, Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Dries Devenyns or Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank’s Nick Nuyens.

Cycling the Alps’ interactive videos of the route can be found here.

Link: Official website

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