This flat stage through the Belgian countryside should see the first bunch sprint of the Tour. With the lead-out trains doing their stuff, the other riders can start to spin out their nerves and settle themselves in for three weeks of racing. The biggest danger to the GC contenders today will be those pesky first-week crashes – last year, Alberto Contador crashed or was caught behind crashes four times in the first week, and yesterday saw two sizeable incidents in the final 25km.
The opening sprint of the Tour is always a nervy affair. The pecking order has yet to be established, meaning all the sprinters’ teams will be jostling for supremacy in the final 10-15km. And the sprinters themselves are all understandably eager to settle the nerves with a good result. Mark Cavendish will want to take his first Tour stage in the rainbow jersey as soon as possible, while Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), Mark Renshaw (Rabobank), Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE), Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) and, of course, yesterday’s winner Peter Sagan will want to be the one giving the victory salute today.
The only real difficulty for the sprinters is likely to come inside the final kilometre. With the road rising slightly after the flamme rouge, teams will need to ensure their lead-out men do not burn out too early, leaving their sprinters exposed too soon. Other than that, this is as routine as a sprint stage gets.
Cycling the Alps’ interactive videos of the route can be found here.
Link: Official website