Friday, 1 July 2011

Stage 1 Preview

While the tradition since 1967 has been for a prologue, this years race, as in 2008, sees the peloton head straight into its first road stage. Shaking up team plans from the off, any one of the 198 riders could end the day in the famous Maillot Jaune.

Starting on the Passage du Gois, a causeway joining the Île de Noirmoutier and Beauvoir sur Mer on the mainland, via Barbâtre and a stage site for the first time this year, this truly unique route featured first in 1999. Alex Zülle lost more than six minutes there in a mass fall. However tomorrow the peloton will only ride on the Passage du Gois as part of the official ceremony to mark the Grande Depart. In 2005, the bridge was used to link the mainland to the Isle of Noirmoutier, in an individual time-trial that allowed the very young David Zabriskie, 20 years old, to put on the Yellow Jersey for his début Tour de France.

From here the route will follow the coast before turning inland towards Les Herbiers and the Mont des Alouettes. This is not an ‘hors catégorie’ test, but even so it’s a finish for the strong men. The likes of Thor Hushovd or a puncheur like Thomas Voeckler will have this stage in their sights, however Cavendish has shown more and more that he can succeed on an uphill finish, not just on the flats. With Ben Swift (Sky) his up and coming rival for title of Britain's Best Sprinter, we could see a showdown here at the end of 191.5km of fast paced racing.

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