Grand Tours love to start in other countries. The exotic locales add a little intrigue to the beginning of the race and a lot of cash to the race organizers. The Tour de France has been playing this up for years: Belgium, Monaco, London, The Netherlands, and next year, off to Yorkshire. However this year, in the 100th addition, the organizers wanted to make it extra Frenchy. So, how do you create the spectacle of a Grand Depart and still keep it in the family? Corsica. The only “region” of France yet to host Le Tour finally gets its due.
One flat stage and two lumpy stages, the first climbier, the second punchier. Doesn’t seem like much compared to climbing Alp D’Huez twice, but as we know, in a pro race the route is as difficult as the peloton wants it to be. The Tour is the best race in the world because everything about the race is just that much more heightened. The skill is higher, the speed is faster, the results are more important and thus the riders are more nervous. Add the fact that there is no prologue and the yellow jersey will be up for grabs every day and we’ve got the most exciting Grand Depart in recent memory.
Alright, the Tour de France won’t be won in Corsica, but the title got you to read this far so why not see this through. The first stage is flat and shouldn’t be contested by the GC favorites. But every sprinter, every rouleur, every domestique, every break away artist, every pro conti rider and especially every Frenchmen will be willing to sacrifice life and limb for a shot at the yellow jersey. Sure this should end up with Cav and Greips going head to head but not before some nut job from Sojasun with one too many accents in his name goes berserker trying to get away. Not to mention that Bouhanni’s windshield wiper style sprint will be in full effect. So what does this mean? Crashes. It’s not fun to think that the GC can be decided by crashes but almost every year somebody gets unlucky early. Maybe it doesn’t knock them out but, hitting the pavement is not how you start a winning Tour.
Stages 2 and 3 see the peloton going up and down all day. Nothing crazy hard but what if somebody wants it to be. JRod, Evans, Contador and especially Valverde have had a lot of success in the climby classics of the Ardennes and Lombardia. Will one of them decide to put the Sky train to the test right away? Stage 2 has a very long descent. Has SkyNet adjusted their logarithm since the Giro? If the GC riders have a go on one of these stages it is more than likely that someone will lose out. If that GC rider is not an able time trilaist then their run for yellow may be over before it begins.
Alright, now here’s a jersey that might actually be won or lost in Corsica. Sure, whoever wins the first stage will have a leg up on their rivals but it’s not quite as simple as that. We must start by admitting that the run for green is really between two men, namely Cav and Sagan with Greipel as a spoiler and Goss as a dark horse. Now that we got that out of the way, why in fact is Corsica so important? To put it simply: points. To win the green jersey you have to get your points when they are available. For the pure sprinters that is on the flat stages. Fortunately for them, those stages are worth more. For the more well-rounded finisher points are available on the flat stages and the more lumpy ones. Let’s cut the crap, what we are talking about is Sagan winning all kinds of stages at this year’s Tour. Sagan can win when the others can’t and if he can still finish high in the flat stages he has a very good chance to take green again. But all is not lost for Cav. All he has to do is make sure he wins those flat stages. This is where the importance of Corsica comes into play.
Stage one will not win green for anybody but it may lose it for one of the pure sprinters. Greips and Goss may be out of the running on day one. If Cav doesn’t get his he’ll be chasing from the get go. Stages two and three look pretty good for Sagan, and who knows maybe he could take the opening stage as well. On the other hand, if the big teams want to ease into this Tour then maybe the pace allows for Cavendish to contest stage two and maybe even three. If no one doubles up on wins in Corsica than we are probably right back where we started, Cav vs. Sagan. But if one of these two misses out all together at the Grand Depart then the advantage will be firmly with their rival. Last year the race for green was settled rather early and the Grand Depart this year has the potential to give someone a stranglehold on green before they even hit the mainland.
Maillot a Pois Rouges
Sure, some climbers come into a grand tour with the plan to go for the mountains jersey. But other times a rider gets into a break or two, gets some early mountains points, tells his director he feels good and they say “well, what else are we going to do here, go for it”. The push for polka dots will most certainly not be won on the isle of Corsica. But what we will learn after the Grand Depart is which outsider will make a run for it this year. After the move to the main land the climbs stay pretty tame for the next few days (only one climb above cat 3 until stage 8). Some skinny dude is going to try to get some early polka dot glory and hold it until Saturday.
But what if the GC men come out to play early, as I suspect? What if SkyTrain controls the pace over every climb? Will there be points left for an outsider to make a run? With an exceptional amount of climbing coming at the end of stages at the end of the Tour, many king of the mountains points will go to GC hopefuls and stage winners. So if someone else wants to have a chance at bringing home polka dots they better get some points early. What we may in fact learn in Corsica is that this year, the king of the mountains jersey is going to go to whoever is atop the podium in Paris.
The young rider jersey can be a tough one to predict. Usually these young guys are not designated as a team leader and somewhere along the way they have to do a crazy amount of work for someone else, blow up and end up losing like twenty minutes. So, there are really three ways to make a run at this jersey. First, you can be on a weak ass team that makes you their leader even though you are still wet behind the ears. But then of course, your team is weak and thus you have crappy support. Second, your team leader is good but not that good and you can stay with him. You finish almost as high as your team leader but because he wasn’t that good you may miss out on white in the end anyways. Lastly, your team leader gets dropped, gets hurt, gets sick, gets saddle sores, whatever and shazam, you are the new team leader.
Of my favorites to win white only Thibault Pinot of FDJ looks to be a team leader. Well, it is FDJ. Good luck with that team time trial. My other favorites will have to take one of the other routes to white. This is where the importance of Corsica comes into play. Crazy sprints, tiny roads, classics style stages and a nervous peloton. Mark my words; someone isn’t making it off the island. And if that happens to a team leader look for an opportunistic Talansky, Quintana or TVG to take an early promotion to protected rider status as well as an early leg up in the battle for white.
Stage two ends in the home town of the infamous Napoleon. What does this mean for the peloton? Probably nothing…or does it? Vive Le Tour!
Follow The Commish @TeamWiskota or check out our fantasy league blog at teamwiskota.blogspot.com