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Le Tour Stage 1 Preview: Hot Time in the Old City

The Tour de France Grand Départ is a short, fast, tricky time trial through old Utrecht

The course will hopefully dry out by tomorrow.
The course will hopefully dry out by tomorrow.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Stage 1: Utrecht Individual Time Trial, 13.8km

The 2015 Tour de France starts fast Saturday with the only -- repeat, only -- individual time trial of the entire race. That's weird and (to some) debilitating enough even before you look at the route and think about what this race really is. It's a mad dash around an ancient Dutch city, flat and full of twists and turns.

About Utrecht

The city of Utrecht is a provincial capital in the heartland of old Holland whose founding dates back to Roman times, but is officially pegged at 650 AD as the start of what we now call Utrecht. The city is upriver from Amsterdam (by canal) and Rotterdam (by the Lek River passing south of town), about 40-50km from each, and seems to encapsulate Dutch culture on a smaller, perhaps mellower, scale compared to the famous nearby port cities. It's also a short bike ride from Gouda, so you know what's coming in AmyBC's food and wine preview (below). The area is as flat as any other part of Holland, and while Saturday's stage stays within the city limits, there is extensive green space for intrepid Utrechters to cycle away from the madness of urban life. Our own Superted, inventor of the FSA DS site, is counted among the city's most famous inhabitants, along with painters, architects, intellectuals, a pope, and Marco van Basten.

AmyBC's food and wine pairings:

Booze: I wanted one from the Netherlands, but instead an American Genever. Chief Gowanus Traditional New-Netherland Gin - Genever!Distilled in the old Dutch colony of Brooklyn from grains grown in New York State, Chief Gowanus is based on an early American recipe for making a version of "Holland gin" out of American rye whiskey.

Food: Two cheeses to start things off, L' Amuse Gouda Cheese and Stompetoren Grand Cru Aged Gouda. Gouda accounts for 50 % of the cheese production in the Netherlands and is done on a huge commercial scale. The cheese is named after the Dutch city of Gouda, not because it is produced in or near the city, but because it has historically been traded there. In the Middle Ages, Dutch cities could obtain certain feudal rights which gave them primacy or a total monopoly on certain goods. Within the County of Holland it was Gouda which acquired market rights on cheese, the sole right to have a market in which the county's farmers could sell their cheese.

Stage Details

Profile is a stunner...

Tour de France stage 1 profile

Not much to see, but the map is more interesting:

Tour de France stage 1 map

Scroll to the bottom for the entire start list! The presumptive contenders will go toward the end, along perhaps with some of the stage contenders.

The weather calls for hot sun and winds of about 15kph, which is not nothing for a time trial, though given the constant changes in direction maybe it's all a wash. Crosswinds can be a pain for disc wheels but at this magnitude I am guessing people will be OK.

Course Analysis

The two interesting details are the brevity of the race, which is barely long enough for riders to get into a real rhythm, and the number of corners. Time trials come in a lot of shapes and sizes, and the big-engine guys like em as straight as can be. This is nothing like a dream route for the Tony Martins and Chris Froomes, but rather a balanced affair which will favor good bike handlers and big accelerators through the twists and turns early and late, but with a decent number of straight stretches for the pure cronomen to open it up.

Implications

General Classification

Maillot Jaune Tour

Naturally this race will see the yellow jersey given out for the first time, and being a time trial the contenders for overall victory will want to limit their losses or even gain an advantage. Of the presumptive favorites, Froome is the one hurt most by the lack of time trial mileage, and this course won't do much to alleviate his concerns. Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, for example, is an outstanding bike handler and should have himself in good position as a result. Alberto Contador, too, is good at just about everything and should fare decently. Nairo Quintana's time trialling, on the other hand, is a question mark, as is his ability to get swiftly through the narrow, twists and turns, but the short distance should prevent him from struggling too much. Same could be said for guys like Joaquim Rodriguez and the pure climbers. Alejandro Valverde might be OK bursting out of the corners. The Americans Tejay van Garderen and Andrew Talansky are both solid in the discipline.

Points Competition

Maillot Vert

Points will be awarded at the finish only, on the lower 20-point scale (15 places deep starting at 20 to the winner). Of the sprinters expected to challenge for the green jersey, it's inconceivable for one of them to finish in the top 15, though I wouldn't put anything past Peter Sagan.

King of the Mountain

There are no KOM points awarded on this stage. I'm pretty sure the jersey won't be handed out.

Maillot a Pois

Young Rider

Maillot Blanc

Same as GC. I don't have a full list handy of the Under-26 riders, but I know Tom Dumoulin of Giant-Alpecin is one of them, is on home soil, and has a cracking time trial in his legs. He won't finish with the jersey in Paris but you can bet he'd love to leave the Netherlands with it.

Stage Favorites

It's going to be hard to pick against Fabian Cancellara. He may not be equal anymore to Tony Martin on a proper ITT course, but throw in some tricky road furniture and suddenly Tony Spartacus looks pretty good. There is also the possibility of him being done riding the Tour de France after this, and while my gut says he's not done, it's enough of a potential that he'll want to make a big statement. Others to watch include Richie Porte and maybe Geraint Thomas of Sky, Michael Rogers of Tinkof-Saxo, Rohan Dennis of BMC, Alex Dowsett of Movistar, Dumoulin, Jack Bauer of Cannondale, and about half the roster of Orica-GreenEdge.

Entire Starting Order!

14h00: Teklehaimanot, Périchon, S. Bennett, M. Wyss, Soupe, Bauer, Oliveira, Didier, of Emden, Quemeneur, VERMOTE, Durbridge, Paolini, Curvers, Sieberg, Van Avermaet, Erviti, Tosatto, Stannard, Bonnet, Gastauer, Scarponi, Pauwels, Fédrigo, Dempster, Sy. Chavanel, Laporte, Koren, Valls, Rast

14h30: Gesink, Voeckler, Cavendish, Tuft, Guarnieri, Barguil, Bak, Dennis, Castroviejo, Valgren Porte, Sé. Chavanel, Chérel, Kangert, Kudus, Fonseca, Schillinger, Frank, Bouhanni, Langeveld, Bono, Irizar, Kelderman Gène, Uran, S. Yates, Kozontchuk, Degenkolb, DE GENDT, D. Caruso

15h00: Quintana, Majka, Rowe, Roy, Vansummeren, Taaramae, Farrar, Vachon, Huzarski, Clement, Navarro, Haas, Durasek, Arredondo, Kruijswijk, Tulik, Golas, Albasini, Losada, Timmer, DEBUSSCHERE, Schär, Jo. Herrada, Kreuziger, Poels, Vaugrenard, Bakelants, Grivko, J. Janse van Rensburg, Delaplace

15:30: Voss, Elmiger, Senechal, Hesjedal, Cimolai, Jungels, ten Dam, Nauleau, Trentin, Impey, G. Caruso, Preidler, Greipel, D. Wyss, Anacona, Bennati, Kennaugh, Pinot, Gaudin, Westra, Meintjes, Brun Mendes, Hollenstein, Vanbilsen, Baarle, Serpa, DEVOLDER, VANMARCKE, Gautier

16h00: Renshaw, A. Yates, Haller, Geschke Hansen S. Sanchez, G. Izagirre, Rogers, Roche, Ladagnous, Vuillermoz, Gruzdev, R. Janse van Rensburg, Gérard, Buchmann, Pantano, Edet, D. Martin, Pozzato, Mollema, Leezer, Rolland, Stybar, Gerrans, Machado, T. Dumoulin, WELLENS, Quinziato, Dowsett, Basso

16h30: König, Morabito, Riblon, Fuglsang, Cummings, B. Feillu, Nerz, Brändle, Mate, Navardauskas, Plaza, Zubeldia, Martens, Sicard, T. Martin, Matthews, Kristoff, Sinkeldam, Henderson, Oss, Malori, Sagan, Thomas Geniez, Bardet, Boom, Boasson Hagen, Sepulveda, Barta, Coppel

17.00: Simon, Talansky, Costa, Cancellara, Tankink, Coquard, Kwiatkowski, Weening, Rodriguez, De Kort, Gallopin, van Garderen, Valverde, Contador, Froome, Demare, Péraud

17u17: Nibali