ASO like to mix up their opening stages. Every second year they're abroad, and we've seen sprinty stages and time trials in recent years. 2017 sees us abroad, and time-trialling. Specifically, we beging with a 14km TT course that hugs the Rhein through the heart of Dusseldorf, with a few tight bends, some bridges, and a couple of very small rises. For all that, it is a pretty pure test of power and should be one for the chrono specialists.
Profil de l’étape
AmyBC’s Wine of the Day – 2007 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese
I admit it. This bottle is from almost 200 kilometers away. But, for the opening stage, I wanted a German wine that I loved and Düsseldorf is not a place known for wine production. And, well, I love this grape and producer. If you ever get a chance--visit!
Spatlese literally means late harvest; made from riper grapes that usually have been picked at a later stage in the harvest. So this wine is rich and full with some sweetness, but not syrupy sweet.
Did you know?
Each winter, Dusseldorf hosts a vast Karneval, running from the 11th November until Ash Wednesday. The highlight is a gigantic procession on Rose Monday. Think giant floats, fancy dress everywhere, and altbier (old beer – the brown ales of the region, which are bloody marvellous in my opinion) galore. Oh, and lots of political satire. As you can see.
All of this happens on the Konigsallee, which also makes up part of the TT course. One can only hope they’ve given the streets a clean since last February.
What’s at stake?
For immediate significance, you can't beat stage one. I can guarantee that the winner of the stage gets to wear yellow. You’d expect the winner of this stage to hold the jersey until stage five, although that’s obviously dependent on a strong ride over the hills of stage 3, and on sufficient gaps to whomever picks up bonifications as we roll through the low countries and into France.
With so little time trialling, this stage does matter for GC, but it isn't a very long ride. As such, you’d expect to see the main competitors separated by reasonably small gaps, assuming they all avoid slips and punctures. Still, it’ll be a useful yardstick as to form and fitness, and the relative strength of the riders. Froome and Porte will presumably be thinking of this as a head to head and looking for advantages on paper and in each other's heads.
For the weaker time-triallists among the GC ranks, there will be nervousness and a desire to keep losses below a minute or so. Roman Bardet, I’m watching you closely. As the old cliche has it, you can't win the Tour on this stage, but you could go a long way towards losing it.
Who’s going to win?
The usual suspects will be expecting to be competitive here, with the bookies mentioning Primoz Roglic, Jos van Emden and Stefan Kung as having decent chances. The bookies' favourite, and mine, is Tony Martin. By his own high standards, he hasn't been consistently brilliant over the last couple of years but has looked in decent nick recently, finishing second to Porte in the Dauphine TT (a little hiller than he’d like) and winning the German nats. On home soil, he’ll be super-motivated. Although he's worn yellow, he's never before taken the first stage, oddly. I think that changes, and that he’ll be holding a lion and accepting awkward cheek-kisses at about seven pm local time tomorrow.