The Tour hits its first out of nine flat stages, taking us to Liège via the flattest route imaginable. It's a pretty direct stage, with just two category four climbs which will not disrupt the inevitable sprint.
Profil de l’étape
AmyBC’s Wine of the Day – 2007 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese
Wine: 2013 Stein Mosel Rosé Secco
Well now, as long as I am playing fast and loose with German wine regions, why not do something truly unexpected--sparkling rosé? They tell me it is mostly pinot noir, but to me it is mostly a lot of fun.
From the importer: “Dr. Ulrich Stein is infamous for such lost causes as the reclamation of abandoned, frighteningly steep sites; and battling the entrenched 1971 German Wine Law. It seems, though, that he is more a David than a Don Quixote, because he has won them all.” – David Schildknecht, The Wine Advocate
Did you know?
This is the eleventh time Liège has hosted a stage of the Tour de France, the most for any town outside of France. Those have mostly been prologues, so it was 1995 when a road stage last finished here. That was won by, er, Johan Bruyneel. Moving swiftly on, you all know Liège from its two-thirds eponymous Monument classic and, you know, presumably other reasons.
What’s at stake?
Practically, the yellow jersey isn't at stake here, with Geraint Thomas out of the range of anyone capable of a sprint victory unless Trentin does something equally as surprising as today. Still, this is an important stage, as what is currently the tricky question of who can triumph in the sprints can be resolved. If someone wins by three bike lengths here, they can look forward to a Tour with enough flat stages to really put their stamp on it.
This is the start of the Tour, however, so never forget the spectre of a crash which always (Paddy Power are offering odds of 7/2 of a fall in the last kilometre, as scrupulous as you may consider that) looms over the peloton. The map seems to show wide, straight roads rather than the twisty narrow stage you might expect, but that doesn't mean a crash is impossible in a nervous peloton.
Who’s going to win?
This question will be a lot easier to answer for the other eight sprint stages, but as it is Marcel Kittel must be the favourite for the stage, more out of a process of elimination than anything else. Kittel usually has enough firepower to beat Greipel, Cavendish is still recovering from Epstein-Barr, looking off-form in Slovenia and generally giving off an air of pessimism in preparation for the race. Arnaud Démare is the bookies' second favourite, but he really has never seemed up to Kittel's standard in the past. Neither has Kristoff, who seems to be on much worse form. No, this is Kittel's stage.