THREE things are certain when you look at this year's opening stage of the Tour de France.
One, it will end in a sprint finish.
Two, the winner will walk away with the first yellow jersey of the race,
Three, there will be an almighty crash in the closing stages!
Always happens, absolute guarantee!
The first week of any Grand Tour is a frenetic, nervous and dangerous affair,
never mind the biggest of them all. Every one of the 198 strong field wants
to be in those first few places on the road and obviously the maths just
So if you factor that in it's incredibly
difficult to pick a winner. So imagine that this year, for the first time
in a very long time, the peleton arrives at the finish unscathed. Could
we see the British National champion swap the iconic blue and red bands
for a yellow jersey?
All things considered yes. Mark Cavendish
is undoubtedly the fastest man on two wheels and in a clean fight he should
win more often than not. By his own admission he normally takes a few days
to get into a three week tour but this year he has tailored his training
specifically with this stage in mind.
And it looks to have worked. His form
in winning the nationals in Glasgow last weekend was impressive, getting
into the winning move early and even putting a little attack in up the
short but steep climb of Montrose Street.
His leadout train has misfired a few
times this year but there is no doubting the strength he has at his disposal
for this one. Gert Steegmans will be his final leadout man but with the
likes of Sylvain Chavanel, Tony Martin & Peter Velits as well OPQS should
be a the front of affairs heading into the last km.
His big rival for the green jersey is
last years winner Peter Sagan but this is not the best type of stage for
him. He is fearless and a great bike handler so if there is a pile-up there's
a good chance he can navigate through it safely. However he doesn't have
the basic straight line speed of his rivals so yellow might elude him this
time around. His time will come though.
Like Cavendish, Andre Greipel heads
into the Tour as the new national champion of Germany and on paper he will be the
big rival to take yellow. His results earlier in the year were very good
but went through a quiet spell until the recent Ster ZLM Toer and the nationals. Make no
bones about it though the 'Gorilla' is one of the favourites for the win.
Outside of these look to the likes of
Alexander Kristoff, John Degenkolb and Nacer Bouhanni. All are in good form
and in the case of the first two they are capable of getting to the finish
with the lead group over a bit more of the lumpy stuff. So even if they
fail to win here they will be in with a shout on other days.
As well as the sprinters expect to see
some have-a-go heroes try their luck before the finish. The likes of a
Jens Voigt or a Fabian Cancellara may try and upset the sprinters (and
stay clear of any problems) in the final few kilometres.
In other words anything could happen!
But as I stated earlier if you want a sure thing, then back the crash!