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Stage 1: Rotterdam - Brussels

Tour de France
by Alex Murray (U516526) 04 July 2010
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Stash the pointy hats and aero bars until we hit Bordeaux, now the real racing gets underway. While there's no British representation in the men's final at Wimbledon today, there's a genuine contender for today's stage at Le Tour: Mark Cavendish.

Today see the peloton travelling from the Netherlands to Belgium and celebrating the 65th birthday of Eddy Merckx as it passed through the Flanders region and his hometown of Meise. It's hard to see a Belgian winning today, but the dutch Rabobank team might be in with a shout with Oscar Freire their man for the bunch sprint.

It's also Independence Day, 4th of July, so expect the American teams and riders to be in the hunt for the stage win. Expect to see Garmin-Transitions and HTC-Columbia going wheel-to-wheel in the closing kilomtres as they try to set up Tyler Farrar and Mark Cavendish, respectively, for the win. Photographer Graham Watson, on Twitter, reckons Farrar is the man for today: "On yesterday's form, Tyler Farrar should win his first-ever Tour stage today - he was miles faster than his rivals"

The stage passes along the exposed North Sea coast and much is being made of the possibility of crosswinds splitting the bunch. I've said before that riding in the wind seems to be Contador's Achilles heel - he was caught out last year at La Grande Motte and earlier this season in Paris-Nice) - so look to Radioshack to work with other teams (eg Saxo Bank, Team Sky) to try and engineer a split.

Lance Armstrong may not need the time on Contador at the moment but the Schlecks Brothers and Bradley Wiggins certainly could do with clawing back the deficit incurred yesterday.

Action gets underway at 11:20BST and no doubt there'll be an early break featuring a motley selection of French teams trying to get plenty of airtime for their sponsors. Thanks to technology team directors have become adept at telling riders when the live coverage is about to start so they know when to get in the break.

Let me know your predictions for today's stage and any questions you might have and I'll try and drop them into the commentary/answer them before we get to the business end of the race.

Latest 10 comments

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posted Jul 5, 2010

GS - your TdF analysis show has the president of the EU on it!?

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comment by matzov (U14204141)

posted Jul 5, 2010

"34 seconds down on Armstrong" - I think that Contador is the general yardstick. i.e where are the GC guys in relation to him... and by that measurement, Wiggo lost 29 or 30 seconds, something like that. Which is poop, given they switched him in the line-up to take a perceived advantage in conditions. On the otherhand, in relation to most of the guys that Wiggins would theoretically being battling for the 2 to 5 positions on GC, the only one he really lost out to badly was, as you rightly point out, LA.

Still, put it this way - he rode a slower prologue than Carlos Sastre. However you dress that up, its a poor result. Still, Menchov is in the same boat. Oh, and the guy who he swapped positions with (Flecha)... 10 seconds quicker.

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posted Jul 5, 2010

Well, he's Belgian! They have two guests every day, often one who is directly related to cycling and one enthusiast. Yesterday - Axel Merckx and mister president. Today - Marc Wauters and a Belgian actor you won't know.

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comment by matzov (U14204141)

posted Jul 5, 2010

They had Axel's dad on the French post-race coverage yesterday. They kept having to stop talking to him because crowds were chanting his name so loudly... I thought the multi-shirt (front was half and half yellow and polka, back was green) that the TdF gave him was a nice touch. (http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/ayGrvDW_g8U/Tour+de+France+stops+Brussels+Eddie+Merckx/1PrwhVziCin)

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posted Jul 5, 2010

i can't believe team sky would spend the morning basically making wiggins nervous. what's the role of their "mind mechanic" if not to make him more confident?
wiggins rode a great prologue in the giro where the course was wet and littered with dead pigeons and all sorts. winkeye

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posted Jul 5, 2010

Maybe the mood lighting was broken and they had to opt for aggressive red rather than calming green?

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posted Jul 5, 2010

With regards to Big George's absense from the HTC train - I'm not sure it's fair to attribute HTC performance issues to that.
When Cav is winning all the time he makes the train look good - and I'm not convince he's not winning because of the train.

Hincapie was probably as good a man to have in a road sprint train in the position he was in. The guys hitting the front before him were just about ensuring a high speed and therefore aren't that bothered about who is following them (that's why we get the Miller Manouveur). Hincapie's job is about ensuring the best position for the sprint proper. Hincapie, Eisel and Dean are the guys who are really good at that job.
HTC losing Hincapie and Alarmin gaining Hunter does make it a lot more evenly balanced and therefore more interesting this year.

I assume Hansen is supposed to help out with that phase of the sprint now on HTC as well - if Cav starts winning we'll just assume he's settled into it.

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posted Jul 5, 2010

>I assume Hansen is supposed to help out with that phase of the sprint now on HTC as well - if Cav starts winning we'll just assume he's settled into it.<

Hansen is out with a fractured collarbone, so they'll have to find someone else.

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posted Jul 5, 2010

I'd forgotten about that. I assume they'll just use the three - Sivtsov or Monfort appear to be their choices.
I assume Grabsch, Martin & Rogers will just do engine work - it isn't really worth the trade to put them further back.
Hansen is quite a loss for their break chasing work as well - I assume that would have been him, Grabsch and Eisel.
Sivtsov finished near the front yesterday so he might go into that part of the sprint train - I'd assumed he was there to pull Rogers round the mountains.

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comment by Ian B (U3864728)

posted Jul 5, 2010

It would be a lucky domestique that doesn't have to put in the effort in the HTC train - remember that even Ullrich used to get involved in Zabel's lead out for Deutsche Telekom.

Theabsence of Hincapie may be having an effect on Cav and the success of the train - would a more experienced road captain have pulled Cav and the HTC train of boredom onto the front before that last corner?
Also, remember last year's final stage - it was Hincapie that won Cav that stage by sprinting to the corner exiting Place de la Concorde and piccking the best line, cutting off Garmin and the others on the inside.

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