There’s only one categorised climb on today’s stage, and coming less than halfway into the stage and with the road going uphill for a little over 2km at an average gradient of 4.5 per cent, it’s not going to prevent what looks like being the first bunch finish of this year’s race in Tournai, a few kilometres across the border from Roubaix.
The most common observation you’ll hear from a rider taking part in his first Tour de France concerns the pace of the racing, but there are several riders making their debut in the race who will be eyeing a win here, including an in-form Peter Sagan and German sprint sensation Marcel Kittel, both of whom opened their Grand Tour account in last year’s Vuelta. The opening week of the race is also a very nervous time, however, and after a number of big-name riders were involved in crashes last year, teams with GC ambitions as well as those looking for sprint wins will be looking to keep near the front and out of trouble.
Geraint Thomas says: It will be a nervous day, particularly if it’s on those typical narrow, twisting Belgian roads. I’m sure there will be a few crashes and it will be a case of Sky, for instance, keeping Brad out of trouble and keeping Cav up there. I think it will be a traditional Tour sprint finish, with people like Marcel Kittel, André Greipel and Matt Goss in there. As I said, Lotto look to have the strongest leadout at the Tour this year and I’ll probably go for Greipel today, a bit controversial, I know!
For more on this year's race read our full 2012 Tour de France Preview.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.