The last time a Tour de France stage started in Épernay, home to the leading Champagne houses, was in 2010 and it was HTC-Columbia that were cracking open the bubbly that evening to celebrate yet another stage win by Mark Cavendish. This is another stage that looks nailed-on for a bunch sprint finish.
Metz, the capital of Lorraine, has witnessed 40 stage finishes since it first welcomed the Tour more than a century ago, the most recent being in 1999 when Lance Armstrong won an individual time trial here on his way to the first of his seven consecutive victories in the race. This close to the German border there should be a lot of German fans in evidence, but with Kittel out and Greipel coming in to this stage having already achieved back to back stage wins on stages 4 and 5 it's unlikely that they will see that ultra rarity - a Tour treble… but you never know, the last one was achieved by Lance Armstrong and included an individual time trial. Super Mario Cipolinni went one better in 1999 winning four in a row with none of yer time trials included.
Geraint Thomas says: This should be the same again with the big name sprinters battling it out, so a pure sprinter again today. At the Tour the crowds are just unbelievable anyway, especially when it’s close to some guys’ home countries, it means they’re more up for it.
To find out more abut this year's race check out our full 2012 Tour de France Preview featuring stage by stage analysis and tips from Team Sky's Geraint Thomas
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.