Stage 1 preview

Expect the unexpected

Another predominantly flat stage, but one where the wind is likely to be significant.

The route heads to the south-west onto the Zeeland polders that have been reclaimed from the North Sea. If it’s blowing off the sea this stage could throw up some surprises, as some teams will try to line out and split the bunch. The favourites will want to be near the front to avoid being caught out, which is likely to make what will already be a nervous stage very jumpy indeed. Whatever happens, the front group is likely to be large and led in by one of the big sprint names.

Procycling’s favourite to win:

Much as Fabian Cancellara will be heavily backed to win the prologue, Mark Cavendish will be expected to lead the race into Brussels. Winner of six stages last year, the Manxman was untouchable in the sprints. This season, though, his progress in the build-up to the Tour hasn’t been serene, following dental complications. Cav should be firing by this point but is likely to face fierce pressure from Belgian favourite Tom Boonen and Oscar Freire, whose Dutch Rabobank team will be especially keen on some early success.

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