Arguably the easiest stage on this year’s route, these 153.5km take the race into the heart of Champagne country to finish in the beautiful cathedral city of Reims.
While not as flat as previous stages, there are no significant lumps and it’s a relatively short distance. That means that there’s barely time for any breakaway riders to build a useful advantage before the sprinters’ teams will gather to chase them down. A possible complicating factor is the wind on Champagne’s exposed plains, but it would have to be some breeze to trouble the peloton enough to lead to a split. Nevertheless, if it is windy you can expect the riders to be nervous. Ultimately, that’s likely to mean that crashes are a bigger threat to the favourites than the formation of echelons.
Procycling’s favourite to win:
Cervélo had a strong race last year highlighted by stage wins for Thor Hushovd and Heinrich Haussler. The former also claimed the green jersey and this is exactly the kind of stage he’ll need to win if he’s to take that title for a third time. You have to go back to 2005 for the last time Hushovd failed to win a stage at the Tour and his tendency has been for victories to come during the first week.