This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Just as there were three 'transition' stages across southern France to reach the Pyrénées, there is another trio across the north and centre to carry the peloton to the Alps. This is the first and looks nailed on for a bunch finish. There are no climbs, the roads are wide and straight, and the intermediate sprint lies close enough to the finish to suggest the sprinters will be interested in contesting both if the battle for green is still ongoing.
In addition, Tours is well known for looking favourably on sprinters, who tend to decide October's Paris-Tours Classic between them. The finish today is not on the Avenue de Grammont. On this occasion, the line will be in front of the city's exhibition centre.
Coming into Tours, the race will pass a number of the breathtaking châteaux in the Loire valley, notably at Langeais and Villandry, where the TV helicopters are sure to linger over the spectacular gardens. By then, the peloton will be racing at full bore, ensuring no one clips off the front before the finish.
Barry Hoban: "We all know that Tours is the home of what they call the sprinters' Classic and it's hard to see any other finale but a bunch finish here. This is one of the easier stages of the race and there shouldn't be anything to trouble anyone, especially as the race is on wide roads for most of the day."
Video: Tour de France stage 12 preview with Magnus Bäckstedt
Tom Boonen has never won Paris- Tours but he did claim a bunch sprint victory on the Avenue de Grammont in the 2005 Tour. It's been six years since the Belgian last won a stage at the Tour and his plan was to miss it this year. However, Mark Cavendish would like him in the Omega Pharma line-up as part of his lead-out train.
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