WHERE ARE WE?
We start in Orchies, one of 2012 cycling’s holy places. It was on the cobbled sector here that Tom Boonen attacked to win Paris-Roubaix this spring, in a 55-kilometre solo break. The stage finishes in Boulogne, where thousands of British daytrippers will be up in arms about the congestion caused by the Tour.
WHAT’S ON THE ROUTE?
Unfortunately, the organisers have resisted the temptation to send the Tour over a few cobbled sectors, just to remind them they are alive. Instead, the Tour heads due west to the Channel coast. ASO have stretched their definitions to the limit, but this is officially classed as a “middle mountain” stage. The route hits the Monts du Boulonnais which surround Boulogne, for five tough, steep climbs in the final 33 kilometres. The stage finishes on the last one. It’s a day for Classics riders.
WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN?
This time last year, we’d have typed, “Philippe Gilbert’s going to win”, pressed ‘send’ and gone down to the Dog and Bull for a liquid lunch. But this is 2012, not 2011. Peter Sagan’s going to win. Mine’s a pint of London Pride, barman.
Ranges from industrial, at the start, to picturesque by the end.
WE’LL BE GORGING ON…
Anguilles au vert – eels cooked with spinach and wine
The final 16 kilometres – four punchy hills and likely splits in the peloton.
BOXOUT: FORMER WINNERS IN BOULOGNE
1949 Norbert Callens
1994 Jean-Paul Van Poppel
2001 Erik Zabel
“I remember three things. First, it was my last Tour de France stage win. Second is that it was the day after the stage that ended with a spectacular crash in Armentières, the one where Laurent Jalabert and Wilfried Nelissen were both seriously injured. But the biggest thing that stands out is that I won a bunch sprint while wearing the Polka Dot jersey, and that can’t have happened very often.”
– Boulogne hosts its fourth Tour stage finish. The first was in 1949.
– The last two occasions have seen bunch sprints, won by Jean-Paul Van Poppel and Erik Zabel, in 1994 and 2001.
– The Tour tackles its first third-category hill today. In all there are six categorised climbs, more than any other day except stage eight.
– There are 59 categorised climbs in total in the Tour, of which 23 are fourth category and 11 are third category
– Today sees the second uphill finish in four days, which replicates last year’s frequency. In 2011, stage one finished on Mont des Alouettes, and stage four on the climb of Mur de Bretagne.
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Maps courtesy of Amaury Sports Organisation