Stage one: Liège-Seraing

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Good news for the riders! They’re leaving the shabby, post-industrial, grimy city of Liège behind. The bad news? Seraing, the stage finish, is a suburb of the shabby, post-industrial, grimy city of Liège. It’s a Sunday night, too, so even the nightclubs are going to be closed.

Fittingly for a stage held in the same area as the famous Liège-Bastogne-Liège Classic, the route takes in lots of hills. In total, there are five fourth-category climbs, including the final haul to the finish line.

It looks like a cracker. None of the hills are too taxing, but the route rolls constantly, and chasing the break is going to be more complicated than normal. Sprinters’ teams ideally want to catch the break at 10 kilometres to go or a bit less, and on a flat stage, it’s easy to gauge the pursuit. In the hills, it’s different – if the chase is mistimed, it will leave the bunch vulnerable to counterattacks. And then there’s the final 2.4-kilometre climb to the finish – the first 1.5km average 5.8 per cent. Is it a sprinters’ stage, or a Sagan/Gilbert stage? Will slimline Mark Cavendish win? Will the winner of the prologue be able to defend his yellow jersey? We don’t know, and that’s why it looks so exciting.

Lovely wooded hills, bookended by Liège and its suburbs.

Moules frites and more Belgian beer.

The final climb’s going to be brilliant.


1995            Miguel Indurain
2001            Erik Zabel

Cycling Weekly, July 15, 1995
Stage eight, Huy-Seraing, 54km TT
For the last three years, Miguel Indurain has won the first long time trial in the Tour and this year was no different. In winning the Belgian time trial in baking hot conditions, Indurain predictably wrested the yellow jersey from Johan Bruyneel, who rode out of his skin and with panache in front of his home crowd. Indurain actually came close to losing the stage, thanks to a surprisingly good ride from the underrated Dane, Bjarne Riis of Gewiss.

Riis started slowly and was 31 seconds down on Indurain after just 13 kilometres as the big Spaniard put in a fast start in order to catch Laurent Jalabert. Indurain admitted that he eased once Jalabert was in sight and Riis pulled the time back on the plateau with its long straights through the cornfields.

The drama came when Riis was timed five seconds quicker than Indurain with five kilometres to go. As it was, the Gewiss rider died a horrible death on the final climb to the line, hauling himself all over the bike, zig-zagging across the road in an attempt to keep his rhythm. Indurain fought the bike to greater effect, massive biceps and tree-trunk thighs in perfect harmony as he rode to his ninth time trial victory in the

– Seraing hosts a Tour stage finish for the third time. In 1995, Miguel Indurain won a long time trial here, while six years later, Erik Zabel won a sprint stage.
– Early uphill finishes went out of fashion at the Tour but have returned with a vengeance since 2008. That year, the first two road stages finished up short, sharp climbs, won by Alejandro Valverde and Thor Hushovd. Then Hushovd won in Barcelona in 2009. In 2011, Philippe Gilbert and Cadel Evans won on the Mont des Alouettes and Mur de Bretagne.

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Maps courtesy of Amaury Sports Organisation