Stage two: Vise-Tournai

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Normally, we’re inordinately excited to go to Belgium, but this stage takes place entirely to the south of the language divide in Wallonia. To the north: beer, steak, cobbles and quirky Flemish place names. To the south: our second-favourite part of Belgium (after the whole of the rest of the country). We’ll start in Visé, not far from Liège, and finish in Tournai, the oldest city in Belgium.

Cobbles! Maybe not to the extent of the Tour of Flanders, but the cobbled category four climb to the Citadelle in Namur is an entertaining stretch of road. However, there’s not much else to get excited about. The population density of Belgium means that you’re never far from an autoroute and much of the stage will be run off parallel to roaring rush hour traffic.

Every time there’s a Tour stage through Belgium, we all wet our pants with excitement at the inevitable crosswinds, which will Smash The Bunch To Pieces™. It’ll be just like Ghent-Wevelgem, we think, before turning up in July and realising that the weather’s a bit tamer in summer than in February for Het Nieuwsblad.

You know the drill by now: start, escape goes, escape is pegged at four minutes, escape is chased, escape is caught with 10 kilometres to go, leadouts begin, sprint happens. Put it this way – if there’s no sprint finish today, Cycle Sport will buy every single one of our readers a Leffe Brune.*

*disclaimer: promise may not be legally binding

Classic flat Belgian fare, although the climb to the citadel in Namur is a dramatic piece of road

Steak and beer, since it’s Belgium. We’ve only just digested the enormous rare steaks we had at the Tour of Flanders, but we’re ready for round two.

Apart from the splendidly-named town of Silly, at 43 kilometres to go, the finish will be the first flat bunch sprint of the Tour.

1966            Guido Reybroeck
1966            Televizier team


Guido Reybrouck, Belgium
“We went into the 1966 Tour with something to prove. I was in a new team called Romeo-Smith’s, but despite winning a lot of races we weren’t selected for the Tour. We only got in when another team pulled out. In the end we won four stages, and Willy Planckaert won the green jersey.

“There was quite a lot of pavé on the stage to Tournai and lots of attacks, but the biggest was when Tom Simpson and Rik Van Looy went away. Rudi Altig, who was the yellow jersey, got across to them and that meant Anquetil, Poulidor and Jan Janssen got their teams to work on the front. We still didn’t catch the leaders until well inside 20 kilometres to go.

“I expected a counter attack and was ready when Jan Janssen went. A small group of us got away but we had to work very hard because Janssen was a potential winner, so Anquetil and Altig’s teams chased us. I won from Janssen, but it was a really fast stage. We were only seconds ahead of the chasers and there was quite a few gaps behind them.”

– Visé hosts the Tour for the first time.
– Tournai has hosted two stage finishes, both early in the 1966 Tour. Guido Reybroeck won a 198-kilometre stage from Charleville, and the next day there was a morning TTT of 20 kilometres starting and finishing in the town. Televizier-Batavus, which included Henk Nijdam, father of multiple stage winner Jelle, were the winners.
– Belgium hosts the Tour for the 45th time. This is more than any other country outside France.
– Namur, location of the category four climb, has hosted stage finishes in the Tour and Giro. Last Tour stage winner there was Robbie McEwen in 2004.

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Maps courtesy of Amaury Sports Organisation