The opening stage of the Tour de France is a 197.5km ride across southern Brittany but the 1.7km climb to the finish, the narrow bridge just before the climb and the strong cross-winds blowing today, mean the stage could cause some time gaps and produce a surprise winner.
David Millar?s Garmin team studied the climb last Tuesday day before travelling to Brest and have the advantage of first place in the team car convoy. However the riders at Garmin know they will have to fight for position, avoid the crashes and be near the front if they want to get a result.
?It?s the Tour de France and everybody could be so good that there aren?t any splits but at the same time, there could be crashes,? Millar predicted when speaking to Cycling Weekly before the start in Brest on Saturday.
?Anything could happen and so everybody will be trying to stay near the front and that will make it more nervous and stressful.?
Like Cycling Weekly, Millar picked Oscar Freire (Rabobank) to win the stage, while his Garmin team manager Jonathan Vaughters went for Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d?Epargne).
Vaughters also predicted that some overall contenders could lose some precious seconds.
?Today?s like a mini-Tour of Flanders, it?s going to be a hard race. I guarantee it will not be 180 guys coming together at the finish line. I don?t know it will be 40, 80, 5 or a 100 but I can guarantee it won?t be 180,? Vaughters told Cycling Weekly in Brest.
?The wind is blowing today and this part of Brittany is not that covered like the interior Brittany. There are a lot of exposed roads today. The winds coming out of the south-west, so if you look at a map, it means it?s going to be a cross-head wind but there will be some times when it?s a dead cross wind. When it?s like that?. the race is going to go to pieces.?
?I think Valverde is the big favourite for today. Some sprinters will be up there, people like Zabel and Cancellara is another guy, he could tear the race to pieces today.?
?The GC guys are going to have to race today and race all out. I think there will be some GC contenders who lose some time today. It may only be 10 or 15 seconds or even two minutes but I guarantee there will be some GC guys who lose some kind of time.?
Vaughters revealed that Millar, Dean and Maaskant will go for the stage win for Garmin.
I think Martijn Maaskant has a chance today, David Millar could also do it on the short climb and it could be a good sprint for Julian Dean,? he said.
?Where going to try and keep Trent Lowe and Christian Vande Velde out of trouble but it?s going to be a tough day for everybody.?
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