Garmin-Sharp sports director Charly Wegelius has adopted a pragmatic approach in his analysis of the opening road stages of this year’s Tour de France here amongst murmurs some of the iconic narrow lanes that feature may be dangerous.
Wegelius will be in the driving seat when the peloton leaves Leeds on Saturday and there is perhaps no better person to ask than the former pro, who was educated in York and made his Tour debut in 2007 when the prestigious race last visited UK shores.
“I think there is a lot of comparisons you could draw between the start in Yorkshire and the first stages in Corsica last year – similar kinds of roads, hard stages and lots of potential traps sitting behind every corner,” Wegelius told Cycling Weekly.
“As every race situation unfolds for some people that can be a risk, something to be afraid of, and for others it can turn into an opportunity. You don’t know often which side of that coin you’re going to be on until things happen.”
The Yorkshire Grand Depart is expected to suit sprinters like that of Corsica last year where Marcel Kittel stayed clear of a pile-up in the closing kilometres to win the ensuing bunch sprint and first yellow, green and white jersey of the race.
Kittel upon Yorkshire course reconnaissance earlier this year highlighted potential dangers some of the narrow lanes may present and voiced a preference for wider roads. The peloton is typically nervous and consequently more susceptible to crashes in the first week where positioning will be important.
“A lot of people are going to have squeeze by but somebody is going to win three stages of the Tour de France by the time we leave the UK, and that’s not to be dismissed,” Wegelius said.
The 26-year-old Kittel will, like last year, have the opportunity to win the first maillot jaune of the Tour this weekend. However, the German’s Giant-Shimano team also has a more versatile option in John Degenkolb, who has some similar strengths to defending green jersey champion Peter Sagan (Cannondale), should the finale prove too tough for pure sprinters like Kittel, Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) to name a few.
Read Charly Wegelius’s Tour de France expert column in Cycling Weekly magazine, which is out tomorrow.