When Sunday July 5
From Utrecht (Netherlands)
Impact on overall 2/5
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Where are we?
We head out of Utrecht and westwards for a date with the peninsulas and islands of Zeeland — the western-most point of the Netherlands. The mountains of New Zealand, which was named after this province, seem a long way away, both geographically and geologically — much of Zeeland is below sea level.
Today is the last day of Dutch hospitality, so make the most of it. From here it’s on into Belgium, before we make contact with French soil for the first time on stage four.
What’s on the route?
Wind — and lots of it, potentially. The riders can likely forget what’s flying by them; this could be a day of carnage when it comes to time gaps, and the overall contenders will have to pay attention if they don’t want to make things more difficult for themselves this early in the race.
The Tour’s been through this way before: in 2010, when the opening stage went from Rotterdam to Brussels via Zeeland, and Alessandro Petacchi sprinted to victory.
Neeltje Jans — a man-made island created to enable the building of the Eastern Scheldt dam — is our finish, and it will be nothing short of spectacular.
After the previous day’s time trial, the sprinters’ teams will be looking to open their win accounts. But with the aforementioned wind to deal with, they’ll need to keep their men at the front of the bunch.
Splits are highly likely, which means the formation of echelons: the often diagonal lines of riders stretching from one side of the road to the other as riders scramble for shelter to avoid riding alone into the wind. It makes for spectacular TV pictures and race photography as lines of riders stretch like rungs of a ladder across the width of the road.
The Tour de France 2015 route