When Monday July 6
From Antwerp (Belgium)
Impact on overall 2/5
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Where are we?
It’s a fond farewell to the Netherlands and a big hello to our old friends the Belgians. Our host for the start of stage three is Antwerp, famed as one of the biggest and busiest ports in the world.
Heading south takes us into the Ardennes and a stage finish in Huy.
The Tour has visited the town three times before: as the start of the stage eight time trial in 1995, won by Miguel Indurain, as a stage start en route south to Verdun in the first week of the 2001 race, and again as a stage start in 2006, destination Saint-Quentin.
But never has it finished here, nor visited the vicious climb that is the Mur de Huy.
What’s on the route?
The first serious climb of this year’s race is really rather serious indeed. Just 1.3km in length, the Mur de Huy more than makes up for it with an average gradient of 9.6 per cent, reaching a leg-crunching maximum gradient of 19 per cent in the final few hundred metres.
Aficionados will recognise it from the Flèche Wallonne one-day Classic, where it’s tackled by the men’s event three times during the second half of the race. The Tour might only be tackling it once, at the finish, but it will have a similar effect on the riders as the multiple ascents: after three tough days of racing, this is going to be a real test.
Fans of the Ardennes Classics will be licking their lips at the prospect of what today’s stage might hold. The team of whoever has the race lead will be hoping for some support from the others to help keep the race together for most of the day, or to at least keep any breakaways within touching distance. But it’ll be all about the stage’s final few kilometres as the excitement builds ahead of attacking the Mur. And when the race hits it, expect the kind of carnage you see at Flèche Wallonne: organised chaos.
The Tour de France 2015 route