Yves Lampaert stuns Copenhagen with fastest time
Geraint Thomas made costly blunder at start by forgetting to take off his pre-race gilet
Carnage and 'broken bones' expected on stage two
So much for Ineos Grenadiers’ famous marginal gains. A bizarre gilet gaffe cost Geraint Thomas precious seconds in Friday's opening-day time trial at the 109th Tour de France in cold, soggy Copenhagen.
The Welshman completely forgot to take his off before descending the start ramp for his 13.2km effort against the clock, losing aero efficiency. Thomas was also angry with himself for his timid cornering, joking afterwards that he rode like his wife – “and she hasn’t ridden a bike in 12 years”.
At least he stayed upright, giving up only a handful of seconds to his general classification rivals. With the wet, windy weather set to continue, there are predictions that one of the main general classification contenders could lose the Tour de France on Saturday.
Stage two is a frankly evil-looking 202.2km ride along the Danish coast, with crosswinds very likely to wreak havoc. The stage ends with a crossing of the Great Belt Link, 18km of link bridges, completely exposed to the elements, connecting the eastern and western parts of Denmark. “It will be crazy,” Brian Holm, the Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl sporting director and a local of these parts, told Eurosport. “I expect many broken bones and some GC (general classification) hopes shattered already,” added former rider Jens Voigt. Nothing like easing into a Tour de France gently.
In truth, the storm clouds had already gathered ahead of Friday's prologue. Thursday’s dawn raids conducted by Danish police on Bahrain Victorious, just days after Europol conducted a series of similar raids on key figures and riders within the team as part of a longstanding French doping investigation, lent Friday's opening opening stage a slightly sombre feel. The wet weather did not help, with riders nervously straining their eyes skywards as they warmed up.
In the event, and despite the slippery roads and standing water, no one did too much damage. Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) was the unexpected first recipient of the yellow jersey, beating countryman Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) into second place by five seconds. The general classification contenders all stayed upright. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) confirmed why he is the overwhelming race favourite by taking third on the stage at 7sec, three seconds faster than the world time trial champion Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers). Pogacar’s handling through the corners was beautiful to watch, unlike Thomas’s. The Welshman finished 25sec behind the stage winner, 18sec behind Pogacar and 10sec and 9sec behind the Jumbo-Visma pair of Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic. Far from a disaster but he was not happy with himself.
“That was I think the worst first half of a time trial I’ve ever done,” he said. “I wanted to start fairly conservatively power-wise. But you know when everyone’s telling you, ‘Go easy on the corners, it’s a three-week race, don’t crash’...it was just in my head.
“The first few corners I cornered like my wife, and she hasn’t ridden a bike for 12 years. It was unbelievable. And then I realised I still had my gilet on.
“I had zipped it up nice and snug and didn’t realise. The guy at the start didn’t notice. Not that it was his fault. But I went through that first time check and I was like 18secs down or something. I took the pin out then and just thought ‘sod it’. And then I went alright.”
Thomas could at least console himself that the “legs felt good”. And 18sec is unlikely to decide this Tour. Thomas’s team-mate and co-leader Adam Yates had a slightly better day, finishing three seconds ahead of Thomas in 13th place, while Tom Pidcock, riding in his first Tour, produced a great effort with the weather clearing up late on, coming home 15th despite his slender frame.
Saturday's test along the Danish coast, ending with the third longest suspension bridge in the world, will be a baptism of fire for debutants like Pidcock. Even gnarled, old Tour veterans are quaking in their cycling shoes.
“I can promise you, with the wind, somebody might lose the GC of the Tour de France on stage two,” Holm predicted. “It will be Ghent-Wevelgem (a famously windy Belgian classic), it will be a bunch sprint of the Tour de France, it will be crazy.
“Honestly, every time I pass the Great Belt, even in my car, there's something scary about it. I don't know. I just don't like it. I don't like driving here, so imagine it on the bicycle. Heavy, heavy crosswind.
“About the bridge, it's bloody long, it’s bloody windy. This stage has all the tools to make Tour de France history.”
Thomas was a little more succinct. “I haven’t seen the forecast for tomorrow but it will definitely be stressful,” he said. “If it’s wet and windy it could be exciting to watch.”
Lampaert stuns Copenhagen: As it happened
Lampaert wins stage one at the Tour de France!
Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) has crossed the line with a time of 16min 45.89sec to finish in 132nd. As a result, we can confirm that Yves Lampaert (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl) won the opening stage and will wear the first yellow jersey of this year's Tour during Saturday's stage. An emotional Lampaert, speaking to French journalist Seb Piquet after his win was confirmed, said: “My mind is exploding. I thought a top 10 would be great and now I beat all the best riders in the world. I'm just a farmer's son from Belgium.
“To do this, I never expected it.
“The roads were really wet, the pot holes were full of water. I think I had the same conditions as the main favourites. Always in the corners I said, 'Yves, go faster, trust in your tyres'.”
— Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team (@qst_alphavinyl) July 1, 2022
Sean Kelly, working for Eurosport, said it was an 'amazing' win. “A lot of riders were just thinking I had to get through this safety and get through to the more lumpy, big mountain stages to come.
“A prologue is pretty much always full on and every rider wants to give it their all for other reasons. It’s been spectacular here and the wet conditions has made it even more interesting.
“Filippo Ganna will be disappointed because if these roads were dry it would have been a better performance. It’s an amazing one for Yves Lampaert. He is a talented rider but to come out here and win against the other riders, he had an exceptional day and made the best of it.”
— pro cycling trumps (@procycletrumps) July 1, 2022
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) was second, while defending champion Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) finished third and is already the best placed of the general classification contenders, while intriguingly Jonas Vingegaard went faster than his Jumbo-Visma team-mate Primoz Roglic. Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers), meanwhile, was the best placed of the British riders having finished 23sec adrift of Lampaert in 13th spot, while team-mate and compatriot Tom Pidcock was two spots down in 15th. Geraint Thomas was another three places down in 18th, the Welshman 25sec behind Lampaert, and 18sec behind Pogacar.
Pidcock impresses, finishing 15th
Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) has finished the stage, and the 22-year-old Yorkshireman has clocked a very impressive time of 15min 41.11sec to finish his first ever Tour de France stage in 15th place. That's three places better than team-mate Geraint Thomas, but two behind Adam Yates who leads the Yorkshireman by just over half a second.
'Pidcock is a joy to watch'
Bradley Wiggins, who is working as an in-race commentator for Eurosport, has been following Tom Pidcock on a motorbike. The former Tour de France champion spoke glowingly of Pidcock, intimating he may lack some of the speed of the bigger time trial specialists, but has incredible bike handling skills, adding that he is 'a joy to watch'.
Soler the last man off . . .
The Spaniard who joined UAE Team Emirates from Movistar during the winter, is the last man to get his Tour under way. He will have do do something very special today if he is to win his first ever time trial, though I suspect he will not be giving it beans, but instead saving his legs for later in the race when he will be expected to help team-mate Tadej Pogacar in the mountains.
Pidcock rolls down starting ramp
The pint-sized Tom Pidcock makes his Tour de France debut and like Adam Yates is wearing a ridiculously large helmet. I suspect it has aerodynamic advantages – I certainly hope it does – but it is not a great look. Not that he will care a jot.
Pidcock moments away from making Tour debut
Michael Storer (Groupama-FDJ), the 25-year-old Aussie who won two stage at last year's Vuelta a España, is out on the course. Just a few minutes before Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) makes his first appearance in the Tour de France.
Teuns in perfect tune
Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious) caught his minute-man Olivier Le Gac (Groupama-FDJ) before charging his way over the line 10th fastest on the day. The Belgian finished a shade over 20sec down on stage leader Yves Lampaert. Le Gac, by contrast, was 110th quickest around 1min 30sec down – I suspect the Frenchman was saving himself to help his team-mates later in the race and so will not be too concerned with that.
Hirschi rolls off
Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates), who was a late addition to his team after Matteo Trentin tested positive for Covid, has just got his Tour started, the Swiss was followed a few minutes later by Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech). The Dane may be getting on – he is 37 now – but the locals love him.
By royal appointment
Crown Prince Frederik, who I understand is a big cycling fan and not only rides a cargo bike around Copenhagen but also enjoys heading out into the countryside on his road bike, has been enjoying the racing, watching the action from the roadside with the rest of the locals.
Boo boys (and girls) singing to their own Teun(s)
Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Victorious) has just set off, and he was not given the warmest of receptions. I suspect that may have something to do with the police raids on his team hotel, rather than anything personal.
Rolling back the years . . .
And Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech), the four-time winner of the Tour de France, is out on the course. I hadn't noticed before, but the 37-year-old is wearing the 191 bib number, the second '1' in that number suggesting he is the team leader. Earlier in the week, Froome said he was 'just 10 or 15 Watts' shy of his best ever numbers, but that will not be good enough to compete with the likes of Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic. I read somewhere recently that Pogacar was knocking out 6.9w/kg, while Roglic, despite some saying he was not looking his best at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné, produced his best ever climbing numbers at 6.8w/kg over 40 minutes.
Van Aert congratulates Lampaert
Nice touch from Wout van Aert who has to ride past Yves Lampaert as the Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl rider talks to the TV journalists just beyond the finishing line. Van Aert reaches out to Lampaert before congratulating him, the two Belgians embracing each other.
Although delighted, Lampaert is quick to remind viewers there are another 60 riders to follow and so he is not yet guaranteed the stage win, which would be the biggest of his career. Here's a quite wonderful safety video in which Lampaert appeared.
2 broers, 2 weggebruikers, 2 goede voorbeelden om te tonen hoe je veilig met elkaar omgaat op landelijke wegen. 🚜🚴♂️🚶 "Want een tractor en een zwakke weggebruiker, die kunnen gewoon broederlijk naast elkaar!" 🤝 https://t.co/KqkVoCOPF5 pic.twitter.com/28jO3cs18J
— Boerenbond (@Boerenbond) June 29, 2022
Lampaert stuns Copenhagen
Yves Lampaert (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl), the Belgian who has just two WorldTour wins on his palmarès, has caused a huge shock and gone over 4sec faster than compatriot Wout van Aert. The former Belgian time trial champion clocked an average speed of 51.778kmh to set a time of 15min 17.76sec, around 4.5sec faster than Van Aert. Worth noting that the rain has stopped and the roads have started to dry. It will be interesting to see if anybody else can take advantage of the favourable conditions.
Yates is best of the British bunch
Adam Yates completed his race a few minutes ago and I am impressed with his time: just under 2sec quicker than team-mate Geraint Thomas.
'I cornered like my wife – and she hasn't ridden for 12 years'
Colleague Tom Cary has just spoken to Geraint Thomas after the Welshman had his short debrief from Rod Ellingworth. Thomas said he forgot to remove his gilet and the first half of his race was a 'shocker'. Jokingly, he also said he cornered like his wife who has not ridden a bike for 12 years. I think – hope! – the key detail here was the fact she has not ridden bike for 12 years.
Laporte hits the deck
Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma), who set the quickest time at the intermediate time check, has just come a cropper on one of the same corners that saw Stefan Bissegger hit the deck. Not entirely sure why the Frenchman wasn't taking things a little more cautiously, his role at the Tour is to support his team-mates and if he crashes out after pushing things to the limit in this time trial, he can't do his job.
Cort into top 10
Decent time for Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) who sets the ninth fastest time at 15min 38.12sec. The Dane, of course, won three stages at last year's Vuelta a España and rode the recent Giro d'Italia. He suffered with illness earlier in the season, but that result would suggest he may be back to his stage-winning best.
Calm after the storm . . .
While the bulk of the favourites for today's stage and main general classification contenders may have completed their races, there are still just under 100 riders who need to complete their races. One of those is Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) and he has just rolled down the starting ramp, while Kasper Asgreen (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl), the former Danish national champion, is also out on the course.
Pogacar in pole position
Tadej Pogacar, the two-time Tour de France champion, sets the second fastest time of the day, placing the UAE Team Emirates rider in pole position among the general classification riders. To put that into context, Pogacar beat the world time trial champion, the European time trial champion and a whole host of national champions.
Van Aert is flying
Filippo Ganna completes his race 2.64sec faster than Mathieu van der Poel, but Wout van Aert goes another 5.67sec quicker. Crikey.
Ganna up against it
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), who has said he is not targeting the general classification, finished over a minute down on Van der Poel. Filippo Ganna, meanwhile, is starting to look a little ragged in the rain. But can he make up his losses in the final 2.5km of his time trial?
Pogacar easing into title defence
Tadej Pogacar appears to be taking things cautiously. Ganna, meanwhile, was the sixth fastest at the halfway point, while Wout van Aert was the fourth quickest.
Ganna going like clockwork
Unsurprisingly, Filippo Ganna is looking good. The Italian appeared to have a brief moment of hesitation on a left-hand corner, but pressed on and was soon back to pedalling smoothly. Wout van Aert followed, the Belgian, however, had no such issue on that corner.
Van Aert and Pogacar on the road
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) followed a minute after Ganna, then defending champion Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) who looked unnervingly relaxed, rolled down the starting ramp.
Ganna gets his Tour debut under way
World time trial champion Filippo Ganna is out on the course. Speaking earlier, the Italian told Eurosport x GCN’s The Cycling Show: “This year I raced a lot in conservative mode, the first big goal is the yellow jersey. We will see if the prologue can give me a nice present or if I have been suffering for nothing. We hope there is not a lot of strong wind. And we hope my legs can spin well.
“I think about it a lot because the yellow jersey is on a different level. It's going to be my first Tour, but I don’t know. Everyone is saying it's fantastic, we will see. Maybe after the Tour de France we can do more and I say if it's true or not.”
Thomas finishes safely; Vingegaard beats Roglic
Aleksandr Vlasov has finished safely, 15sec down on the highest placed of the general classification riders Primoz Roglic. Geraint Thomas, meanwhile, was just 9sec slower than the Slovenian (even though he was wearing his gilet), while Jonas Vingegaard is slightly faster than his team-mate – around 0.25sec – finishing as the third fastest on the day, just behind compatriot Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) who is a rider that always goes well in the rain.
Vlasov's odd helmet update
The 'snood' is part of Specialized's new TT helmet 'system'. Supposedly smooths the airflow through and around the helmet, by keeping your hair flat and your ears pinned to the side of your head. #TDF2022 pic.twitter.com/70BO1t7R7e
— Michael Hutchinson (@Doctor_Hutch) July 1, 2022
Küng's crown slips
Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), another Swiss time trial specialist and European champion in the discipline, has just crossed the line. There will be no yellow jersey for the 28-year-old who finished a smidge over 10sec down on the current leader Mathieu van der Poel.
'Vingegaard, Vingegaard, Vingegaard'
The young Dane who was runner-up here last year, is being cheered on like a rock star. Jonas Vingegaard is a decent time trial rider and will be hoping to repay his loyal supporters with a decent performance, but it may be tricky with the amount of resting water there is on the Copenhagen roads.
Big guns out on the course
Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) has caught his minute-man Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), while Romain Bardet (DSM) is, as you may expect, taking things carefully. Meanwhile, Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) is out on the course with the Russian wearing a snood [Correction: Vlasov was wearing one of Specialized's new aerodynamic helmets]. Then Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), the 2018 Tour de France champion, rolled down the starting ramp a minute or so ago, followed by home favourite Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma). Cannot underestimate how horrible the conditions are out in Copenhagen where the road resembles a skating rink.
Roglic impresses in the rain
Daniel Martinez (Ineos Grenadiers) has competed his race, the Colombian finished around 30sec off the pace. Shortly afterwards, Primoz Roglic powered his way over the finishing line to set the second fastest time of the day, just 2.55sec slower than Mathieu van der Poel. The rain is absolutely teeming it down now. Horrible conditions for a road bike, never mind one of these delicately poised time trial machines.
Gaudu finishes; Roglic looking good
David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) is the first of the general classification riders to complete his race, the Frenchman finishes around 37sec down on Mathieu van der Poel. By contrast, Primoz Roglic was under 1sec slower than the Dutchman at the intermediate time check at the half-way point of the stage, suggesting the Jumbo-Visma rider is in fine form.
Van der Poel sets new benchmark time
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) has set the fastest time of the day thus far, completing the 13.2km course in 15min 30.62sec, a little under 4sec faster than compatriot Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) who a few minutes ago clocked 15min 34.18sec.
Roglic is out on the course
Can Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) stay upright and complete the stage unscathed? Let's hope so. The Slovenian set off a minute after fellow general classification contender Daniel Martinez (Ineos Grenadiers) so it will be interesting to see how the two fare.
Bissegger rolls over again
Stefan Bissegger is having a nightmare. The Swiss has crashed for a second time. That's his stage definitely over. You have to feel for him, first he has the wear that awful kit his team give him, now he has crashed twice.
Morkov leads himself out
Jérémy Lecroq has completed his time trial, finishing the stage in 16min 19.01sec. And local lad Michael Morkov (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl) is the next big name to get his race under way. Unsurprisingly, the lead-out specialist and Olympic track champion is roared on by the roadside spectators.
Jérémy Lecroq is into the final 3km of the stage and it is interesting to see a few small bridges with tight chicanes which may cause a few issues.
Stefan Bissegger has gone down on a right-hand corner. Yet again it looked as if his rear wheel locked up before he lost control as he went over the painted road signs on the asphalt. The Swiss will not, I suspect, be winning today's stage after that misfortune.
Van der Poel sets off
They are coming thick and fast, and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is now out on the course.
Here comes 'Mr 64'
Stefan Bissegger has opted for an obscenely large gear of 64-10. Not sure most of us mere mortals could even turn a gear like that, but the young Swiss will have no issues. That said, he had a minor issue going into a wet corner when his rear brake appeared to lock up forcing him to slow a little more than he will have wanted. Slowing and having to speed up with that sort of gearing will be a tough task and may cost dearly. Thankfully it is a short time trial today.
Mollema rolling with it
Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), the recently crowned Dutch time trial champion, has got his Tour started and will be followed soon by the Swiss Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-EasyPost) who has been tipped by many as a possible winner here today.
And he's off . . .
Jérémy Lecroq (B&B Hotels-KTM) has got the 109th edition of the Tour de France under way. The 27-year-old is making his Tour debut – it is also his grand tour debut – and it taking things carefully. The crowds that are five or six people deep in places, appear enthusiastic.
Weather report . . .
Not great news for the time trial specialists, many of whom have targeted this stage since the start of the seson. In some cases, perhaps longer. The heavens, unfortunately, opened earlier making the streets of Copenhagen wet and slippery. My colleague Tom Cary who is on the ground in Denmark says the rain has stopped now, but there are several puddles along the course.
The wet roads may change how the stage is raced. I suspect those with general classification ambitions may take the corners a little more gingerly than they would have done had the roads been bone dry, while the stage will more than likely be won by a rider who is willing – and able – to take a few risks on the corners. I think it is safe to say, this opening day time trial has just got a whole lot more interesting, and nerve-racking, for all involved. Let's just hope everybody gets around the course safe and sound. I'm sure Geraint Thomas fans will be hoping their man can pull off a repeat of what he did in the Düsseldorf rain back in 2017 when he took the opening day yellow jersey. It could happen, but his team-mate Filippo Ganna still is probably the favourite for me, slightly ahead of Wout van Aert. I would not be surprised if Dutch powerhouse Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) gets involved also.
Rain! New pick - Stefan Bissegger, has the power, the aero (extra impt in a short fast TT), can handle a bike, and has won a TDS road stage in the wet. pic.twitter.com/O6udPiWxeV
— Ronan Mc Laughlin (@ronanmclaughlin) July 1, 2022
Storm clouds rising . . .
Europol has announced that raids which took place in 14 locations across Europe this week are focused on "possible doping allegations of a cycling team participating in the Tour de France", writes Ian Parker from the Press Association.
— CyclingTips (@cyclingtips) July 1, 2022
The European law enforcement agency said it had conducted searches in France, Belgium, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Poland, and Slovenia between Monday and Thursday.
The announcement came a day after Danish police, acting on a request from French authorities, searched the hotel of the Bahrain Victorious team in Copenhagen, where the Tour de France gets under way in 30mins.
Earlier this week, riders and staff from the team had their homes searched prior to leaving for the Tour.
Europol said the searches were part of an investigation being led by French authorities under the supervision of the French public prosecutor's office in Marseille "to look into possible doping allegations of a cycling team participating in the Tour de France".
"Three people were interrogated," the statement added. "The investigation is ongoing and the evidence seized is being forensically examined.
"The properties of several riders and their staff were searched in Belgium, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Poland and Slovenia."
Europol did not name any of the individuals involved. Bahrain Victorious, whose hotel was also searched during last year's Tour, have denied any wrong-doing.
In a statement issued on Monday following the searches at individuals' homes, the team said: "The investigation into the members of the team, which started almost a year ago and did not yield any results, continues just before the start of the most important cycling race, the Tour de France, and damages the reputation of individuals and Team Bahrain Victorious.
"Due to recent investigations, the team feels the timing of this investigation is aimed at intentionally damaging the team's reputation."
On Thursday, the team's pre-Tour press conference in Denmark was cut short after only eight minutes with the team refusing to take any questions in relation to the searches.
Reading a short statement, performance director Vladimir Miholjevic said: "We'd like to have more details from the investigators so we can understand such action.
"At this moment the team is fully focused on the biggest cycling race in front of us and on achieving our goals over the next three weeks."
And welcome to our live rolling blog from the opening stage of the 109th edition of the Tour de France, the 13.2 kilometre individual time trial around the streets of Copenhagen, Denmark.
The first rider down the starting ramp will be Jérémy Lecroq (B&B Hotels-KTM), the Frenchman setting off at 3pm (BST), while Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) of Spain will conclude the race with the Spaniard getting his Tour under way a little under three hours later at 5.55pm. Each rider will set off with a one-minute gap between themselves and the rider ahead.
The winner of the stage – it is an official stage, and not a prologue as the course is longer than 8km – will become overall leader and take the first maillot jaune, or yellow jersey, of the race.
The course is panflat, though it has 18 corners which may make all the difference, especially if the weather turns. Early forecasts suggest the early part of the race should be dry, but there is a threat of some light rain in the early evening. The last thing any rider needs on the opening day of a grand tour is the additional stress of having to navigate their way around a city centre circuit on a time trial bike in the rain – cast your mind back to Düsseldorf in 2017 when Alejandro Valverde came a cropper on a left-hand bend. Hopefully that rain holds off until Soler has completed his race.
Interesting to not that the overall general classification favourites – Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) – and the rest of the field that will be having a crack at yellow – Ben O'Connor (Ag2r-Citroën), Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious), Daniel Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers), Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) and Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) – are all setting off relatively early, as are those that are expected to challenge for the first maillot jaune of the race.
Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), two of the favourites for the stage, are separated by just one minute which should make for an exciting duel between the pair.
It is worth considering that while both riders as individuals will want to win the stage, their teams would also benefit should one of their riders start Saturday's second stage dressed in yellow. As I am sure you will know, rules dictate that team cars that trail the peloton – or breakaway should one form – are lined out in order of the general classification, and so if Ganna were to win today ahead of Van Aert, with Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-EasyPost) third, then the Ineos Grenadiers team car would be allowed to drive at the head of the convoy of support vehicles following the riders. Jumbo-Visma would be second in line, and then EF Education-EasyPost and so on.
While the ordering of team vehicles may not make a great deal of difference on Saturday or Sunday, once the race reaches France on Tuesday and, potentially more crucially on Wednesday, it could make all the difference to a riders' hopes and ambitions. With Saturday and Sunday's stages likely to finish in bunch sprints, it is highly likely that whoever wins today will hold yellow until Tuesday. With Wednesday's stage tackling the treacherous cobbles of northern France where crashes are common and mechanical issue can cost dear, the position of a support vehicle on the tight and narrow roads may make all the difference between a rider staying in contention or totally losing contact – and crucial seconds – with his rivals. In summary, there could be a lot more at stake today than simply the stage win.
Anyway, live coverage of today's stage will get under way at 2.45pm.