The first two days of the Tour De France have shown Yorkshire in their greatest light and now London gets it’s chance to shine with a flat finish on the Mall outside Buckingham Palace. Stage 1 to Harrogate was a hard opener with a tricky finish that proved to be the undoing of several chances but even with such a rocky parcours, it was not to be expected that so many would use such time over the steep climbs yesterday, and as soon as stage 2 we have a situation where only 22 riders are within the 2 second lead of Vincenzo Nibali, whose brilliant late attack outfoxed a small group that wasn’t willing to work with hot favourite Peter Sagan, who surprisingly didn’t make the three, even though he has already racked up a notably tally of green jersey points.
The peloton will be relived, then, to have a flat as a pancake run into London, which is more notable for the landmarks it will pass – going straight through central London, including Westminster, having passed through Essex with a start in Cambridgeshire – the UK’s most cycling friendly place according to many – that takes a route that is scenic, even if not as exciting as the action that we had yesterday (on the face of things; Cycling has a way of making pre stage predictions look very foolish). The roads here are very wide and the turn into the mall is the only notable danger-point but it would be a disappointment to see a major accident.
That you can still back Marcel Kittel at 13/2 for the green jersey each/way with Hills seems surprising given that Mark Cavendish is out and with only one serious form rival – that being German national champion and multiple tour winner Andre Griepel – and he looks a worthy odds on favourite. Having win the Tour’s yellow jersey on the opening stage yet again, he was in the right spot for the sprint, being just one of four that were able to contest the win after Cavendish and Gerrans fell, but that is as much thanks to design and intention as luck and he edged out Sagan on a drag finish that removed a lot of energy from the pure fastmen. Today is his territory and he should feel confident of beating those two once again, with the straight forecast and interesting option if both teams get their men in the correct place.
Arnaud Demare, a winner of the Ride-Surrey-London classic that finished on the same straight as today, hasn’t been seen so far but is likely to be prominent here with sprint trains seemingly guaranteed to dominate, and makes for an interesting contender after so much promise throughought the last two years.
Even more interesting is Bryan Coquard. The Frenchman was in a good place when fourth on stage 1 but has also won the two green jersey sprints from the main bunch of the field and is clearly in good form – he may lack a leadout train as only Kevin Reza is guaranteed assistance – but what he doesn’t seem to lack is a fine turn of pace and he gets a proper chance today to show what he’s made of and he’s an interesting outside shout at 20’s.
This may not be tough enough for Alexander Kristoff, while Mark Renshaw could get a chance but doesn’t look good enough at this stage in his career and John Degenkolb will be leading out Marcel Kittel, at which point we’re into roleur territory, which makes no appeal.
1 pt Kittel/Gripel (6/4 Skybet)
1 pt each/way Bryan Coquard (20/1 general)]
Stage 3 Map – http://www.steephill.tv/2014/tour-de-france/previews-results/stage-03/