The last rider to win a flat opening stage of the Tour de France, Germany’s Rudy Altig, says that he believes that Corsica's narrow, twisting roads will be very tough for the sprinters in Saturday's first day of racing.
"We raced there once as part of Paris-Nice, we'd do one stage, I think it was Ajaccio-Bastia and then get the ferry across to Nice, sleep on the ferry and then finish off with a Nice-Nice stage and with the usual finish the Promenade des Anglais," the former World Champion and Vuelta winner Altig told Cyclingnews.
"I remember the roads were really difficult, hilly or mountainous in Corsica. It's going to be difficult for the sprinters, I think."
Altig was the Tour's last ever winner of a flat opening stage, back in 1966, when he won at Charleville in eastern France in 1966. Although a gifted sprinter and track racer, who took the opening stage of the Tour three times out of four participations, on that occasion he took the victory with a long distance attack. The last bunch sprint winner was Rik Van Looy in 1965.
"I got away alone with 30 kilometres to go, and I got to the finish with about 30 seconds advantage," Altig recalled to Cyclingnews. "It was difficult, I had to keep the peloton at bay, it was always about 30 seconds or so, which was not easy. It was hilly, although the finish itself and the last kilometres were flat.
"But with about ten kilometres to go, I was sure that I had got the win. And I kept the yellow for around ten days to the foot of the Pyrennes, and I won the last stage as well [and also stage 12-Ed.], so it was definitely my best Tour." There is every chance, he agrees with a laugh, that Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) will do the same – and win the first and last stages of this year's Tour, too."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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