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Voeckler predicts dangerous opening Tour stage

By Jean-François Quénet in Plumelec

There won't be any prologue at the Tour de France this year and the finishing line of stage 1 will be drawn just a few meters further down from the one of Saturday's GP Plumelec. Race winner Thomas Voeckler noted the dress rehearsal revealed the potential for a dangerous finish in the Tour. "This isn't a flat stage finish and there won't be any established classification before, that means about 150 riders out of 189 starters will be highly motivated for winning that," said Voeckler.

The Frenchman is excited about the idea of a Tour de France without a prologue or time bonuses. But he's also afraid of the finale in Plumelec, despite having taken his second career win there. "Prior to the finishing hill, there is a very narrow bridge to cross," he noticed. "Maybe some riders don't know what it looks like and there might be a massive crash with 1km to go."

Not many starters of the 2008 Tour de France were there last time when Erik Zabel won stage 3 in Plumelec in 1997. Voeckler is no stranger to the hill of Cadoudal, not only because he won the GP Plumelec twice. He was also a strong contender in the French championship won there by his team-mate Didier Rous in 2003 when the La Boulangère team was still mourning the death of their rider Fabrice Salanson who raced for the last time in Plumelec.

"As a junior and an amateur in the north west of France, I also rode in Plumelec many times," he continued. "Manche-Atlantique finishing there as well is a famous race in March on the Breton amateur calendar and in the 1999 Tour de l'Avenir we did ten laps of this circuit." Even without the Tour de France, there are always thousands of spectators in the hill of Cadoudal where Bernard Hinault won the prologue of the 1985 Tour de France. Some stars of the 2008 Tour de France might be inspired to reconnoitre Cadoudal as much as they do these days for the mountain stages.

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