Stage 1: Noirmoutier-En-L'Ïle - Fontenay-Le-Comte
It's the sixth Grand Départ of the Tour de France in the cycling-mad Vendée province, the home of the Direct Energie team previously known as Bonjour, La Boulangère, Bouygues Telecom and Europcar.
After a first stint in 1976, it was every six years: 1993, 1999, 2005 and 2011. Seven years ago, stage 1 also started from the island of Noirmoutier but throughout the Passage du Gois, a road flood twice daily with the incoming tide. The Tour de France being held one week later than normal to reduce the clash with the FIFA World Cup, it makes the scenic road impracticable.
The bridge to the continent will expose the riders to the wind of the Atlantic Ocean. In total, stage 1 features 110 kilometres of seaside with cross winds likely to create echelons. Côte de Vix with 28km to go will award the first polka dot jersey and the first bunch sprint is expected in Fontenay-le-Comte, an unprecedented stage finish location in the Tour de France.
Matt White says: The first week of the Tour de France is always nervous but much of stage 1 depends on the wind and weather conditions as the race travels along the coast. You’ve got the battle between the sprint teams but also the battle between the GC riders as they look to stay out of trouble. It’s going to be hectic. A team like Quick-Step should be really strong on stages like this, but sometimes the more nervous the race, the calmer it is. What I mean is that where the teams like Quick-Step and Lotto Soudal catch others out is when other teams relax. On the first weekend of the Tour, everyone is going to be ready because they’re scared of racing along the coast.
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