2020 Tour de France stage 1 preview

Stage 1: Nice Moyen Pays - Nice 

Date: August 29, 2020 

Distance: 156km 

Stage start: 2 p.m. CEST

Stage type: Hilly

The 2020 Tour de France returns to Nice for its Grand Départ. It is the fourth Grand Départ on French soil in the last decade, and the third in the space of five years. While Tour stages have finished alongside the French Riviera 36 times in its history, it is only the second time a stage has rolled from Nice to open the three-week Grand Tour, the last time being 29 years ago. Frenchman Bernard Hinault grabbed the maillot jaune in the prologue in 1981, the first of a clean sweep of four individual time trial wins that year and proceeded to win the Tour by 14:34 over Lucien Van Impe.

Tour history

The Tour de France also had its grand départ in Nice in 1981. That year, the opening two days saw a prologue on the Thursday, then a short hilly stage and a TTT on the Friday. Bernard Hinault won the prologue, the first of a clean sweep of four individual TT wins that year. He ended up winning the Tour by 14:34 over Lucien Van Impe.

The opening stage of this year's 107th edition loops three times into the Var valley countryside north of Nice before a likely sprint on the Promenade des Anglais. There are three ascents of the 5.1 per cent Côte de Rimiez, with the first ascent doubling as the neutralised zone for the uphill departure. The crest of the category three climb returns on the second pass at kilometre 48.5 and on the third pass at kilometre 97. 

Each time across the mountains classification line brings more climbing to cross the Aspremont and additional views of the Côte d’Azur. However, given the dearth of flat stages through the race, it would be surprising if the sprinters let this rare opportunity slip through their fingers, even if they have to work hard for it to clash along the Promenade des Anglais for the finish.

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