July 3 Stage 2: Les Essarts team time trial, 23km (14.3 miles)
The team time trial (TTT) is a stage in which each of the 22 teams starts separately at seven-minute intervals, with the fastest time taking the win. Most importantly, the team time (measured on its fifth man across the line) counts on the individual GC, so the yellow jersey is almost certain to go to the first rider across the line in the day’s fastest team. The course is a flat 23km team time trial on a straightforward, triangular course at the town of Les Essarts, population 5,000. Riding fast in strong winds will be each team’s goal, with the short distance designed to keep the time gaps small (probably less than 10 seconds between the top three teams and maybe 90 seconds to the slowest one) and ensure that the first week’s GC is not locked up by the TTT-winning formation.
THE SCOOP: All the GC contenders hope that their team is strong enough to take a top-five or at least a top-10 finish; otherwise, if they finish more than a minute back, their Tour-winning chances will be greatly reduced.
OVERALL RATING: ***