Vise — Tournai (128.9mi / 207.5km)
Monday 2 July
The pure sprinters should get their first shot at glory in stage 2, as it should all come down to a mass gallop in this 207.5km stage from Visé to Tournai on the Tour’s third and final day in Belgium.
After the previous day’s tough finale the fast men will take their revenge on the streets of Tournai. The route is certainly not dead flat, with a Cat. 4 climb 80km into the race, but the sprinters’ teams should keep them safely in the group to the finishing straight.
Most of the final 10km is slightly downhill — and while there’s a short kick up to the finish, it shouldn’t be enough to stop the finishers like Mark Cavendish (Sky), who should get his first shot to add to his 20 career Tour wins. Or perhaps Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), who recently won five stages at the Amgen Tour of California and four at the Tour de Suisse, will make a statement that Cav’ is beatable in their first head-to-head sprint at the Tour.
This will also be a chance for riders to pay homage to a fallen brother, Wouter Weylandt, who died in a crash at the 2011 Giro d’Italia. Weylandt enjoyed the last victory of his career in Tournai during the Circuit Franco-Belge in 2010. Of the big-name sprinters, a win by Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) would be the most emotionally charged, as the Ghent, Belgium-based American was a close friend and training partner of Weylandt’s.
Tournai borders with France and has established itself as one of the regular stages of the late-season Circuit Franco-Belge, where Tom Boonen, Sébastien Rosseler and Gert Steegmans have all raised their arms in triumph. In 1966, Tournai hosted the second stage of the Tour de France, won by Belgium’s Guido Reybroeck, and then the team time trial the next day, in which the Dutch Televizier-Batavus team was fastest.