Abbeville — Rouen (133.3 miles/214.5km)
Wednesday 4 July
After the previous day’s circuitous run through the Monts du Boulonnais, the sprinters will welcome today’s bumpy but manageable 214.5km route from Abbeville to Rouen, which should end in a classic group finish.
That is, if the region’s coastal winds don’t catch them out behind a split in the peloton. After Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) laid the foundation for his overall win in the opening northern stages a year, ago, the sprinters and the GC riders will be on full alert in the wind. The combination of the two groups near the front so early in the race is a delicate dance and, as happens every year in the Tour, if the wind is right for a split, a GC rider will almost certainly miss out.
So look for the stronger, better organized teams to get their men to the finish line in the hometown of Jacques Anquetil. Mark Cavendish (Sky) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannnondale) should be there to battle it out again, and watch out for Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge), who is now coached by Robbie McEwen and is determined to get a win of his own at the Tour.
Abbeville has never previously welcomed the peloton of the Tour de France. but regularly hosts the Tour de la Somme. In 2005, Lars Boom, a young Dutch cyclocross world champ-turned-roadie, achieved one of his first road victories there.
Normandy has become a regular stage of the Tour de France since 1949, and the city of Rouen has long been associated with Jacques Anquetil. For his maiden Tour in 1957, France’s favorite son won his first half stage at his hometown. Three weeks later, he finished his first Tour de France wearing the yellow jersey.