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The Grand Départ of the 103rd TDF

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June 1, 2016 – The big show starts Saturday! The Grand Départ of the 103rd Tour de France (#TDF2016) begins here, at the remarkable Mont-Saint-Michel. Until two years ago, this 250-acre rocky islet was accessed by a 600-meter causeway, which flooded at high tide.

#PelotonShorts by John Wilcockson/Photo by Yuzuru Sunada

That has been replaced by a light bridge that opened in July 2014. Construction of the tiny town and religious community began in the eight century and reflects that era’s feudal order, with homes for farm workers and fishermen outside the walls; stores and housing at the base; assembly halls above; and, at the top, a monastery and Benedictine abbey that was built between the 11th and 16th centuries.

It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. // This is the third time in Tour history that Le Mont-Saint-Michel has hosted a stage. The first time was a stage finish in 2000 (shown here), when the 203-kilometer stage 4 from Nantes was won in a mass sprint by Belgium’s Johan Museeuw ahead of Italy’s Guido Bontempi and Germany’s Olaf Ludwig, with U.S. sprinter Davis Phinney taking fourth.

The other time the Tour came to Mont-Saint-Michel was in 2013, when stage 11, a 33-kilometer time trial starting in Avranches, was won by Germany’s Tony Martin, 12 seconds faster than Britain’s Chris Froome, who consolidated his hold on the yellow jersey. // To start the 2016 Tour, the 198-man peloton will gather at the foot of Mont-Saint-Michel, then ride for 5 kilometers before the traditional ribbon-cutting at the official start at 12:50 p.m. in France (6:50 a.m. EST). The opening 110 kilometers hugs the coast with a couple of Cat. 4 climbs and a few other hills before a critical phase of the 188-kilometer stage.

This will be the 9 kilometers on dead-straight roads before the intermediate sprint at La Haye, where forecast crosswinds will give teams a chance to create echelons and spell potential danger for the lighter-built GC riders. After crossing the Cotentin peninsular, with likely tailwinds, the course loops back into the wind before turning left at Chef-du-Pont to begin a final 15 kilometers on flat, straight roads into the finish at Utah Beach—site of the Allied Forces’ D-Day landings in June 1944.

Germany is likely to come out on top this Saturday, with its newly crowned national champion André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) battling his compatriots Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step) and John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) for the first yellow jersey—though Britain’s Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Norway’s Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) might have something to say about that!

Follow @pelotonmagazine for more #pelotonshorts from John Wilcockson.
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