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July 2, 2016 – Stage 2 of the 103rd Tour de France (#TDF2016) remains in Normandy, in the department of La Manche—the French name for the (English) Channel, the stretch of water that separates France from Great Britain. The Tour has frequented the Channel coast in several recent editions, including 2012, shown in this image from stage 4, which ended in victory for André Greipel.
#PelotonShorts by John Wilcockson/Photo by Yuzuru Sunada
Don’t expect sunny weather or a sprinter to win this Tour’s stage 2. Rain showers, strong southwest winds and temperatures in the low 60s are in the weather forecast for Sunday. The race hits the Channel coast exactly halfway through its 183 kilometers, and for the following 50 kilometers (including the intermediate sprint at Port-Bail) cross-tailwinds and high speeds could see the peloton split to pieces on the many narrow back roads. Shortly after leaving the west coast of the Cotentin Peninsula, the stage appropriately passes through a town called Helleville with 34 kilometers remaining, and it reaches the north coast at Querqueville 18 kilometers later.
The sprinters will have a hard time in a hectic finale that first heads away from the sea on the twisting Côte d’Octeville, a 1.3-kilometer climb that opens steeply and crests with less than 8 kilometers to go. It then descends for 2 kilometers into the streets of Cherbourg—once the major French seaport for transatlantic liners and now a shipbuilding center and ferry port. After 2 kilometers on the flat, the stage turns right just before the 3-kilometer-to-go marker. The almost 2-kilometer climb of the Cat. 3 Côte de La Glacerie average 6.5 percent, including a half-kilometer stretch at 10.5 percent, including a 14-percent kicker. Then, after a short flat section, the final 700 meters climbs at almost 6 percent to a summit 555 feet above the English Channel.
After the likely splits and echelons along the coast, this finale will favor spring classics riders, especially those who do well in the Ardennes, including Team BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet, Etixx-Quick Step’s Dan Martin (and his Tour rookie teammate Julian Alaphilippe), and Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde—though the Spanish star will likely relinquish his stage-winning ambitions to make sure his team leader Nairo Quintana finishes strongly. They’ll have to keep an eye on top rivals Chris Froome of Team Sky and Alberto Contador of Tinkoff—whose teammate Peter Sagan has the legs to win this stage but, like Valverde, may be called into team duty. Whoever wins this stage in Cherbourg will almost certainly take the yellow jersey and he’ll likely wear it until the next summit finish on Wednesday.