Beside lake in Bagnoles-de-l’Orne
Flying Start 1:02 p.m. on D335, Bagnoles-de-l’Orne exit
Course: The highest point on this 176km stage through Normandy
from Bagnoles-de-l’Orne is only 1200 feet (366 meters) above sea level,
but that climb to Mont Pinçon is just one of the day’s some 20 significant
hills. And with the course running adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean for the
last 60km, there are likely to be strong winds waiting to split the pack
into echelons. The roads are good, and mostly straight, and the finish
in Avranches comes after a 300-foot climb in the last 2km.
History: A tough 80km team time trial from Dinard was the only
Tour stage to finish at Avranches. That was in 1993, and Tour rookie Lance
Armstrong led his Motorola team to a fine third-place finish behind winners
GB-MG of Italy and ONCE of Spain.
Favorites: With the likely winds off the ocean and the mostly
straight roads, expect a big group to emerge in the final hour to swamp
any breakaways and produce a wild uphill sprint finish. It’s the sort of
finish that will suit Zabel, unless the Lotto team can move McEwen into
position to make a late challenge.