Esplanade Charles de Gaulle, Épernay
Start: First team starts at 2:15 p.m., then the remaining 20 teams start at 5-minute intervals.
Course: Any team time trial at the Tour is as hard as the riders
make it, whatever the course. This year’s 67.5km route starts in Épernay
next to the Champagne vineyards, heads west on the left bank of the Marne
River before turning south into the hills at Dormans, after 21.5km. Following
a 3.5km climb rising 570 feet, the course stays on a high ridge before
taking a sharp drop into a side valley on narrow roads. The last part is
a winding 17.5km run down the valley to cross the Marne at Mont-St. Père,
and a final 9km alongside the river into Château-Thierry.
History: In 2000, wind was the enemy on the board-flat 70km course
alongside the Loire River from Nantes to St. Nazaire. Last year, it was
rain that caused the problems in the 67km run from Verdun to Bar-le-Duc,
particularly the crash involving Christian Vande Velde and Roberto Heras
that prevented the U.S. Postal Service team from challenging stage winner
Crédit Agricole. This is the first time that Château-Thierry,
a town of 15,000, has hosted a stage finish.
Favorites: The past two TTT winners, Crédit Agricole and
ONCE-Eroski, should again be challengers, but perhaps on such a demanding
course this is the year that U.S. Postal will avoid its recent mishaps
and come out on top.