Place du Glacis, Luxembourg
Flying Start: 12:42 p.m. on No. 4
Course: Stage 4 of the recent Giro d’Italia started in Luxembourg
and passed through Saarbrücken midway through the ride to Strasbourg.
Stage 2 of the Tour also starts in the Grand Duchy, but after crossing
the Moselle River at Schengen heads into the Hunsrück hills, rather
than heading down the valley of the Saar River. Although only two Cat.
4 climbs are listed for this 181km Tour stage — including one at Alsweiler-Heid,
just before the German mountain-bike center of St. Wendel — there are two
more hills in the final 25km and then a sharp descent on back roads through
the Kollertaler Forest to the streets of industrial Saarbrücken.
History: This is the first time that a Tour stage has finished
in this city of 200,000, which was part of France after World War II until
a plebiscite in 1957 returned it to Germany.
Favorites: Once again, the sprinters like Jaan Kirsipuu and Tom
Steels might have a hard time staying with the front group if the peloton
splits on the demanding run-in. But with the teams all still relatively
fresh and intact, a mass-sprint finish is the likely outcome. If so, look
no further than homeboy Erik Zabel.