Metz City Center
Flying Start: 1:00 p.m. on N.3 Rozérieulles exit.
Course: This 174.5km stage 3 is virtually a straight shot from Metz,
the capital of Lorraine, to Reims, the capital of Champagne. There are
a few rollers, but with the prevailing wind coming from the west, there
will be little hope of long-range attacks succeeding. The final 70km are
on wide, straight. open roads, and the finish straightaway on the Boulevard
Joffré is almost a kilometer long.
History: Tour followers who have been around for 20 years will
remember the tumultuous stage 6 finish in Reims in 1985. The finish that
year was on the magnificent Rue Libergier that ends at Reims’s imposing
Gothic cathedral. In a mass sprint, Sean Kelly and Eric Vanderaerden swerved
their way to the line, throwing punches at each other. Both were DQ’d and
the win went to French sprinter Francis Casagrande, ahead of Greg LeMond.
The finish was moved to the Boulevard Victor Hugo in 1991, the last time
the Tour stopped here, with the win going to Uzbekistan’s Djamolidin Abdujaparov
in another mass sprint.
Favorites: All the sprinters should be on hand for what should
be another spectacular finish this year. Zabel, Steels, Kirsipuu, Robbie
McEwen, Stuart O’Grady, Jan Svorada, Jimmy Casper, Nicola Minali and the
Nazon brothers should all be involved. On his best form, McEwen is the