place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville
Flying Start: 12:38 p.m., N.31, Soissons exit.
Course: The only certainty is that this is the only road stage without
a categorized climb, except for the final one into Paris. The 196km route
traces a broad arc from Soissons to Rouen, with narrow country roads in
the opening two hours when breakaways will probably form; and long straight
wider highways in the final two hours, when the breaks will probably be
caught. The race passes the graveyard at Quicampoix, where five-time Tour
winner Jacques Anquetil is buried, 14km from the finish. Watch for the
attacks to multiply here, especially as there is a steep, hair-pinned descent
into the streets of Rouen. The finish is on the 450-meter-long, 25-foot-wide
History: The last three times that a Tour road stage has finished
in Rouen, the winner has been a Dutchman: Gerrit Solleveld in 1990 after
a long solo break; Jan Raas in 1980, in a mass sprint ahead of teammate
Leo Van Vliet; and Fedor Den Hertog in 1977, after a late solo attack to
hold off the pack by 20 seconds. This will be the 16th year that a Tour
stage has finished in the city where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake
Favorites: Judging from history, a mass sprint or a late solo
winner are the two most likely outcomes. Mass sprint after a fast downhill?
Zabel did that in Boulogne-sur-Mer last year, so he could do it again.
Late solo? Could be David Millar, who’ll likely have a pile of British
fans that have just arrived from the cross-Channel ferries.