COPENHAGEN, Denmark (VN) — Following Friday’s fast and furious TT opener in Copenhagen, the Tour de France branches out for its first road stage on Saturday.
The opening stage saw Yves Lampaert surprise the favorites on a wet city center course to become the first yellow jersey. Meanwhile, Tadej Pogačar was the best of the GC men, taking 10 seconds and more out of his rivals.
Saturday’s 202km ride from Roskilde to Nyborg should see the sprinters take center stage, but it’s not a foregone conclusion and it’s certainly not a day off for the GC men. With plenty of opportunities for crosswinds throughout the day, and the tricky 18km bridge crossing of the Great Belt strait.
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The combination of potential splits caused by the wind, combined with technical and narrow roads, plus the unknown quantity of the long bridge crossing is likely to make it a tense and difficult day on the bike.
“I think it’s going to be a pretty wild start. The Tour always is with this nervous energy. I think starting out with the time trial will definitely help a little bit. It will give the peloton some structure, which I’m very thankful for. It’s still not going to take away from the hectic fight for position, if there’s wind and if there’s technical finishes,” American rider Neilson Powless said ahead of the race.
“Even riding around the last few days, the wind has never felt very comfortable. It’s always swirling around, even if it says it might be a headwind or a tailwind all day it’s so unpredictable here that there’ll be echelons anyways, no matter what the wind is doing. That bridge looks pretty intimidating, but it’s all part of cycling, I guess. You have to put your hat in the ring, be aggressive, and try to get into position. I’m pretty confident that we can do some damage, not just hang around but really initiate something.”
Which way will the wind blow?
With a parcours that skirts around the coast of Denmark’s Zeeland island, the wind was always going to be a key factor on stage 2.
The twisting course means that crosswinds will be a forever present threat throughout the entire day and GC teams will have to be vigilant to ensure they’re not caught out by them. However, the stress of trying to keep key riders towards the front creates an environment where crashes are far more likely and staying out of trouble is going to be hard.
Stage 2 sees the peloton initially head north towards Grevinge before turning west across the top of Zeeland. Before switching directions, the route does a short loop via Høve to take in two fourth-category climbs. The race will cross over one more fourth cat. ascent at Ordrup and continue west before turning south at Kalundborg, where the day’s intermediate sprint is.
As the peloton begins its passage southwards, it will be bracing itself for the Great Belt crossing. The bunch will be able to see the bridge from a long way out as it hugs the coastline for a good portion of its southward journey.
“It’s going to be chaos,” Michael Matthews said earlier this week. “It’s about timing to set it up to get across that bridge and bring it home. We hear there will be wind, so it’s going to be great to watch on TV.”
Matthews is not wrong in his expectation of wind and it’s likely to sweep across the whole stage with certain sections being more dangerous than others. Forecasts predict the wind speed to sit between 13 and 16mph throughout the whole stage.
Though the wind can be swirling in this part of the world, it is the passages north and south that will have the greatest possibility for crosswinds. Forecasts show the wind sweeping in from the southwest before becoming westerly the further east it goes.
When the riders reach the all-important bridge across the Great Belt, the wind will be a cross-headwind that will be hitting them from the left side. While it’s not a full-on crosswind, the conditions will still be tricky to manage and the passage over the strait will be a stressful time for most of the bunch.
The bridge across the Great Belt strait was built in 1998 and was the largest construction project in Denmark at the time. On open roads, cyclists are actually barred from riding over the bridge and must use the rail link instead, meaning that it will be the first time cyclists will be allowed on its road.
The road across the bridge is relatively wide, at two lanes for each direction, but the riders will have to be cautious of the barrier that divides the two sides down the middle. Perhaps most worrying for the riders is the fact that the barriers at the side of the bridge, which are designed to stop cars from going in the water, are relatively low.
With the winds that are set to sweep across the whole stage, the peloton could well be in a series of small groups by this point. Once off the bridge, just three kilometers remain until the finish line in Nyborg.
There will be a couple of tight bends on the run into the finish with a long sweeping bend inside the final kilometer where positioning will be key.