St. Omer, July 8
St. Omer has grown up around the Notre Dame basilica and St. Denis church. It is a city of art and history, a city that holds, in its Sandelin Museum, beautiful ceramics from Delft, paintings, archaeological artifacts and a masterpiece in gold — the foot of the cross of St. Bertrin. In short, despite its history of considerable suffering (St. Omer was bombed during both World Wars), life here is good.
We suppose it would be even better were it not for a small problem — never, in 87 editions, has the city hosted the Tour de France! But St. Omer will emerge instantly from its anonymity at 12:40 p.m., when the stage starts and the town joins some other hallowed cycling venues along the route: Isbergues at kilometer 17, Lillers at kilometer 25, Berck at kilometer 107, Neufchâtel-Hardelot at kilometer 132, and the climbs of Desvres and Cap Griz-Nez, at kilometers 155 and 176 respectively.
By this point in the stage, St. Omer will seem far away, while the Boulogne-sur-Mer finish will be just around the corner. This is the time when the sprinters move up in the peloton, and the fast finishers prepare to attack. So who will have the last word? A man who attacked 10km into the stage? The fastest in a mass sprint? By the way, the finish will be played out on the St. Beuve boulevard, named for the author of “The Monday Gossips” (“Causeries du lundi”). One can only imagine the title that the late French author Antoine Blondin would have chosen for his Monday morning column in L’Équipe.