Bruxelles > Brussel
06/07/2019 – Stage 1 – 194,5 km
The first stage of the Tour de France starts in Brussels a stage that honors the 50th anniversary of the first of five Tour de France wins for Belgian legend Eddie Merckx, even passing through his home village along the way.
It looks a reasonably flat stage on the profile, but this is Belgian classics heartland and can be quite challenging, with narrow roads, little hills and street furniture along the way. They also pass over the Mur de Grammont and Bosberg, two famous climbs from the Flanders Classics, but they come far too early in the stage to play any part in deciding the winner on the day.
The finish is quite tricky though with a series of sharp left and right turns in the final 5kms but straightens out for most of the last 2kms which slope uphill to the Royal Palace, the last 500m are around 5% gradient, making it a tough sprint finish.
Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen has been made the +175 favorite with most bookies, and it’s easy to see why. Nine wins this season, taking the opening two stages of Paris Nice, the first three stages of the Four days of Dunkirk and two stages in the ZLM Tour. Sure, the class of opposition in most of those races was nothing like the Tour de France, but he has shown on many occasions over the past few years that he is one of the fastest sprinters around.
He won two stages in the Tour last year, but it did take him until the 7th stage to find his legs, then he won two in a row. He’ll be hoping his legs are ready from day one this year to take this win.
Caleb Ewan won two stages in this year’s Giro d’Italia and comes here full of confidence and desperate to take a win in Belgium for his Belgian team Lotto-Soudal. Whoever wins the stage will pull on the first yellow jersey of the race and will delight the Belgian fans should they do so. He has a fantastic leadout with him, the same guys who delivered him to the two stage wins in Italy and his lightweight frame and uphill sprinting prowess should see him to the fore.
Elia Viviani had a terrible Giro, not winning a stage and retiring frustrated early in the race. There is no doubting Viviani’s ability, and it will be a massive boost for him to have his A-list leadout with him. Mikael Morkov, Yves Lampaert, and Max Richeze are some of the best in the business and are almost always there when Viviani wins. He’ll be desperate to make up for his poor Giro and get off the mark early for another Belgian team.
Peter Sagan can never be ruled out of any sprint, especially an uphill sprint in a Grand Tour. He didn’t have the greatest of seasons to date, but notched up a stage win, two 2nds and 3rd place in the Tour de Suisse just a few weeks ago, to remind everyone that he is Mr. Green Jersey in the Tour de France. He doesn’t have as good a leadout as some of the others, but Sagan doesn’t need it, he’ll bump and barge his way on to the best wheel in the last kilometer and charge up that final hill.
Michael Matthews might find the speed a bit too much for him, although the uphill sprint will be a bit more in his favor than a flat one. Sonny Colbrelli hasn’t had a great season, but almost won the Italian road race championships last week, he ‘won’ the sprint from the pack, but Davide Formolo had taken the win solo ahead of him. He too will like the uphill sprint part, but there are faster guys than him here, he should be top 6 probably though.
Matteo Trentin, Giacomo Nizzolo, Christophe Laporte, and Alexander Kristoff won’t be far off either, but it’s hard to see them breaking into the top 3 against this field.
Dylan Groenewegen might be favorite for this one, but I can’t help but think that it could be between the two Belgian teams for this win, with Caleb Ewan my pick to come out on top of stage 1 after a battle royale in front of the Palais Royale.
Caleb Ewan to win at +350 with Betway