Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.
Date: Monday, July 3
Start: Verviers, Belgium
Finish: Longwy, France
Distance: 212.5km (132mi)
The first uphill finish of the Tour, atop the 1.6km climb of the Religieuses, will see the punchers attack the final climb as the Tour enters home soil for the first time in 2017. Five climbs dot the stage, with three Cat. 4 climbs and two Cat. 3 climbs, as the race moves from Belgium to Luxembourg before finally finishing the day in France. With the ever consistent Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) out of the race, the Quick-Step Floors duo, Philippe Gilbert and Daniel Martin, will be the favourites for this Ardennes stage, which starts in Gilbert’s hometown. Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) will want to add to his previous two stage wins in the last two years. World champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Michael Matthews (Sunweb) will do their best, but the last kilometres might prove too much for the sprinters. The yellow jersey may come under threat, as bonus seconds could play a major role.
Christian Prudhomme, race director: “A coincidence or destiny, the Tour will take off from Verviers just two days before the 35th birthday of the city’s native, Philippe Gilbert. And the day’s course could well inspire the Wallonian. Indeed the climb going up to the Longwy Citadel looks a lot like the Mont des Alouettes where he had conquered his only stage win on the Tour in 2011.”
Geraint Thomas, Team Sky: “I’m just treating it as every day is a bonus. Obviously tomorrow hopefully will be different guys there sprinting for the win so that will be good for me. But obviously it’s a technical finish so we’ll have to be right up there in a good position.”
Marcel Kittel, Quick-Step Floors: “I think this is going to be difficult tomorrow because I think the finish is quite difficult. I guess it’s similar to the second stage last year. So I will see. I don’t know. It’s hard for me now here to say but I will sit down tonight with the sports directors. What I can say is that our team is here to go for stage victories. That’s our main goal and we have not only one guy who can go tomorrow for victory. That’s where our highest chance for success lies and I think that should get priority and everything else … if we can combine it with that goal would be nice, but it’s not the main goal.”