Preview: 2013 Tour de France — Stage 1

Porto Vecchio to Bastia (213km)

Saturday, June 29 6:00 A.M. EDT – 11:05 A.M. EDT
Live Coverage sponsored by Clif Bar

For the first time in 40 years, the Tour de France starts with a road stage tailor-made for the sprinters. The 213-kilometer opening leg from Porto Vecchio to Bastia only includes one categorized climb, just 45km into the stage, and a fairly straightforward finish.

The number and quality of sprinters in the Tour this year is outstanding. Save for Garmin-Sharp’s Tyler Farrar, each of the world’s top sprinters is at the starting line in Corsica and with the yellow jersey up for grabs, we can expect a very nervous sprint.

The run-in to the finish isn’t very complicated, but the riders have to contend with a 180-degree turn with just 2km to go. This will stretch out the peloton significantly and therefore it’s important to be well-placed a bit earlier than usual. The fast finish favors big power sprinters like André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), but don’t forget a certain British champion with 23 Tour stage wins to his name.

Both Greipel and Kittel can rely on very strong leadout trains, but none of them can match Mark Cavendish’s kick in the final. Lotto has turned Greg Henderson into one of best leadout riders in the world and few can pass Greipel after a perfect leadout from the Kiwi. Argos may not have a final leadout man as good as Henderson but its entire train is remarkable. Three years ago, the Dutch team set the goal to develop “the best leadout train in the world” and the team is not far off. Kittel’s Tour de France ended way too early last year due to a stomach virus and this year he’s ready to show the world what he’s capable off.

Omega Pharma-Quick Step can’t match Greipel’s and Kittel’s leadout trains but luckily for the Belgian squad, it has the best sprinter in the world to count on. Cavendish is yet to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour and he’s very eager to change that fact. A world road title, 41 grand tour stage wins, Milano-Sanremo — Cavendish almost never fails when he put his mind to something. He won the first stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia to take the leader’s jersey and with his phenomenal kick in the final, it will be very difficult to deny Cavendish doing the same on Saturday. —MIKKEL CONDÉ

Follow Mikkel Condé on Twitter at @mrconde, and visit C-Cycling to read more about stage 1 and see outsiders for the win >>

Corsican countryside

No prologue? Tour organizer ASO wanted to take full advantage of Corsica, the only region of France that has never previously hosted the Tour. With that in mind, they put together a first stage of 213km that runs through magnificent countryside. There’s little doubt that the stage will be anything but a sprint finish. This is a golden opportunity for the likes of Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), or Peter Sagan (Cannondale) to claim the first yellow jersey of the 100th Tour.