Monday, 2 July 2012
The stage three roads that have Tour de France organisers rubbing their hands together give Stuart O'Grady a knot in his stomach.
The Orica-GreenEDGE team captain knows he is in for a hectic time marshalling his troops, especially if the weather is nasty.
O'Grady says the 197km stage from Orchies to the northern France coastal town of Boulogne-sur-Mer has the potential to destroy some riders' Tour aspirations.
"I can see the organisers driving around in their cars in winter and saying 'now this will be a great spectacle'," O'Grady said.
"But there's some really dangerous small roads, a lot of small climbs and if the weather isn't nice and sunny, it's going to be absolute chaos.
"It's going to be one of those days on paper where it looks a little bit lumpy at the end but, in reality, it could be one of those Tour winner or breaker stages."
What has so many riders and team directors nervous is a succession of short climbs in the closing 40km.
A coastal finish also means there will be potential for strong winds that could fracture the peloton.
But that means plenty of opportunities for a good bike rider who puts himself in the right position.
Orica-GreenEDGE will try to set up the stage for their sprinter Matt Goss.
Their opportunists Simon Gerrans, Michael Albasini and Peter Weening will also be on alert.
Gerrans was the top-placed Australian in stage one with 13th and was pleasantly surprised with his form.
After an incredible start to the season, the Milan-San Remo winner and national champion took a scheduled break from racing.
Gerrans thought he might have to regain form in the first few days of the Tour but his racing legs are returning quickly.
"I actually didn't feel that great early on in the (first) stage," Gerrans said.
"But as the pace picked up and opened up a bit, I felt quite good towards the finish.
"Stage three, it's really like an Ardennes classic in the last 30-40km.
"It's just up and down, lot of corners, steep little climbs, so it could be quite selective."