• Hup Holland Hup! Le Tour comes to Utrecht. (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
What better place to start than a country where the bicycle is king and in a city which houses its largest university, where, for the student, riding on two wheels is as natural as opening a textbook...
By
Anthony Tan/Cycling Central

3 Jul 2015 - 11:52 AM  UPDATED 4 Jul 2015 - 8:05 PM

Utrecht made its first bid to host the Grand Départ back in 2002. Yet, despite its obvious cycling credentials, such is the competition to host the kick-off to the world's greatest bicycle race, it has not happened till now. In fact, Le Tour has never hosted a stage start or finish in Utrecht. Still, this year marks the sixth time the Tour has hosted a Grand Départ aux Pays-Bas… more than any other foreign country.

With no hills to speak of (this is Holland, after all...) the steepest gradient comes in the first three metres - the start ramp in front of the Jaarbeurs Utrecht Trade Centre… Seriously!

From there, riders partake a flat, 13.8 kilometre west-east-west route around the fourth-largest city in the Netherlands; first heading to Stadion Galgenwaard, the home ground for FC Utrecht, before the parcours takes the shape of a boomerang as it makes its way north to Utrecht Science Park and the university, then turns back west. Passing the historical centre and Maliesingel, later in front of the railway museum, those coming back to the finish will see those on their way out, before the finish outside Utrecht Centraal railway station.

Time trial aficionados take note: this is the only individual TT of the 2015 Tour.

The next - and last - race against the clock comes just over a week away, on July 12: a 28km team time trial from Vannes to Plumelec.

Christian Prudhomme, Directeur du Tour de France, says:

"No-one can predict the importance of seconds lost or won by the different riders on the 14 kilometres of the urban course designed in Utrecht.

"But it will be the unique opportunity for the strongest time-trialists to distinguish themselves on this solo effort and gain time on their biggest rivals in the mountains. Small benefits shouldn't be neglected…"

Matt White, Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director, says:

"It's pretty technical. I don't think they'll be too big a gap between the real GC guys, but any technical prologue or time trial, there can always be surprises.

"The weather (forecast) looks pretty good, pretty hot for the weekend; obviously, if was a wet one, it would change a few things. What does change things, though, is that it's not a prologue - it's a time trial. And it's going to affect the next days' racing and who takes the yellow jersey, that's for sure.

"For our guys, I don't think it's that critical, to be honest. We haven't got anyone that's capable of running top-10 (on Stage 1), so the plan for our guys is to get around there as fast as possible without taking too many risks."

Who will win the Stage 1 ITT?
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